Leather has become an increasingly contentious automotive production material as automakers look to go green and many groups lobby for animal-free supply chains. While many companies have shifted to sustainable materials and plant-based alternatives to animal hides, a leather trade group is fighting back. One 4 Leather says that cow leather has a lower carbon footprint than the alternatives, but that might not be enough to change minds.
The group said that cow leather is greener because cattle are already being raised for food and milk, arguing that genuine leather makes use of a material that would be thrown out otherwise. As Green Car Reports pointed out, that statement assumes that cattle farming stays at its current level, and One 4 Leather said that methane, a significant byproduct of cattle farming, is a “short-lived gas.”
Even if that were true, cattle farming consumes tremendous resources, including water and land. There are also plenty of contaminants that can find their way into local waterways and soil, such as chemicals and animal excrement.
While many automakers still offer leather, those that have switched to synthetic or sustainable materials are unlikely to backtrack. Some, such as Tesla, changed after customer pressure, and others view sustainable materials as core to their electrification and carbon footprint-reduction efforts.
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