Vegan leather shoes are typically made from plastics like polyurethane–so even though they might avoid the carbon footprint and animal welfare issues of raising cattle, they aren’t exactly environmentally friendly. Even plant-based leather typically uses plastic resin or glue to hold the material together.
And while some companies work on lab-grown collagen or leather made from mushroom roots, those aren’t widely available and can be difficult to scale up. A new leather brand thinks it has technology that could make plant-based leather–without any plastic–mainstream.
“The foundation of the company are plants, not plastic,” says Luke Haverhals, the founder and CEO of Natural Fiber Welding, the company making a new brand of leather called Mirum. The product has a similar cost to plastic alternatives, but can be made from agricultural waste and is fully biodegradable.