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What Is Eco Leather, And What Can It Be Used For?

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If like me, you’re trying to be more environmentally conscious in your daily life or are just looking for a more ethical leather substitute, you may be wondering about leather alternatives. Recently, I’ve heard the phrase ‘eco leather’ pop up more and more. So, what is eco leather, and what are its uses? 

Eco leather is an interchangeable term describing safer, sustainable, and environmentally friendly alternatives to the processing of natural leather OR alternatives to animal leather. Often vegan, made from materials mimicking the texture and appearance of real leather while reducing its environmental cost. Eco leather is used for many purposes, including clothing and upholstery.

You may be wondering what specifically the term eco leather refers to or whether it has the right properties to incorporate into your lifestyle and eco-friendly journey. If you are, read on because we have everything you need to know about eco leather, how it’s made, its uses, and its sustainability. 

What Is Eco Leather?

The term Eco Leather can and is used interchangeably to describe genuine leather products made from either real leather or recycled leather products using more environmentally friendly production processes and chemicals used in the tanning process as well as those known as vegan leather or pleather, which are products that mimic the texture and color of natural leather but are made from materials considered more environmentally friendly and ethically produced than natural leather.

Manufacturers in various industries have embraced using eco leather as environmental concerns about real leather production become increasingly widespread. 

How Is Eco Leather Made?

Synthetic leather is often vegan and is generally made from natural materials or a combination of plastic polymers, recycled plastics, or more natural sources such as pineapple leaves, apple cores, and cork. Plant-based vegan leather may also be organic, which has further environmental benefits.

While there are several types of synthetic leather, the most environmentally sustainable are generally considered to be those made from natural (preferable organic) resources. 

What Is The Difference Between Eco Leather And Faux Leather?

Eco leather and faux leather are similar but are not quite the same. Eco leather is the specific name for leather materials and synthetic leather alternatives that prioritize environmental sustainability in their manufacturing processes. In contrast, some faux leathers may not (they may use environmentally damaging chemicals and procedures).

In terms of your experience using the products, faux leather is generally of worse quality than eco-leather and, as a result, may not be as durable. I suggest that natural eco leather is the best bet! 

How Is Eco Leather Environmentally Friendly?

You might be wondering what can make leather eco-friendly. And whether eco leather genuinely lessens the environmental impact of the leather industry or whether is it just another fad.

I was also wondering, so I did the research, and it shows that just making the switch to using eco-friendly leather can make a big difference!

According to a 2018 sustainability report by Kering, eco leather production has approximately one-third of the environmental impact of leather, making using it an easy way to decrease your ecological footprint massively.

Eco leather is more environmentally friendly because its materials do not require the same chemicals during leather tanning nor the same amount of water and land to produce. Additionally, the process of making eco-friendly leather does not result in the high GHG emissions associated with natural leather farming. 

What Can You Use Eco Leather For?

So, you might be wondering what functions eco leather can be used for and whether there are uses for which it’s not suited.

The good news is that synthetic leather can be used for almost any of the purposes you would use genuine leather for! It comes in various strengths and thicknesses and can be used for upholstering large items of furniture like a leather sofa and car interiors, making clothes, shoes, accessories, and even for boat seats!

Big fashion brands are starting to use eco-friendly leather in their collections, which seems to be rising in popularity. For instance, Hugo Boss released a pineapple skin range of shoes not that long ago, and H&M used the same material in their Conscious Exclusive collection.

Some car manufacturers are also using more vegan leather alternatives for car seats and interiors that are just as durable as natural leather to make more vegan-friendly cars.

It seems likely that luxury brands will start considering the alternative soon too, which will have a significant positive effect on fashion and products made by the leather industry. This positive environmental impact will hopefully inspire other companies to follow suit. 

How Do You Keep Eco Leather Looking Fresh?

You might be wondering how to maintain eco leather and how well it lasts. While generally not as durable as a natural type of leather, good-quality eco leather can last over 10 -20 years if maintained correctly.

My tips for keeping your eco leather product looking new and fresh are:

  • Prevent eco leather from drying out. Some eco leather will crack if too dry. To prevent this, treat your eco leather to some moistening baby oil or leather food twice a year or when needed.
  • Avoid exposure to excessive heat or bright, direct light. This exposure may cause your leather to dry out and crack.
  • Avoid humidity. A constantly humid setting can also undermine the integrity of your eco-fabric.
  • Clean regularly but gently. When cleaning your eco leather product, be sure to avoid harsh soaps. I recommend warm water, a damp non-abrasive cloth, and a little washing-up soap.
  • Dry your eco leather with a soft cloth after cleaning.
  • Never use bleach treatments! Bleach will damage eco leather, which may cause it to crack or become more susceptible to stains. 

How Long Does Eco Leather Last?

Eco-friendly leather is more durable than traditional leather, as it is not susceptible to cracking or drying out, is also less likely to fade under UV light, and is also more stain resistant. As a result, eco leather can last up to five times longer than traditional leather. eco leather is also easier to clean and maintain, as it does not require the use of harsh chemicals or cleaners. eco leather is an ideal choice for those who are looking for a sustainable and eco-friendly option for their furniture or accessories where durability and long life are key concerns.

Does Eco Leather Peel?

Eco Leather does not generally suffer from peeling, but it is possible for inferior quality eco leather to peel. Make sure you only buy good-quality eco leather from a reputable supplier to avoid this.

What Are The Benefits Of Using Eco Leather?

Using eco leather has several benefits, primarily for the environment. It takes up way less space to produce (which could slow deforestation in cattle farming areas of the world such as South America), uses less water, and creates less chemical pollution.

Eco leather is also much safer for manufacturers and wearers of leather materials, as during the traditional leather tanning process, workers are required to treat it with many very toxic chemicals. These chemicals can impact the health of both the worker and the customer.

Plant-based vegan leather and that made from recycled materials are thus hugely beneficial for the environment and the people manufacturing the material.

However, some eco leather is made from plastic, which is not without its concerns environmentally as the microplastics are likely to enter the environment, where they are harmful and take years to break down. This means that natural eco leathers are the most environmentally conscious choice.

Eco leather can sometimes also be the more sensible choice! It is often cheaper than genuine leather options and virtually indistinguishable from them. In upholstery, eco leather has the benefit of not cracking or fading as easily as traditional leather, making it popular for car and boat upholstery.


Eco leather refers to a range of alternatives to traditional leather that are considered more environmentally conscious and sustainable. Organic materials and plant-based eco leathers are especially environmentally friendly. Eco leather can also be made from recycled materials and plastics.

Generally, regardless of the type, eco leather has been found to have a far less negative environmental impact than traditional leather farming processes. As you can use an eco leather alternative for essentially any animal leather product, why not give it a try? The planet will thank you later!

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Authored by: Mila

Mila is passionate about living sustainability and encouraging others to do the same. Writing about practical steps we can all take to reduce our impact on the environment.