Generally speaking you would think that in these modern times the craftsmanship skills upon which modern manufacturing has been built have been lost in the rush to robots and services that the world seems to delight in. So it astonishing to think that we can write a headline that even suggests governments get the message that traditional skills of any sort really count.
And of course that was not what they were thinking when at the G7 meeting they set a policy to end the use of fossil fuels by the end of this century and to cut greenhouse gases in half by 2050. It may seem a long way off but a lot of the decisions being made in the next year or so will last through to 2050, so if they are serious they have all to start making changes straight away.
The reason that this will benefit leather, especially vegetable tanned leather, is that nearly all the substitutes are plastics made from fossil fuels. What’s more none of the articles made from these plastics last very long so it is an endless cycle in nearly every case of oil to plastic to landfill and then more oil to more plastic and so on. Vegetable tanned leather rarely wears out and the longevity of the article depends more on the quality of the threads, the stitching and the other accessory parts: and most vegetable tanned leather articles can be repaired.
So vegetable tanned leather is a real winner in the battle to reduce dependency on fossil fuels.
Of course cows get blamed for their carbon footprint but some points have to be made as the data being used is not accurate. Here are the reasons:
- Plastic carbon footprints never add in the cost of the single use of fossil fuels, while leather (despite being a by-product of the meat and dairy industry) gets charged with methane emissions, fertilizer, land use change and water consumption regardless of how or where it comes from.
- Grass fed cattle never get any benefit from the fact that long term grassland is superb at carbon sequestration.
- Methane is thought to have levelled out in the atmosphere around 1999 and not to be as bad as they say it is.
- The methane calculations are accepted anyway as being falsely enlarged and in both grass and grain fed environments there are many adjustments being made to reduce the emissions anyway via changes in husbandry and using waste to generate power.
- If we replaced meat with grain the alternate appears to produce almost the same amount of greenhouse gas the other way. Just killing off all living livestock that produces methane (which includes animals like deer and zebra) does not suddenly solve any problems.
As tanners and leather lovers we are involved in a wonderful material that we need. The G7 is part of the long term solution, just as much as leather has been the solution to so much in the past in the advancement of society.