Leather’s impact on the environment: Good or bad?

And is it that simple?


Here to provide some balance in the raging debate about the use of our land, fast fashion and our future – Rewind is a new documentary series. Courtesy of The Wine Show and Blue Juice’s award winning Director Carl Prechezer, and funded by Real Leather. Stay Different., it makes the case for using leather as a sustainable by-product of the meat and dairy industries – and as a way to break the fast fashion cycle.

The message is simple. By ‘Rewinding’, looking back at how we used to manage the land and use its outputs, we can begin to reverse the damage caused to our soils through intensive farming and provide a natural alternative to the synthetic materials and faux leathers that are plastic based and so polluting our planet.

In four five-minute episodes, Farming, Fashion, Food and the Future, Rewind captures the thoughts of chefs and tanners, scientists and fashion editors, NGOs and environmental auditors – and draws on some surprising data and research from a range of sources as diverse as The United Nations and BP. The result is an interesting mix of hard data and personal perspectives that challenges the current vogue on what we should eat or wear, and what our choices mean for our planet. We can’t rewind history, but we can shape our future.

The outtake: Leather, and other natural fabrics have a critical role to play in a sustainable fashion future – which means weaning the industry of its reliance on fossil fuels. And the farming industry, which supplies the materials and fabrics, must be run efficiently and sustainably if we are to not only clothe, but feed, the planet.



Although leather is a by-product of the meat and dairy industries, to the consumer its production is inextricably linked to agriculture. In the first instalment Rewind examines how to make the best use of our limited agricultural land, the real effects of cattle’s methane emissions – and the environmental consequences of having no cows, not utilising cowhide and the popularisation of plastic alternatives.

Click here to view Episode 1’s factsheet that looks at the sustainability of cattle farming.

Meet the contributors

Discussing farming and leather’s place in it, our contributors’ expertise covers environmental and human health, ranching, sustainability and fashion.

Meet the contributors

Discussing fashion and its impact on the environment, our contributors’ expertise covers environmental health, styling, leather artisanship and design.


Episode three, ‘Food’, looks at the dairy and meat industries, the by-products of which are the hides used to make leather. It looks at the role of cattle in feeding a growing global population while tackling global warming, arguing that a combination of regenerative farming, balanced consumption and using marginal lands is the only way to meet these challenges. The outtake, cattle have a critical role to play, and leather will continue to be available. We have the choice to use it – or treat it as waste and send to landfill.

Click here to view Episode 3’s factsheet.

Meet the contributors

Discussing food and how we can sustainably feed the world’s fast-growing population, our contributors’ expertise covers farming emissions, ranching, sustainability in beef and leather and restaurants.


Episode four – ‘Our Future’— ties together the themes of the first three episodes to offer a vision of the future where practices from the past, including sensitive farming and the best use of leather and other natural materials, can combine with the latest in technologies – for example methane capture—to help make use of waste and by-products, protect our environment and feed, fuel and clothe the world in a more sustainable way.


Click here to download the dedicated factsheet.

Meet the contributors

Discussing Our Future and how leather can be used to cut waste and prevent the needless creation of materials from petrochemicals our contributors’ expertise covers air quality, sustainability, retail, fashion and the hide industry.

Learning Materials

Want to learn more about how using leather cuts waste, landfill and carbon? Or about its durability, versatility and timeless style? Download our educational materials.