Why i am growing a sustainable alternative to leather in my closet

in steemstem •  9 months ago

Growing leather in your bathtub

As some of you may know, i initially came to steemit with a goal of blogging about my upcoming bachelor project. Here, i am trying to find a way to create a renewable, eco friendly alternative to leather. For this, i have chosen to experiment with Kombucha, a fermented tea dating back to ancient China.

Why would anyone write about that?

As this is part one of my blogging series on my Bachelor project, i want to touch upon why the project is relevant. I also realized that the act of writing can very quickly result in a text that is way too long for any normal attention span. Therefore, this post will explain why there is a need for an environmentally friendly alternative to leather, and the following post will explain the science behind the scoby more in depth.

The production of leather

The worldwide annual production of leather is around 23 billion square feet, an industry estimated around 77 Billion USD (Gizmodo). Much of this leather is produced in countries like Asia and China, where labor is cheap and plentiful.This is a problem in itself, but another important issue is the way that the leather is treated.

800px-Leather_tanning,_Fes.jpg
© 2005 - Bernard Gagnon

Tanning leather

In order to turn a hide into leather, it first needs to go through a process of tanning (Silvateam). This ensures that the leather will remain supple and refrains it from rotting. First, the skin is cleaned of fat, meat and hair, and then it is treated with chemicals. There is multiple ways of tanning, but the most traditional way is vegetable tanning.
This process involves using plant based tannins to tan the leather. As it is more expensive, it is more often than not used in higher quality leather products. If done correctly, vegetable tanned leather can be environmentally friendly, and will last for generations (Silvateam).

cow-pasture-animal-almabtrieb.jpg

The real sinner- Chrome tanning

The problem with leather comes with the most common form of tanning, Chrome tanning, in which you use a mixture of Chromium salts and acids to tan the leather (Carryology). Hereafter it goes through a multitude of different steps in order to color, soften and shape the leather.
The problem comes when the leather is done, and the factory needs to get rid of the byproduct. As the leather is often treated in places with low regulation, tons of liquid and solid waste containing a wide range of different pollutants , chromium being the main hazard, goes into the environment. This can damage plant and animal life, and be highly dangerous to the people affected by it (for example by relying on an infected water source). Moreover, the workers run the risk of cancer and dangerous work hazards (Gizmodo).

The other artificial leather

“But what about that awesome artificial leather that my vegan cousin Bronc is raving about?” i hear you ask. Well, while artificial leather does have the benefit of not killing animals, it does have its fair share of environmental issues. While there is a multitude of difference way of making fake leather, the most popular way of making it was, for many years, PVC, a plastic that is hazardous for many different reasons. In order to prolong it’s life cycle, and make it pliable, many additives are added, including Phthalates and solvents (Designlife).

Luckily PVC is less used today, and is mainly replaced by polyurethane, or PU. Unfortunately, this isn’t without issues, and includes a range of different toxic solvents in its production (Vocativ). Another issue with artificial leather is that it often contains petroleum, which has its own fair share of issues (Designlife).
“So what is the solution?” You ask. Well my idea is to use something that is called a Scoby, a byproduct of the Kombucha production i mentioned in the beginning of this post. I will be writing about this in my next post, but until then, you can see a video about it on DTube.

The amateur video on scoby production


Note that i am still experimenting with the length of a post, and i am still not quite sure about what is too long and too short. If you have any input, please don't hesitate to tell me.
If you made it this far, thanks a ton for reading!
I hope you have a great day.
Stay happy

Sources

Designlife
http://www.designlife-cycle.com/synthetic-leather/
SiilvaTeam https://www.silvateam.com/en/products-and-services/leather-tanning-solutions/ecotan-tanning-processes/vegetable-tanning.html
Gizmodo
https://gizmodo.com/how-leather-is-slowly-killing-the-people-and-places-tha-1572678618
Carryology
http://www.carryology.com/insights/chrome-vs-vegetable-tanned-leather/
Vocativ
http://www.vocativ.com/news/281599/vegan-leather-isnt-as-ethical-as-you-think/index.html

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As vegan I can't wait until non-leather alternatives are the norm. I watched your video and the end product is cool. I'm looking forward to your next post where you explain what you're doing.

As for your questions, I think this is a good length for the information you've presented. You've formatted it well with pics, headings, breaks etc. too. The only additional suggestion I have is sourcing your images. Unsplash and pixabay are the best sites for royalty free images.

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The thing i like about the scoby is that it still has an organic feel to it, which to me make it better than traditional artificial leather. It has a very natural look, which i really like, and it is very safe for the environment. I do need to source my tea better though, in order to control everything.

And i agree with the royalty free images, that was a mind fart on my part :)

While I can't speak for your alternative leather for end product, I am sorry to say that I (unlike some of the other commentors here) enjoy eating my meat and would rather the skin of the animal still be in use over going to waste. As well, most fake leathers that I have seen just are... they aren't like real leather. I mean depending on ones disposition surrounding the subject, I personally would probably opt in for real leather unless the quality was really really good.

