By: Carlos Argueta Our Vegan Leather Motivation: At Mikoleon, our team is committed to seeking out the best solutions that are beneficial and desired by our clients but yet preserve the integrity of artisan workmanship. We attempt to walk the line between what the markets demand but limit it to only those things that would be beneficial to artesans and the preservation of their art and their livelihood. The Prickly Pear is another name for “Nopal”, or cactus. Recent innovations and also scientific validations for eco-friendly vegan solutions conclude that the use of cacti as a vegan alternative solution is one of the best solutions for obtaining a leather alternative that actually does have a positive impact on the earth. While we want to explore a vegan alternative for clients who desire it, we don’t attempt to replace leather, a traditional material for artisan made boots. We simply want to provide another choice for those who wish to purchase products that fit their lifestyle preferences. This product development is specifically designed for those who believe in the positive impact that changes in consumerism can have. A true vegan brand would never use any animal products in any of the raw materials used in their products. Despite being friendly to animals, often vegan alternative products are notoriously cheaply made and essentially made of plastics. Popular Science’s article mentioned that, “Veganism and using fewer animal products, whether in food or in fashion, is often touted as a sustainable solution” (Mercado , Angely, et al. “Is 'Vegan' Leather Really Better for the Planet?” Popular Science, 16 Aug. 2021). Industry experts have emphasized that simply having a product that is classified as vegan, does not equate to a high-quality sustainable solution for the environment. Likewise, ensuring that products are environmentally friendly is one of the best ways to be friendly to animals The real alternatives: Too often, companies that attempt vegan alternatives insinuate connotations in their marketing that give the illusion that vegan alternatives used to compete with leather are actually environmentally friendly, such as petroleum based alternatives. We seek to be different! Tanja Hester, environmental activist and author, mentioned concerning some vegan leathers in the market that, “It’s truly just plastic, which is rarely recycled and in vegan leather form it’s impossible to recycle” (Hester, Tanja. Wallet Activism. BenBella Books, 2021). Here, Tanja refers mainly to the typical alternatives that most brands use for their vegan alternatives that contain materials such as thermoplastic polymers and polyvinyl chloride aka PVC leather (ibid). These vegan alternatives typically release many toxins into the skin and the environment when disposed of or worn. Hester, despite her vegan activism, would agree that one of the best environmentally friendly vegan alternatives to leather would be to simply use leather goods that are of very good quality that will last for years. So, our clients have both options, real leather or cacti leather, and can with surety know that their choice is in one way or another conscious of environments. Since her writing of the book, new developments of leather alternatives are available to the market; such examples include mushroom and cacti derived leather. We have opted to provide our clients with the cacti, or nopal, as a leather alternative in our product because of its specific attributes and quality that can be provided in the leather alternative that many other leather alternatives can’t deliver. Our Leather features The Prickly Pear (cacti) Leather features fantastic solutions to the typical environmental impacts while maintaining strong features to deliver a long-lasting and premium product. Some of the positive environmental impacts of Nopal derived leather our particular providers emphasize include: 1.Improvements in Biodiversity in the regions prone to over-cultivation 2.Reverts Land Use Change (LUC). 3.Since cacti need little amounts of minerals, they cause an enrichment of soil micro-flora and micro-fauna through native and typical organic cactus afforestation. 4.Environmental preservation as no chemicals are used like herbicides or pesticides. 5.Energy savings by drying the feed-stock (raw cacti) in a solarium. 6. No cross-industry conflict as the byproduct is directed to the food industry in an increased value form which is more attractive, and stimulates the agricultural sector to plant more cactus. Apart from choosing a fantastic raw material for its vegan leather option, Mikoleon commits to using only the best and most specialized providers available. Their practices on the ranch include cutting only the mature leaves of the plant without damaging the cactus itself. Cacti production is limited only to space available between other leaves and plants to avoid deforestation. Additionally, our providers do not use an irrigation system for the cactus and use natural rain water and feed the cacti minerals from the soil where planted without adding any other products to enhance growth. Moreover, the cactus plantations are limited to natural cacti growth cycles. Since cacti plantations are perennial in nature, the plant is only planted once every 8 years. This, of course is in direct contrast with other plantations where the plants need to be cultivated and harvested within the year and cause mineral dilution in the land where they are cultivated. Look for vegan leather options coming from Mikoleón! If you’re interested in seeing any of our products in vegan nopal leather, let us know through email or our social media! We are excited to explore with you the Prickly Pear!