Leather boots

Environmentally conscious consumers ponder genuine leather versus alternatives

By Karleigh Stone
Medill Reports

Use of genuine leather in the fashion industry is a topic of dispute among designers and consumers.

Authentic leather is environmentally friendly. Its durability allows it to outlast synthetic options, and that decreases consumption in the high-polluting apparel industry. Leather is also made from natural products — animal hides — which means it biodegrades quickly when it’s  discarded, lessening the impact on the landfill.

But for some, designers’ use of genuine leather raises ethical questions around the treatment of animals. They wonder whether most hides are truly a byproduct of the meat industry, and question if leather should continue to be used for apparel.

Photo at top: Genuine leather is a durable material, particularly for footwear. (Karleigh Stone/MEDILL)