Mushroom Leather – Sustainably fashionable
Animals have been used in leather production since the first leather tanners got hold of their skins. Today, most leather comes from cows. Cattle are raised on ranches, often in the United States, where they are fattened for slaughter. The meat is cut from the best-quality cuts of the animal, and the hides are tanned and processed into leather. In the world of leather, there is a vast array of products to choose from. From the softest, most supple leather to the most durable, strongest leather, there is something for everyone. Recently, there has been a new addition to this family for our dear environmentalists, mushroom leather!
For centuries, people have used mushrooms to treat everything from cancer to obesity. Now, scientists are zeroing in on the possibility of producing completely biodegradable and environment-friendly mushroom leather. Leather made from mushrooms? It sounds like something from a science fiction novel, but it’s real. It will not only help save the planet but at the same time keep you in style.
Table of Contents
Cons of Animal Leather
One of the most versatile and durable materials known to humankind, leather has been used for everything from shoes to book bindings and is also the focus of this article. Leather is strong and durable, but soft and supple too, which means it’s great for clothes and accessories. It’s a classic choice for wallets, bags, and belts. It’s easy to care for too, so it works well for utilitarian items like footwear and backpacks.
Animal leather has several drawbacks when compared to vegetable-based leather.
- The biggest drawback of animal leather is that it is not environmentally friendly. Most leather is tanned using harmful chemicals. The use of these is not environmentally friendly, and their extraction from leather requires the use of harmful solvents. Leather tanneries are one of the largest industrial producers of hazardous waste in the United States.
- Secondly, animal leather is much more expensive to produce than vegetable-based leather. Animal leather is often only used for high-end products. This also means that a significant amount of animals are killed to produce a small amount of animal leather.
- Not to mention the leather industry is one of the most animal-intense industries on the planet, as animals are raised, tanned, and slaughtered for their skin.
Environmental impact of Leather
It takes a very long time for the leather to decompose, meaning it can take decades for a leather bag to break down and become compost. This is because animal leather is made from the skin of an animal that was killed for its fur, rather than from organic material like grass. As a result, non-biodegradable leather requires the use of harsh chemicals to break it down, which further contributes to environmental degradation.
Therefore, some types of leather have been developed to be more environmentally friendly and these are known as biodegradable or bio-based leather. Bio-based alternatives like vegetable and cork-derived leather are stronger, more environmentally friendly, and easier to care for, which makes them a better choice than animal leather for many applications.
One such material is mushroom leather, which is composed of synthetic materials that mimic the look and feel of leather without actually being made of leather.
Mushroom leather is a leather that has been tanned using mycelium, the vegetative structure of mushrooms. It has a natural look and feels and is more environmentally friendly than other options. Leather tanned in this way is also more resistant to water, oils, and stains than traditional methods of leather tanning. It’s an excellent choice for bags, wallets, and other items that see frequent use.
This type of leather is made from the mycelium, the vegetative part of a fungus that grows in the soil. Fungi when grown on a bed of forest by-products such as agricultural waste or sawdust, produce a thick mat that is similar to skin. These chitinous polymer mats are then treated, both physically and chemically so that they appear and feel similar to typical animal leather.
Also, check – What is a Bento box? – My Biology Dictionary
The natural biological process is a very efficient way to produce leather, as it does not require light, and the waste is converted into useful materials and stores carbon by accumulating it in developing fungi.
Pros of Mushroom Leather
The environmental benefits of using mushroom leather are numerous.
- Not only are there elimination of any harmful chemicals being used to produce mushroom leather, but at the same time, these leather substitutes are biodegradable at the end of their service life.
- Mushroom leather is made from organic forest by-products such as agricultural waste or sawdust. Therefore, the production of mushroom leather leads to the utilization of waste products, giving rise to a sustainable manufacturing process.
- The time it takes to move from fungal mat to mushroom leather is only a few weeks compared to years to raise a cow until maturity and ends up being cheap to manufacturers.
When in direct contact with the skin, mushroom leather shoes have improved athlete’s foot condition. Even as watch straps, this material prevents skin irritation in people suffering from eczema.
Mushroom leather is an eco-friendly leather alternative that is sustainable and cruelty-free. The material is soft and pliable and can be used for a variety of applications including shoes, handbags, and wallets. It is much more durable and can also be dyed and treated to look like traditional leather, which makes it perfect for fashion items.
Most importantly, mushroom leather is much better for the environment than traditional leather. It’s far easier to produce than traditional leather, and it doesn’t require any tilling or grazing of livestock. To summarize, some of the leading brands making mushroom leather- MycoWorks, VH Corp., Bolt Threads, Adidas etc. South Carolina has become the latest hub for sustainable leather.
Continue reading at MBD to keep getting amused about what the scientific world is up to!