Where is Organic Leather?

July 28, 2007 at 8:38 am 34 comments


Disclaimerthis post may be inappropriate to sensitive vegans/vegetarians. Viewer discretion is advised.

I know many of you will look down on me for being a leather wearing, beef eating, milk drinking sorry-ass excuse of an environmentalist. In my defense, I like cows and I think humans and cows should live in harmony. I am all for humanely, respectfully treated cows in small-scale organic farms. Only, I just think that we shouldn’t have as many cows as we have now. That’s why I only eat and drink organic dairy, as local as possible.

But what I really want to talk about is leather… Even though I could, conceivably, give up my leather jacket and my leather handbag, I have BIG issues with shoes made of anything other than leather. I just can’t… I’m sorry, but I can’t! You see, here is my embarrassing little secret… my feet stink 😀 Well, more accurately, they have a tendency to develop a more pungent odor if they can’t ‘breathe’. So I really can’t wear anything other than cow hides on my little ogre feet, under penalty of being persecuted for possessing biologic WMDs. TMI? Sorry 😀

So here is my question to you. There is a growing number of organic cows out there. Where is organic leather? I mean, it should exist, right? If the cows are certified organic, then the cow skin is, at least in theory, certified as well. So shouldn’t there be a separate market for organic cow skin and leather? Shouldn’t there be stylish organic leather shoes out there? Well, the answer to this seems to be both yes and no.

While Organic Leather does indeed exist, the only thing I could find is this. I mean, COME ON! I don’t know about you but I am not about to walk around dressed like a wannabe Pocahontas. All I want is a decent pair of shoes, and I would STRONGLY prefer they were made of organic leather, tanned without causing an small-scale environmental disaster.

I know it is possible, because I found these guys, who make awesome looking eco-friendly hand-bags. When I grow up, I gotta get me one of these. But those hand-bags! And I asked for shoes! If there are folks out there selling classy organic hand-bags, why aren’t they selling SHOES?

Is this really too much to ask? Isn’t there ANYONE out there who can provide me with what I want? And I’m SURE there are plenty of other stinky-footed environmentalists who would pay good money for this as well! Come on, you eco-preneurs out there! Please?

Future handbag by this guy on Flickr.

Entry filed under: environment, organic, shopping. Tags: , .

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34 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Emily  |  July 28, 2007 at 11:02 am

    Not to mention people who are into leather for *other* purposes. What are they supposed to use?

  • 2. Alina  |  July 29, 2007 at 4:01 pm

    Hehehe, Emily, shame on you. I didn’t even think about that 😀 Shoes are my priority 😉

  • 3. Aimee  |  July 29, 2007 at 5:31 pm

    I’m not all that up on leather processing, but I’m guessing there are quite a few chemicals involved in the tanning and other processes necessary to make the leather into a usable material for shoes, bags, etc. Even if the leather was organic to start with, it would be far from it by the time it was on your feet, right?

  • 4. gettinggreen  |  July 30, 2007 at 4:47 pm

    VERY good question, Alina… I’m also wondering if the hides used to make leather come from cows who have already been turned into meat? I mean, no one actually slaughters cows JUST for their hides, right? So yeah, I wonder if the skin from organic, grass-fed cows ends up at the same leather factory as those from regular cows… do you think they feel/look different too? Hm, good discussion topic. Must do some online digging.

  • 5. Alina  |  July 30, 2007 at 10:16 pm

    Aimee, you make a good point, but I think that like with everything, there are always better ways of doing things. Like for example, the handbag company says their leather is vegetable tanned, quote “nothing artificial”. I am just rooting for someone to make some eco-friendlier leather shoes, because clearly the market for them is there.

