For years some of our most popular products are our leather bags. As we have been analyzing what it means to be eco-friendly and how to make large and small decisions that increase sustainability in our business, we have been bringing leather into question.
Two things have come up as we have researched this:
The first is that leather itself is a natural substance. It breaks down when put into landfills (not as quickly as it would b/c of the tanning process, but faster than synthetics), in many cases it lasts a very long time for use before it is ever discarded.
That being said, the way that leather is processed may bring up some environmental and health questions that need to be considered. Farming animals, processing them and the chemicals required to tan a hide so it will last can come at great cost to the environment. The Ethiopian leather that we use IS a byproduct of the meat production industry, which helps. It is all vegetable dyed but does use a traditional tanning process.
In Ethiopia, leatherwork is a traditional craft and in many places, it is worked in small factories. Check out THIS sweet post about the story behind the leather factory that sources most of our leather goods. In this case, the social sustainability and cultural connection to leather work have merit.
Lastly: what is the alternative? Having a bag that is functional, fashionable and will last a long time is part of living (especially a professional) life. If the alternative to a leather bag is a plastic bag (most vegan leather on the market is plastic), leather may be more sustainable. Check out THIS really fascinating article listing some great alternatives to leather (including tree bark leather, mushroom leather and products made from recycled paper!)
So, in the end…it is hard to know. Owning less, keeping things longer and making educated choices is probably the best decision. As for us, our preference is leather over synthetic at this point. But let’s hope for more vegetable sourced products that last,coming to market soon!
We frequently get questions about our name, where it comes from, and what it means. As we created the concept, we had the desire to share an idea, as well as create a call to action.
Roūte: The path that each product takes from maker to customer.
Know the Roūte: Understanding the path of each product from the beginning. Knowing when you buy ethically made products, the path is safe, life-giving, and empowering for the maker.
Our concept is simple, and the ability to make change is real.
Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief.
Do justly, now
Love mercy, now.
You are not obligated to complete the work,
but neither are you free to abandon it.
We know we live in a culture that idolizes consumerism. There is always something more to buy. We also know that our buying directly affects those who are involved in making and delivering our product. Millions of these individuals don’t have a voice in world politics; they live in countries where genocide goes unnoticed, and in conditions that we cannot begin to comprehend.
We know that everything is connected, and as twisted as it is, our dollars cause these problems. We shop at big box stores, and purchase clothing from H&M and Zara because it’s cute, and cheap, and helps us “fit” into a world and culture that says being presentable means being fashion forward. When we purchase that up-to-the-minute bag from H&M there is a solid chance that bag is entrenched in slavery, unsafe working conditions and abuse. And don’t be fooled, paying more for an item doesn’t necessarily mean you’re any less culpable. Yet we sometimes still do it (yes, even us in the Route community!), well aware of the systems we are supporting.
We also understand part of being a responsible consumer means buying less stuff. Our goal is to create a platform where people can not only purchase the latest fashions, but have conversations about how to grow the movement towards purchasing less, and purchasing ethically produced items
Routes are created, paths are crossed, and relationships are made when we purchase goods. At Route we believe that understanding a product’s journey is equally as important as the product itself. To acknowledge the significance of that journey is to transform a customer into an ally for the makers. By embracing the relationships that their transactions foster, the we can understand how their purchase changes the world.
This relationship means ending slavery and workplace abuse. It means engaging in commerce with an eye towards social justice. It means celebrating the connections between makers and allies and revealing how they are equally different and alike.
Know your route. The journey begins with a purchase from our community. We invite you to share our products, our stories, our lives, and to be changed.