Mushroom leather. While the very words may sound like a strange match, many are touting it as a practical large-scale replacement for more traditional cow leather.
But somewhere between the perspectives of skeptics and true believers is the truth. Mushroom leather is a promising vegan alternative to conventional leather, it’s still a far way from serving as a de facto replacement. Here’s everything you need to know about one of the most exciting developments in textile manufacturing.
1. It’s 100% Sustainable
The discussion behind the ethics of leather often zeroes in on animal rights issues. It’s a valid concern, but it only touches on one aspect of the leather production process. Mushroom leather can be produced by using just a fraction of the same amount of water it takes to produce leather—and that’s a big deal considering that the production of cows, and cow leather, uses up 50% of the Earth’s water. Similarly, the need for grazing lands and other considerations has resulted in a cattle industry that takes up a third of the Earth’s landmass. Mushrooms can be produced efficiently in much smaller environments, and they don’t bring with them issues like overgrazing. Maintaining and harvesting mushrooms requires a significantly more compact supply chain, and that results in a significantly more compact environmental impact.
At the same time, it’s a much less directly wasteful form of producing leather. Only 30% of a cow’s hide is actually used for leather, with the rest of the hide just being thrown away. By contrast, all of the material produced when growing mushroom leather can be used to make clothing and other products. Those are some nice bonuses to further justify the fact that mushrooms don’t come with a cost of animal life involved. Sustainability is all about efficiency, and mushrooms are one of the most efficient sources of leather.
2. Mushrooms Grow Incredibly Fast
Fungus is prodigious. It’s one of the reasons that mushrooms are some of the most successful and prominent forms of life on the planet, but it’s also a boon for those trying to make mushrooms into leather. It takes a full 18 months for a cow to grow to the age where it’s large enough to be slaughtered for use as leather. And that’s a costly year and a half too. Everything from grazing lands to food to water needs to be accounted for, and that’s not even dealing with transportation.
But while it takes a year and a half to make your traditional leather jacket, you can get a vegan mushroom leather jacket in just a fraction of that time. In the mere course of two weeks, mushrooms can grow rapidly enough to produce the same amount of leather as a full-sized cow. As a result, vegan mushroom leather grows at 70 to 80 times the speed.
3. It’s Good for Sensitive Skin
Cow leather can often lead to allergies, but mushroom leather is a more safe and convenient solution even if you aren’t worried about the environmental impact of your clothing. Part of this comes down to the lack of chemicals. When you’re dealing with cow leather, you’re also coming in touch with all of the chemicals that the leather has come into contact with—from hormones used to accelerate growth to potentially toxic chemicals that have been used in the tanning process.
Mushroom leather doesn’t come with those same complications. It’s produced without the need for harsh chemicals, so it can be safely worn on the skin without having to worry about itching or breaking out. 65 to 70% of leather is made from cows, but that could be changing. By opting for mushroom leather, you can improve your impact on the environment and find a healthier alternative for your body.