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Exploring the Lower Carbon Impact of Plant-Based Leather

In recent years, sustainability has evolved from a niche consideration to a critical factor in consumer decision-making. With sustainability-marketed products driving more than half the growth in the consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry between 2015 and 2019, the green revolution is clearly here to stay. Furthermore, the Generation Z consumer, who makes up a considerable portion of the market, shows a strong willingness to pay more for sustainable items. In light of this shift, industries are exploring eco-friendly alternatives, one of which is plant-based leather in the fashion sector.

Understanding Plant-Based Leather

Plant-based leather is a groundbreaking sustainable alternative to traditional and synthetic leather. It provides an eco-friendly solution to the environmental issues posed by conventional leather and its common synthetic counterparts: PU (polyurethane) and PVC (polyvinyl chloride) leather.

Contrastingly, an innovative and sustainable alternative that's gaining attention is mycelium leather, derived from the root-like structure of fungi. It's not only naturally pigmented and fully biodegradable but also boasts a significantly lower carbon impact than traditional or synthetic leather.

Other plant-based leathers include those made from pineapple fibers (Pinatex) and cactus (Desserto). These materials are grown on agricultural wastes, such as rice husks and straws, making them sustainable and eco-friendly.

The Environmental Footprint of Traditional Leather

Traditional leather production has long been criticized for its substantial environmental footprint. The process involves energy-intensive methods and harmful chemicals that have severe environmental consequences. Synthetic leather, while avoiding the use of animal products, is often petroleum-based and non-biodegradable, posing its own set of environmental issues.

The Carbon Impact of Plant-Based Leather

Plant-based leather is dramatically shifting the narrative. It offers a sustainable solution that has a 40x lower carbon impact than traditional leather and 17x lower carbon impact than synthetic leather. This significant reduction is a testament to the value of plant-based leather in our transition towards a more sustainable future.

How Plant-Based Leather is Revolutionizing the Fashion Industry

In recognition of the low carbon impact and the growing consumer demand for sustainable products, renowned fashion brands like Adidas, Lululemon, and Stella McCartney have already begun incorporating plant-based leather into their collections. It's not just about fashion, though. Mycelium leather is also finding use in packaging, soundproofing, and more, replacing traditional materials with a sustainable alternative.

The Future of Plant-Based Leather

The future of plant-based leather appears promising. With continuous innovation and growing consumer awareness, we are likely to see an uptick in its mainstream adoption. However, as with any disruptive technology, it's not without its challenges. It will be crucial for companies to invest in scaling production, improving durability, and offering a range of aesthetic choices to meet the expectations of discerning consumers.

Industry examples

1. Mycoworks

Headquarters: Emeryville, California, United States

Founded: 2013 by Eddie Pavlu, Philip Ross, Sophia Wang

Activity: Mycelium made leather

MycoWorks, a San Francisco-based startup, is creating a new standard in the sustainable leather industry with its revolutionary mushroom-derived material. Funded by a recent $125 million Series C round, the company is planning to scale production of its flagship vegan leather product, Reishi.

MycoWorks’ proprietary biotechnology platform allows them to manipulate the mycelium, the root structure of mushrooms, into a luxury material that meets specific design requirements. By opting for this natural resource, the company provides a sustainable alternative to traditional leather, which is not only animal-based but also raises significant ethical and sustainability concerns.

2. Fruitleather Rotterdam

Headquarters: Rotterdam, Netherlands

Founded: 2016 by Hugo de Boon, Koen Meerkerk

Activity: Leftover fruits made leather

Fruitleather Rotterdam, a Dutch startup, is revolutionizing the sustainable leather industry by creating a durable vegan material known as mango leather. Developed from leftover mangoes sourced from fruit markets, the fabric is 100% synthetic-free, contributing positively towards reducing food waste.

The process involves mashing and boiling mangoes to eliminate bacteria, then mixing the paste with natural additives, and drying it into sheets. However, it's important to note that the material is pressed into a polyester-based textile backing derived from petroleum-based plastic.

3. Uncaged Innovations

Headquarters: New York, United States

Founded: 2020 by Xiaokun Wang, Stephanie Downs

Activity: Biomaterials

Uncaged Innovations, a biomaterials startup specializing in sustainable leather alternatives, recently raised $2 million in a pre-seed funding round. The funding round included investment from InMotion Ventures, the investment arm of Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), along with other mission-driven funds like VegInvest, Stray Dog Capital, Alwyn Capital, Hack Capital, and GlassWalls Syndicate.

The company intends to use the funding to launch next-generation high-performance vegan leather. Their innovative approach involves using a composite of plant-based proteins and polypeptides to create a biomimetic leather alternative that closely mimics the texture and durability of traditional animal leather. The firm's proprietary technology platform offers the flexibility to modify materials for various mechanical and aesthetic properties, suitable for multiple end-use applications.


Plant-based leather, particularly mycelium leather, represents a pivotal shift in sustainable fashion and beyond. With its significantly lower carbon impact and diverse applications, it's paving the way for a future where style doesn't have to come at the expense of our planet.

At BoortmaltX, we're leveraging barley husk, a by-product of the malting process, as a substrate for growing mycelium, contributing to the production of sustainable and biodegradable mycelium leather. We are committed to promoting this breakthrough technology, replacing the traditional polluting industry of synthetic leather with a greener and sustainable alternative.

We believe that sustainable innovation is the key to preserving our environment while meeting consumer demand for quality and style. As we continue to explore the potential of plant-based leather and other sustainable materials, we remain dedicated to contributing to a more sustainable future.

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