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  • Sohini Sarkar

Leather Made From Cactus Leaves

World Environment Day was celebrated a little more than a week ago. We made promises and we took oaths to protect the earth. For a day, we were conscious of how our actions affect our planet. After the day was over, many of us pushed the significant topic to the back of our minds, being reminded only when someone or something reminded us. Our actions throughout the year count in this mission to make and keep our environment healthy for us and the future generations.

Everyday, we use leather in multiple ways. We use jackets, wallets and shoes that are made from leather. Our furniture often has leather covers. Leather was originally made from various animal hides after they were tanned with chemicals. Later, people became more conscious about using animals for it and replaced it with more environment-friendly and 'vegan' (as they were not acquired from animals) products with similar texture and quality. However, these 'vegan' leathers are made of plastic derived materials. The common plastics used are polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or polyurethane (PU), both containing toxic chemicals. The leather made from them is not biodegradable but is more environment friendly than the one made from animal hides.

Then came Desserto, an organic plant based vegan leather made from nopal cactus leaves. Adrián López Velarde and Marte Cázarez, based in Mexico, are the developers of Desserto. They were intrigued by the nopal cactus as it grows in abundance all through Mexico and does not need water. They made the material after two years of research and development. To make it, mature cactus leaves are cut and dried under the sun for three days until they reach the required humidity. No additional energy is used in this process. The organic raw material is then processed to make the plant based leather - Desserto. The product's features are comparable to animal-made leathers. It is partially biodegradable and a sustainable replacement for leather. This innovation opens up a large field for sustainable and vegan leather products.

Switching to sustainable products and energy sources help our environment a lot. Let us take active steps to save the earth and not remain passive and unresponsive to its pleas. As science develops, let us innovate and develop new ways to protect our beautiful planet.

The two innovators- Adrián López Velarde and Marte Cázarez with their product

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