The meat and leather industries are incredibly connected, and it’s been well-documented that animal agriculture wreaks havoc on the environment. In fact, the UN reports that the industry creates 18% of greenhouse gas emissions, which is more than all transport emissions combined.
When it comes to leather specifically, deforestation, water drainage, and tanning are all huge concerns. Leather tanning, in fact, is one of the top 10 pollution problems of the world, with hides being tanned using a slew of dangerous chemicals that generate gallons of waste with a high concentration of pollutants.
Vegan leather is usually made by bonding a plastic coating with a fabric backing. The majority of vegan leather made today uses polyurethane (PU), which comes from fossil fuels, and remains toxic. Major innovations in textile technology have been in the works to fix this, however.
In recent news, a more ethical and eco-friendly alternative has come to light: banana fiber. Kosrae, Micronesia-based startup Green Banana Paper, took advantage of banana tree waste, upcycling the material into fashionable and durable vegan leather wallets. The company created a kickstarter for the eco-friendly wallets in order to improve the lives of local famers.
The trees bananas grow on require a lot of work, despite the fruit itself coming ready to eat. Considering there are about 200,000 banana trees spread out among the island, local farmers have to cut down the plant annually after harvesting to ensure fruit production.
An incredible amount of banana fiber waste is left on the ground to biodegrade. With this in mind, New England native Matt Simpson, the founder of Green Banana Paper, decided to take advantage of this abundant “trash” and turn it into a newfound treasure. The end result is a strong and water-resistant wallet boasting designs inspired by Micronesia’s people, coconut palms, and ocean life.
The raw materials are purchased from over 75 local farmers in the community – providing a new way to earn extra income,” the company says. “Making wallets from banana trees is labor intensive. The making of each wallet involves 12 or more people. By purchasing our wallets, our customers are not only helping to provide creative and fulfilling work to members of our community but also provide a livelihood to kosraean families.