By TreeLiving Some may consider leather a natural material for shoes, but this does not make it eco-friendly. The process of leather tanning, which converts perishable animal skin into durable, non-perishable leather, involves a complex 15 step process which results in an enormous amount of polluted water, not to mention the slaughtering of millions of animals for their skins. The tanning process uses a lo ng list of chemicals including petroleum products, chlorides, chromium, sulfides, sulfates, and other heavy metals, as well as machinery which uses large amounts of diesel fuel. As a result, the environmental impact from this process is becoming serious in countries where the leather industry is big. On the other hand, many shoe manufacturers employ workers overseas who are forced to work under really bad working conditions, and when exposed to these chemicals, often develop health problems. Sure, you can find synthetic leather and other artificial materials, but these are not always eco-friendly. This is where “green leather” comes into place. What is “Green Leather”? Green leather is made from animal skin that has been processed using eco-friendly methods. Even more, scientists have found a way that reverses the 15-step tanning process in such a way that the use of chemicals and water is significantly reduced as well as the number of steps required in the process. Many companies are using another eco-friendly method which uses natural plant extracts instead of the toxic chemicals of conventional tanning. Both the farming of Mimosa trees where the extracts come from, and the extraction process, are done sustainably while vegetable products and waxes are used to soften the leather. Today, the leather industry is starting to embrace clean energy and other sustainable tanning methods. In Vietnam, a manufacturer of green leather opened recently which uses solar energy to heat hot water, wind turbines, and a hydraulic waste-water system for the conservation of water. What to Keeping Mind When Looking for “Green Leather” Shoes When shopping for green shoes, you may find some of the terminology confusing. Here’s a quick guide that will help you clarify any doubts labels may present: – Vegan: Shoes are shoes made without the use of leather or any other animal product. – Eco-friendly or Green Leather: Shoes manufactured using leather tanned via an eco-friendly process. – Organic: Shoes manufactured using organic materials. We recommend doing your research into companies who use sustainable methods in the processing of their leather before going shopping and to look for shoes labeled as Eco-friendly, Green, Organic, or the best, Vegan.