    Vanessa, welcome back! Yes, I can’t know for sure but my belief is that the skin is a by-product of sorts of the meat industry. But if I was to guess, they probably still use the leather from cows that are not fit for human consumption. I’m sure it looks the same, unless the tanning process is different. But isn’t it a waste of certification if the organic leather gets mixed with tortured cows leather? I just wish that the option to chose eco-sound leather made from ethical cows was there, cause I sure would buy them. But they would still have to be pretty, though 😉

  • 6. e j e  |  July 31, 2007 at 9:57 pm


    I don’t know what your style is, but check these out. I owned a pair for years and they were very comfortable and got a lot of comments for being cute. The leather may not be totally organic, I don’t really know, but the soles have undergone minimal processing. They’re just rubber.

    And, um, oh yeah, the website is in German. But, between Dutch and English, I bet you’ll understand it well enough.

  • 7. Alina  |  August 2, 2007 at 12:41 pm

    e j e, thanks for the link. They are not really my style, but maybe some german-speaking readers will appreciate it 😉

  • 8. Angel York  |  August 3, 2007 at 7:06 am

    I have found that there are plenty of quality leather products in thrift stores. As they say, “reuse before recycle.” There is enough leather already produced that we could probably all quit buying new leather products (thus supporting the industry) until organic leather becomes a popular option.

  • 9. Carnival of the Green « Organic Researcher  |  August 3, 2007 at 11:29 am

    […] Closet Environmentalist asks a really pertinent question about organic leather, which takes me back to  a non-violent […]

  • 10. jenn  |  August 4, 2007 at 6:29 am

    I’m guessing most organic farmers aren’t getting the skin off of the cow to tan because of the butcher who comes out to the farm, they simply do not have the capacity in most of these farms to tan the leather (judging from the almost organic beef cows my grandparents raise, their butcher doesn’t save the skin)

    Organic leather would only be organic if there are natural dyes invovled- and most natural dyers use nasty chemicals to set the dyes, and the tanning uses chrome or tannin- which takes longer than chromium but is a “vegetable” tanning agent. Unnatural dyes or course pose their own problems.

    Assuming that you were unable to find leather secondhand would you wear pleather instead? It is made from plastic after all, and probably much harder on the environment than the leather is. Of course if it is animal rights over environmentalism where it is concerned then it might be an alternative, but I would still go with (and do, Im vegetarian)

  • 11. Greg stumer  |  August 13, 2007 at 6:05 pm

    Hi all,

    the last comment is right. Leather is only organic if all the processes are certified by an IFOAM certifier and hence all the processes are certified including the labour.

    i should know since i hold the only certification cradle to grave to cradle in the world from the soil association.

    the first difficulty is ownership of the animal and hence skin passes at the abbattoire. Then there is raw preservation, washing limming, tanning, splitting buffing dyeing, finishing, and manufacturing. For shoes we needed to invent our own cardboard from our waste and then there is polish etc etc etc.
    Jackets need linning plus trims.

    obvoiusly things must be fashionable each season and ofcourse social justice is required for all the workers in the chain.

    at that point the retail market decides you are a fiat rather than a rolls royce and despite the fact that there isn,t a REAL competitor to your product you are not as cheap as non democratic systems so you are too expensive. So you need to build your own shops this means sustainable materials.

    even then the customer needs to be sure that for the price they are getting the real deal so you have to build full traceability of product from the swing ticket to the ear tag and deliver this information in an accessible manner.

    any way enough of the last five years ROMP finally opens for business this season in LA, SLOVENIA and on the net. sorry for the delay.


  • 12. Greg stumer  |  August 13, 2007 at 6:21 pm

    Ps organic leather.com are good people working with brain and smoke tanning on natural and organically reared hides, they dont claim to be certified and are clear on their site.

    on the other hand if you believe the red handbag is organic in any sense other than carbon chemistry then i would love to introduce you to the toothfairy, father christmas, and my elf friends who will all be happy to take your money.


  • 13. toddy  |  August 16, 2007 at 3:12 am

    Hi… i have ordered some shoes (the helenas) from this store in the UK & NYC. read below to see what they are made of. I think it’s pretty cool & the shoes are to DIE for..(read, not 4 granolas)


    Terra Plana also introduces E-leather. An eco revolutionary leather by-product. E-leather is a unique blend of leather and textile fibers Intimately ‘re-woven’ and finished so it is practically indistinguishable from good quality leather. E-Leather is produced with closed loop water usage ad best practice pollution prevention methods.

