Faux (or fake) Leather offers a great alterantive to leather. With Martindale rubs of over 100,000 this is a very safe choice for high use contract areas. It’s usually made of a pure cotton basecloth with a poly-cotton visible coating. There are many other animal skins that are mimiced in the same way and in many cases the finishes are convincing.
But why not just use leather?
Much leather production has now moved away from the West to areas with less stringent environmental laws and lower wage rates. This is where the problem lies.
Chromium based compounds are used in the tanning and curing process of real leather. They are thought to be carcinogenic as, in some European tanning factories, cancer rates were found to be up to 50% higher in workers than in the population as a whole. Furthermore there were higher incidences of Leukemia in children living in areas near the tanneries. Environmental problems are exacerbated by the siting of factories next to rivers; the significant amounts of discharge that are produced are fed into the water courses and then dispersed over wide areas. In more lowly regulated economies it is not unreasonable to believe that the situation is probably worse.
Moving towards a better leather requires that chromium use is stopped completely and that the water used in production is cleaned and re-used in the factory. Any tanins and dyes uses would preferably be plant based.
Food for thought: If you wear leather clothing on sweaty skin then chromium residues in the leather can rub off and enter the skin.