Articles & Blogs Sustainability & Eco-Friendly Production
Freedman’s: Consciously Considering Our Environment
For decades, the Freedman’s name has been synonymous with quality and craftsmanship. As a proprietor of leather horse furnishings, our products are handcrafted by artisans, with each stitch unique and accounted for, drastically reducing excessive waste. And, as an emerging equestrian fashion house, we also understand that creating products with responsibly sourced materials, while helping to reduce toxic waste in the manufacturing of goods, is important for the world we live in. As we continue to expand our line of equestrian-inspired leather fashion goods, it is our commitment to continue to educate ourselves on how we can consider the environment and contribute to the overall health of our planet. As Freedman’s has contemplated how we can further do our part to preserve our planet’s natural resources through the production of our products, here are a few further key concepts to consider for customers and Team Freedman’s:
A Few Things to Consider About Sustainability & Leather:
- Definition of Environmental Sustainability
According to Sphere.com/Glossary, environmental sustainability can be defined as: “the responsibility to conserve natural resources and protect global ecosystems to support health and well-being, now and in the future. A key component of sustainability is its forward-looking nature.”
When thinking about environmental sustainability, one must consider the following effects on social, economic, and environmental spaces: CO2 emissions, hazardous chemicals (artificially made substances), cotton, distribution of goods and raw materials, dust pollution, dyes and their demands on water use, economic growth, efficiency of effort and resources for industry, energy use, the cost to the environment, health hazards to people and animals, microfiber pollution, noise pollution, overconsumption, and much more.
- What Does ‘Being Eco-Friendly & Sustainable’ Really Mean?
GreenDreamer.com states that “sustainable fashion refers to clothing that is designed, manufactured, distributed, and used in ways that are environmentally friendly.” According to Mac-Case.com, ethical sourcing is “the procedure by which materials or ingredients procured by a business are obtained in a sustainable and responsible way.”
For a product to be sustainable, it must be capable of being sustained. This means that the design process and sourcing of materials must be able to be supported by our planet and industries for years to come – only then can it be claimed that design and sourcing is sustainable. Factors that contribute to leather being a sustainable fashion material include zero-waste endeavors, eco-friendly dyes and dying procedures, ethical sourcing of leather that is not harmful to humans or animals and finding a way to recycle and upcycle used leather goods.
- Leather: A By-Product of the Meat Industry: A Zero Waste Endeavor & Ethical Sourcing
Leather is an animal-derived material made from the skin of species such as cows, goats, sheep, pigs, deer, or exotic animals (Condenast.com). Many leather suppliers offer leather that is strictly certified as a by-product of the meat industry. As a natural material, ethically and sustainably sourced leather is reusable, recyclable, and can be an upcycled good.
The ethical sourcing of this leather is also important. Ethical sourcing is the procedure by which materials or ingredients procured by a business are obtained in a sustainable and responsible way. This can be everything from how animals and manufacturing employees are treated, to the social and environmental impacts of creating the materials. Ethically sourced leather can be hides that are pro-cured from the meat industry or from those of animals that die from naturally occurring events.
Those consuming leather products should carefully consider animal welfare, land use, and chemical treatment when acknowledging leather’s impact on the environment and deciding whether or not to use and consume leather products.
- Not all Vegan Leather is Created Equal: The Argument for and Against the Sustainability of Vegan Leather
It is up to the consumer to consider the arguments among fashion industry experts both for and against vegan leather. Condenast.com defines vegan leather as a “range of alternatives to animal-derived leather that does not contain any products of animal origin.”
Harpersbazaar.com describes vegan leather as “a material that mimics leather but is created from artificial or plant products instead of animal skins.” Vegan leather is often constructed from two different plastic polymers: polyurethane (PU) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC). However, vegan leather can also be made from more natural resources that are widely plant-based, including pineapple leaves, cork, apple peels, and recycled plastic.
Some environmentalists view leather as a material that puts a drain on planet resources since livestock often graze on large amounts of land and feed crop, leading to deforestation and potential greenhouse emissions driven by animal agriculture. But on the flip side of the argument, clothing made from leather alternatives, such as plastic can also have dire environmental consequences. According to Harpersbazaar.com, “clothing made from plastic can pose a threat during and after its lifespan because it could end up in water or landfill. This takes years to degrade and releases toxic chemicals into the environment, which is unsustainable.”
These are just two considerations on the stances of vegan leather. Consumers need to be careful about not being misled by the term vegan. While veganism is generally a commitment to not use any animal-derived material or ingredient, vegan leather is not always 100% vegan, nor is it always used by brands that have committed to 100% veganism.
- Vegetable Tanning: What is it? Why is it less harmful for the planet?
The tanning process of real leather to make animal skin wearable or useable for the consumer can mean the use of lots of energy and chemicals to transform the original skin into the leather material that is used. Strong chemicals are needed to break down proteins in the skin and harsher chemicals are sometimes needed to speed up the tanning process. Heavy metals in the tanning and dyeing process can be of concern as they leak into the environment.
However, there is an alternate tanning option. Vegetable tanning is a tanning process where leather products are treated with natural vegetable tannins that are biodegradable and can be easily discarded at the end of their natural life cycle. Not only does vegetable-tanned leather not contain toxic substances such as azo-dyes, nickel, PCP or chrome VI, many tanneries reclaim hides from the food industry, which not only reduces waste, but is an upcycling of goods.
Vegetable tanning is a long-standing Italian artisan tradition that has been handed down through generations, not only making for beautiful leather products, but contributing to a sustainability cycle.
Four Ways Freedman’s is Committed to Helping to Save the Planet
- Vegetable Tanned Handbags: Much of our handbag, travel bag, belts, and small leather good collections are made from Italian leather that has been tanned using the vegetable tannins process. This tanning process is producing less toxins that are harmful to the planet, leaving our handbags not only beautiful, but being tanned using an Italian leather tradition that further supports of our claim of ‘Tradition In Every Stitch.’
- Vegetable Tanned Horse Furnishings & Equipment: Freedman’s leather horse furnishings is all hand-crafted by artisans in our Toronto workshop. Not only does this handmade process help to eliminate excessive waste, but nearly all of our horse furnishings are also tanned through the vegetable tanning process. That butter soft and ready-to-use feel of our leather comes from this natural and environmentally friendly tanning process.
- Ethically Sourced Leather & Apparel: Whenever possible, we have made a commitment to sourcing leather and materials for apparel that have been ethically and responsibly sourced from tanneries and manufacturers that are upholding sustainability standards.
- Reuse and Upcycling of Hardware and Buckles: At Freedman’s, we have hardware and buckles galore! It is our practice to reuse and upcycle these whenever possible. When hardware is determined to no longer be useable within our workshop, it is recycled for other purposes.