  • 14. Sarah  |  October 23, 2007 at 3:18 am

    The real organic leather has nothing to do with the way the leather is treated… it comes from cows that died of natural causes!

    These guys are the first in the world to do this… basically they obtain their leather from certain states in India where cows are considered holy and thus it is illegal to kill cows!

    At the moment they are working on designer pocket belts, belt bags, fanny packs, etc… I bought one of those Adventure Belts a few months ago… I love it!!! Great quality, highly recommended.

  • 15. Alina  |  October 23, 2007 at 9:08 am

    Sounds great. If only they came in ‘Shoes’!!!

  • 16. lou  |  December 9, 2007 at 12:21 pm

    What a blessing to find you. Its that time of year, and my mums after some leather gloves. I thought it would be nice to subtly influence my belief of organic on her and buy her some organic ones…….if wish!!! Where are they. All help appreciated!

  • 17. ahmet guray  |  November 7, 2008 at 6:46 pm

    i would like to now who produce organic leather for shoes.. i need help abpout this.. ahmet_gıray79@hotmail.com

  • 18. Ilona  |  September 4, 2009 at 3:48 pm

    Here we are 2 years on… and I have an offer for you: Natureally Organic Leather. Luxurious leather that is also Organic.

    We make leather for people who are looking for a luxurious material that is responsibly sourced and manufactured. We provide consistent, high quality material for collections of the most remarkable leather products.

    We only use certified Organic rare breed cattle hides from selected British farms and are proud to work with people who love what they do.

  • 19. helen  |  October 17, 2009 at 2:23 pm

    Hi Ilona,

    Where is your tannery/link to your website?? I’m really interested in your product..

  • 20. Ilona  |  October 17, 2009 at 7:28 pm

    Hi Helen et al

    find me at http://www.natureally.co.uk
    Kind regards


  • 21. sampablokuper  |  December 15, 2009 at 1:42 am

    Alina, I’m totally with you on this: I’ve been wishing for a good couple of years that organic leather shoes were available so that as a consumer I could vote with my feet (so to speak) and support better farming and more equitable manufacture. I, too, have trouble with synthetic shoes.

    Canvas shoes work fine for some situations, but not all. Being able to buy a pair of decent, affordable formal/work mens shoes made of organic leather would be very useful for me, and I expect I’m not alone.

    Ilona, it’s great to know that organic cow hides from the UK are starting to be certified and tanned responsibly. Do you know if any manufacturers have started making shoes with your leather?

  • 22. Ilona  |  December 15, 2009 at 12:27 pm

    Hi sampablokuper – several projects are in the making.

    If everything goes well, there will be shoes made from Natureally Organic Leather in Autumn 2010 and another in Spring 2011.

  • 23. sampablokuper  |  December 15, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    Ilona, that’s great news!

    If, in a year’s time, you remember 😉 please could you add another comment in this thread when you’re ready to announce that the shoes are on sale, so that all of us who are watching the thread will know where to look for them?



  • 24. Everybody owns a pair of those shoes | Low Meat  |  December 15, 2009 at 4:40 pm

    […] about to change in 2010. Organic leather company Natureally is working with manufacturers who are hoping to bring organic leather shoes to market. With any luck, this will open the door for more companies to start […]

  • 25. annabel  |  February 8, 2010 at 8:59 pm

    I second the recommendation for Terra Plana! Gorgeous shoes, comfortable and eco-friendly too!

