Cows around the world are heaving a sigh of relief as a leather substitute made of pineapple leaves hits the market.
The woman they have to thank is Carmen Hijosa, who worked in the leather design and manufacture industry for years, before deciding to explore other, natural-fibre options.
While in the Philippines, she discovered the traditional fabric Piña (meaning ‘pineapple’ in Spanish), made of stripped and woven pineapple leaves.
This inspired Hijosa to explore the possibilities of the natural product. After some experimentation, she discovered she could use the fibres from the leaves to create a non-woven textile, similar to the method of making felt, and developed Piñatex, a leather-like fibre created as a by-product of the pineapple harvest.
As far as a substitute for leather goes, Piñatex beats pleather by a country mile.
Based on tests by the International Standards Organisation, Piñatex meets international standards for strength, colour fastness, water, abrasion and cigarette-burn resistance, and flexibility.
The website also claims that it’s versatile, soft, light and can be easily printed on, stitched and cut. It’s also available in various thicknesses, finishes and applications.
Of course, the biggest appeal is its benefits to Mother Earth and our animal friends.
As far as destruction of the environment goes, leather is a real killer.
For starters, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), over 30 per cent of the Earth’s land is given over to raising animals. That’s land that could be used to plant trees to improve the quality of our air and prevent erosion, but instead is stripped, destroying whole ecosystems.
Indeed, 70 per cent of rainforest in the Amazon have been removed to make way for livestock farming.
The FAO also reports that 20 per cent of that land is degraded due to overgrazing and erosion, and the water systems around it have been polluted with animal waste and the drugs and chemicals associated with animal rearing.
On top of that, scientists for World Watch reported in 2006 that 51 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions worldwide were due to livestock.
To put that into the context of a leather product, a few years ago The Wall Street Journal reported that Timberland assessed the carbon footprint (geddit?) of their boots. They found that one pair of their winter park slip-on boot came with a carbon cost of 55kg – about the median of their range – of which 51kg was attributed to the materials, especially leather.
Forget long-haul plane rides, we should instead be paying a carbon tax every time we eat a burger or buy leather shoes.
In contrast, Piñatex is a by-product of the pineapple harvest, unlike leather which is not – contrary to popular belief – always a by-product of the meat industry. This means that after the already resource-low pineapple harvest, no extra water, fertilisers, pesticides or even land are required.
With Piñatex, the plantation workers and their communities aren’t risking their lives or their environments and are actually earning more money, which has knock-on positive effects in terms of health, education and development.
with brands including Puma and Camper jumping on the bandwagon, odds are we’ll be wearing a lot more of this trendy pineapple from now on.
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