Why Should I Choose Genuine Leather Over PVC or PU?

Questions and comments like this are sometimes asked of us at Keleen Leathers.  There is a sea of misinformation about what’s better for the environment and it’s far too much content to cover here, so lets just look at the raw material required to make leather and to make PVC.

When the young climate activist Greta Thunberg was photographed at home a few months back sitting in an iconic leather chair the animal rights groups were up in arms, calling her a hypocrite.  The comments suggested if she truly cared about the environment, her chair should be covered in simulated-leather, otherwise referred to as faux leather, leatherette or some other misleading term.  The reason imitations don’t label plastic leathers by their real name is because their names read like a chemistry book.  PVC stands for Poly Vinyl Chloride and PU is Polyurethane.  Understanding how PVC is made is the reason for far greater concern than a leather hide that was woven by nature, responsibly tanned into upholstery leather, which will last for decades, and is biodegradable at the end of its useful life. 

The raw material for leather is a cowhide.

The raw material for PVC is Ethylene, a natural gas derivative, captured during thermal fracking; next you need Chlorine that is found in salt water extracted from the sea.  The chlorine extraction takes place by sending a strong current of electricity through the seawater to change its molecular structure. The Ethylene and Chloride are reacted together to create Ethylene Dichloride; at this point the chemical processing plant now has the raw material to begin the process of making PVC, that’s just the start.  This material, along with PU is a product of the oil industry.

A leather cowhide is a byproduct of the meat industry, regardless of your views on eating meat or a vegetarian diet, global meat consumption increases year over year.  

There are millions of people around the world who would love to have some meat with their beans and rice more than just on special occasions. The food chain will raise cows because there is demand for meat and without the leather industry hides would be burned or end up in landfills.  The leather maker starts with cowhide, and through responsible tanning converts the hide into the strongest and most luxurious upholstery material known to man. The tannery is also extracting valuable byproducts from the cowhide: collagen for makeup and creams, proteins for human consumption, medicine, vitamins and fertilizer, gelatin for everything from Gummy Bears, to fruit pies, to gel caps vitamins and medications. 

At Keleen Leathers, we believe leather to be the best upholstery material.

It is long lasting, produced by nature, environmentally friendly, circular, and biodegradable at the end of its life.  Our tanneries in the US and Europe produce our hides under the highest global standards.  Keleen’s tanneries meet and exceed all of the industry gold standards such as Leather Working Group certifications and European REACH standards.