    Pleather is a really bad idea. Vinyl is terrible environmentally! http://good.net.nz/magazine/9/good-start/leather-vs-vinyl

  • 26. ellie  |  March 9, 2010 at 4:42 pm

    hides from cows slaughtered for meat, even “organic” meat, are not necessarily utilized for leather.
    similarly, flesh from cows raised for their hides, even for “organic Indian leather from cows who died of natural causes,” is not necessarily consumed by humans.
    i used to wonder about this as i attempted to justify continuing my dairy and leather habits. i used to ride and show hunter/jumper horses, which many of you may know, requires just about EVERYTHING to be made out of leather.
    then i watched a film called EARTHLINGS, which i recommend anyone who is willing to confront the truth also view.

  • 27. sara  |  April 29, 2010 at 6:45 am

    I just saw Earthlings today, and I’m still in a state of shock.
    I’m glad I have found this blog. I am a motorcyclist, and just bought a new pair of leather gloves….. I wish I had seen Earthlings first. Now, I want to proceed wisely, responsibly with my purchases. How do I tell if a leather product is from a place that treated/treats their animals humanely?
    Thanks, Sara in California

  • 28. colin jackson  |  May 28, 2014 at 7:45 pm

    I beleive H&M have just launched an Organic Leather range of goods.
    The thing is, once processed Chrome frre hide whether organic or not, tends to be a little stiffer than Chrome hide and so to ‘loosen’ up the fibres it has tobe milled that little bit more, breaking up the fibres. Now on leather which has been ‘Grown’ organicaly this would cause the fibres to be quite loose therefore not entirly suitable for shoes. There are other processes which can be introduced
    to enable the hide tobe used for these products butmayhave two detramental effects. 1 being cost 2 The hide may not be classed as truly organic any longer.
    In addition, Chrome free (Veg tanned) hide take twice as long to process.
    Regards Colin.

  • 29. Barbara Barry  |  June 9, 2014 at 5:32 pm

    Totally agree with you! ‘Vegan leather is just nasty–in fact, it’s basically plastic, or worse–PVC. http://eluxemagazine.com/magazine/what-the-heck-is-vegan-leather/ How is that good for the planet??

  • 30. Barbara Barry  |  June 9, 2014 at 5:59 pm

    Oh! and here are some great eco leather sandals–made from cows raised organically, and treated with eco friendly tanning processes! eluxemagazine.com/fashion/green-goddess-husna-sandals/

  • 31. Barbara Barry  |  June 9, 2014 at 5:59 pm

    Agh! Broken link: http://www.eluxemagazine.com/fashion/green-goddess-husna-sandals/ Sorry guys

  • 32. Eating Well Organically Tanned Leather « Recipes for Health  |  September 13, 2014 at 8:56 pm

    […] Where is Organic Leather? | Confessions of a Closet … – I know many of you will look down on me for being a leather wearing, beef eating, … Shouldn’t there be stylish organic leather shoes out there? Well, the answer to this seems to be both yes and … they simply do not have the capacity in most of these farms to tan the leather … […]

  • 33. Vilhelm  |  October 3, 2014 at 8:59 pm

    We claim working with organic leather. The hide comes from the local Zebu, a full grain. Tanning process is eco friendly, used products are sulfuric acid and ammonia. Pls comment.

  • 34. Patrick  |  June 17, 2015 at 7:25 pm

    Here’s what I’ve done in the past to obtain organic leather. First pay a visit to your local organic CO-OP and obtain the names and number of the local organic meat producers. Contact them and obtain where the skins go after butcher. Once you obtain these skins take them to a taxadumiest; that fella will accept no sweat but be clear you want the skins treated organically through certified organic vegetable treatments (you might have to purchase this yourself online and bring it with you). If you can’t find a taxidermist, find a hunter in your area, most hunters can do the basics and in this case – lucky you. I’ve found the website “craigslist” to be awesome resource for tracking down all my local sources. Once the leather is finished, you’re all set! Take your leather to your nearest shoe smith. He can make anything from that raw material, from bags and wallets to work gloves (and yes) even shoes.
    It’s back to basics, guys. If you want genuion fair trade while supporting the community, this is how. Though it will cost more, it’s beyond worth it.

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July 2007

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