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I enjoy meat as well, don't get me wrong :) And i love a quality leather product, it's an amazing material, i own both gloves, jackets and bags made from it. I even work with it on a hobby plan, and it is a really nice material. And i agree, fake leather sucks, and i would rather not use it at all, than to use artificial leather.

I just see some issues in the production of some leather products, namely those who have been chrome tanned, which i would like to adress, nothing more. I don't think anything will ever beat high quality vegetable tanned leather, which has an awesome smell, and ages beautifully, but i am not really trying to do that :)
In the end, i'm just toying the idea of bringing textile production back home, sorta like we saw with 3d printing. In any case, it is pretty fun to experiment with

Well done Emil for collecting this info. Really good job man, I admire your efforts!

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Hehe thanks man, it's a fun project :) Hope you're doing well?

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Haha yeah, things are great. Just won a cryptokitty contest btw xD
Are you into cryptokitties?

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I have never tried it no. Is it fun? :) How did you win it?

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It's kind of fun and not entirely sure about it. Lot of people have made money with it. It's basically world's first crypto game, where you get to buy crypto collectables that are unique.
The game is built on the Ethereum blockchain and allows users to buy and sell kitties with ETH, as well as breed the kitties and sire them.

The contest is almost daily I think, and you're supposed to guess what cattributes the offspring of two cryptokitties will have. I got 5 out of 8 so I won :) and got a free kitty. I now have 4 of them lol

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So are they worth anything, or what is the idea? Do you have a link to where i can follow? :)

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Basically yea they are. It's hard to explain why exactly in one sentence. Here's a link to the official site.
https://www.cryptokitties.co/

You might want to do some research first and watch some vids about it. Maybe it's not your cup of tea.

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I made an account now :D Don't have any kitties though :'(

Excellent post my friend! I'm anxious to see a leather made out of scoby, or mixture of scoby and other stuff (composite). I think the post length is fine. Personally I prefer to keep them short with more images than text just because I'm lazy and like to read short posts haha. Long posts I sometimes skim through the information. Although your post was quite interesting

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Thanks for the reply, it is really valuable :) I have just put over 15 different batches, so now we'll wait and see. It's all about experimenting in this phase

This was a very interesting post to read. I have heard of growing "leather" from mushrooms but hadn't heard of the scoby method. Enjoyed watching the video and seeing the actual end result of what you were describing. Great addition to the post. Seems that if posts have good content then they can be a little longer.

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Out of interest, how was that grown?

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I'm not sure exactly. It was something that I had heard about. I;m sure there is lots of information online.

Super rad concept! I can't wait to see more- folks with the smarts the passion and the creativity to create sustainable alternatives to the products that are damaging the planet are going to save the world!

Keep up the good work!

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Aww thanks a bunch :) All the feedback is very heartwarming. I'm looking forward to making more updates

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Can’t wait to see them! Is the scoby naturally occurring in all kombucha making? If so, I bet kombucha drink companies would love to be able to sell it to be processed if there were demand for it as leather- exciting stuff!

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yep, it's naturally occurring :) I will go more in depth in the next posts, but the general idea is that it the bacteria creates the layer of cellulose as a barrier, on top of the tea. It does so in order to create a closed off ecosystem, in which the Bacteria and Yeast can survive :)
It could definitely be interesting to team up with a larger producer :D

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So whatever container you put it in, it creates it’s own LID!!? Damn Nature , you awesome. Looking forward to learning more!

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Yeah, something like that :D I hope that i can use it as paper as well :) Textile like types of material in general actually. Will be pretty cool i hope

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The possibilities are endless!

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Holy shit, thank you SO much. As this is a series, it is really encouraging to be acknowledged like that. Have a great day!

Fantastic project @emilclaudell! I'm keen to follow your progression as you work with your scobies. :)

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I'm really glad to hear that, i can't wait to update ^^

Wtf ...can they kust stop producing leathers its animal skin ..how would yoh feel if it was your skin. Fuckers !!😢😢😢😢

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Did you even read the blog? Or the title? Consider reading it again, you might like it :)

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Yes i did , what made you think i didnt ..i dont support using animal skin aa leather ,period!!😢😢😢 and its obvious you dont too ....my quote "how would you feel if it waa you "i wasnt referring to you 😁😁😁..thats why i put fuckers , so u know i wasnt referring to you, but to those producing leather with animal skin

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ohhhh i see. Sorry, i thought you simply saw the word leather and was angry with me :)My bad. Have a nice day :)

Very interesting, just another potential use for kombucha.

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Yeah, there actually is quite a few fun things to do with it :)

This is so interesting, I cant wait to see the outcome.

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Hehe thanks :) I went looking to the current batches today actually, and they all seem to be doing well. Looking forward to updating