For The Environmentally Conscious

For The Environmentally Conscious at Keleen Leathers

For The Environmentally Conscious

Written By Vice President, Scott Gelander

I’m sharing an experience from the other day that I just can’t get off my mind. While making client calls with a Keleen sales rep we visited a firm where the resource library is adjacent to the employee kitchen area. The resource librarian invited us to leave some of our new samples at the end of the kitchen island as it was around lunch time and she said many of the designers will see them.

While setting out a new collection a few designers were in and out of the kitchen. One asked, “What are you showing?” I replied, “We’re leaving out our new leather collection.” She said that she hesitates to specify leather because it’s bad for the environment. She read in a trade publication that tanneries can be very irresponsible, and that there is no way of knowing where and how the cows were raised. I replied that this can be true in some cases but at Keleen we source leathers primarily form Germany, Spain, and Italy. Our tanners supply global clients from Adidas, BMW, Chevrolet and so on. Our tannery’s clients would not tolerate polluting the environment or cutting down the rain forest, nor would Keleen. I added we also have a collection out of South America from a tannery with a gold star rating from Leather Working Group (LWG). She asked, “What does that mean?” LWG is the organization that certifies a tanneries traceability of hides to the origin and the environmental conscience of the tannery. A gold star rating, after an extensive and costly audit, certifies that this operation is among the cleanest in the world. Our suppliers have many other certifications that touch the environment as well ISO, IEC and TS that audit every operation of the tannery.

A few things really have been bothering me since this conversation. We go to great lengths at Keleen to partner with the world’s most responsible tanneries. We show great leathers that get specified by leading firms only to have a purchasing company tell us that leather is too expensive. I can get that from such and such. Being in this business almost 30 years I know full well that such and such sells leather from Bangladesh, Pakistan, India or similar. The substitute is not from Germany where there is an environmental conscience, yet I’m wondering where is the conscious when it comes to price?

I can only assume if this firm is not specifying leather they are using either fabric or vinyl, talk about an environmental disaster.

Each year, one global industry gulps down trillions of liters of fresh water, together with massive amounts of chemicals. The wastewater from that industry is then dumped, often untreated, into rivers that bring its toxic content to the sea, where it spreads around the globe.

The industry in question? The textile dyeing sector, whose colorful products belie the reality that it is an egregious polluter, especially in China. By some estimates they produce — and then discharge — roughly 40 percent of all dyeing chemicals worldwide. (Read more here.)

Oh! Fabric dying is maybe the largest polluter. I’ll use vinyl.

One part of the mission of the Healthy Building Network is to help eliminate the use of building products that pose environmental health risks. High on their list of materials are those that release PBTs into the environment. They’ve concluded that PVC falls into this category. A few quotes sum up their assessment of PVC: “When its entire life cycle is considered, PVC appears to be associated with more dioxin formation than any other single product.” “It has no place on the palette of green building materials.” (Read more here.)

To the uninformed, this one designer’s comment may have sounded well informed. How easy it is to single out leather when the facts are overwhelming that taking a skin, a byproduct of the food industry, already made into a fabric by nature, processing it into upholstery leather responsibly, and using it as a cover material with a life span many times that of fabric or vinyl? Responsibly produced leather is a much greener choice. Which cover material scares you now?

Our conversation was brief. I don’t know if anything I said had this designer thinking maybe there’s another side to what she read about leather. As she left I noticed her pick up a big leather handbag, a leather cased iPad protruding from the top. Wearing her leather shoes she made her way out probably still thinking leather was bad.

Thank you for reading For The Environmentally Conscious.