What’s in Your Bag? Why Materials Matter.

There's no shortage of purses and bags on the market, they come in a wide variety of styles and price points.

So, how do you choose what's right for you?

Today we'll explore beyond the looks of an accessory, such as a bag, and deep dive into the high price animals and the environment are paying for accessories we deem "fashionable". Empowering you to be an informed shopper and make decisions that align with your values. 


(image by: @thesavemovement)

While most luxury brands boost that their handbags, wallets, and shoulder bags are made of "genuine calf leather" or "exotic skins", have you ever stopped and wondered what that really means? 

While shopping, you usually think about of how a bag looks on your arm and will fit with your overall wardrobe, however, bags, like all our belongings, also say something about our values.

If some of your values include reducing the pain and harm imposed on animals or becoming more environmentally sustainable, then maybe it's time to move away from leather products.

Maybe you recently switched to "cruelty-free makeup" and want to take the next steps towards a move animal and environmentally friendly lifestyle. This first question you may ask yourself is, 'what makes one bag better than another?' A lot of brands don’t make this easy to understand, especially because telling you the truth could hurt their bottom line, the biggest answer lies in the materials.

In an article by Sentient Media, their article uncovered the gruesome truth behind the leather industry and the true cost of what is deem "luxury".

"......Once they (cows) reach the processing sites, adult cows are typically shot in the head with a bolt gun and hung up by their legs. Their throats are cut and they are skinned. Because many slaughterhouses in the U.S. rapidly process up to 400 animals per hour, the cows are often only partially stunned and therefore skinned alive. The steadily rising global appetite for leather ensures that these torturous practices continue.

Adult cows are not the only victims of the leather industry. As with industrial food farming, the skins of the youngest and most vulnerable animals yield the highest economic value. Newborn calf skin produces particularly soft, thin leather, and is thus marketed as more luxurious than that of older cows. To access cows’ skin at its absolute youngest, unborn calves are sometimes removed directly from their mothers’ wombs. Like the meat and dairy industries, leather production frequently relies on the systematic abuse of mothers and their babies, and the severing of the bonds between them."

Further research and investigation by Sentient Media, uncovered the inhumane factory farms of animals who's skins are used by the likes of Hermès and Prada.....

"Consumers insatiably desire animal skin products due in part to the belief that leather is a high-end commodity—a perception that is at odds with the reality of its production. While “exotic” skins such as those from alligators and crocodiles are often marketed by luxury brands like Hermès and Prada, they too are typically mass-produced in extremely dirty factory farms. One Georgia farmer in 2001 had 10,000 alligators living in four buildings, where, according to the Los Angeles Times, “[h]undreds and hundreds of alligators fill[ed] every inch of [each] room.” The process of obtaining animals’ skins is no less barbaric for reptiles than it is for cows. For lizards and snakes, skinning alive is the preferred method because it is believed to keep the skin supple. Snake and alligator skins might seem like luxurious materials for boots and bags, yet producing these skins causes unimaginable suffering and routinely occurs in unhygienic factory farms.....

report by the Congressional Research Service shows that, in 2014, the U.S. imported $8.5 billion in leather articles from China. The American appetite for leather, unbeknownst to most consumers, directly supports the brutal slaughter of cats and dogs." 

"For animal lovers, or even animal likers, it’s time to rethink leather."

It goes without saying that this is unacceptable. These animals are incredible smart and capable of feeling pain and sadness. Is that worth the price of a leather bag because it has a famous logo stamped on it? No.

These factories are not just harmful for the animals but also for humans. Workers are exposed to toxic chemicals in leather tanneries, these chemicals are then dumped into its surrounding water systems contaminated the water and land it occupies. The surrounding land then becomes ecological wastelands around the leather tanneries, often where poor and low-income families are forced to live.

"Leather production poses a triple threat—it inflicts cruelty on animals, harms and kills humans, and destroys vital ecosystems. Leather is not merely a byproduct of animal farming, but rather directly contributes to the profitability of factory farms and slaughterhouses. Wearing leather condones the continued exploitation of the most vulnerable human and nonhuman animals on the planet." 

The choice is yours...

It’s important to know what exactly you're buying for if you want to make a conscious buying choices. Along with knowing about the cruel and harmful effects of leather, let's consider a few different materials and their environmental impacts.

So, HELL NO to leather, but what about the other materials that make up a bag, wallet, and backpack?

Cotton can be sustainably grown or environmentally damaging.

The first thing to know is that cotton can be very water and pesticide intensive. Pesticides and synthetic fertilizers can harm the environment, and, of course, water is becoming a valuable resource in a more drought-ridden world. So, methods to reduce pesticides and water in cotton agriculture are important.

Organic cotton is grown without most pesticides or synthetic fertilizers, and, according to studies, it also requires less water if grown using certain methods. However, farming techniques for various kinds of cotton have a great impact on how much or how little water is used for the crop. Recycled cotton is perhaps the most eco-friendly choice. It is not always easy to come across, but it is worth looking for. 

At Lunar Method, we always seek to use recycled and organic materials that are locally sourced here in Mexico City.  

We have also recently started to use a textile called lino bambú, which is 50% bamboo and 50% cotton, further reducing the amount of water needed and 100% biodegradable.

Silk is surprisingly energy inefficient.

Silk does not have to be an energy-inefficient crop, but the facilities that raise the silkworms are often in places that are too hot for the worms to survive without significant air conditioning and humidity control. Therefore, they are very energy-intensive.

More energy is also required to dry the cocoons after harvesting. All in all, this comes to a lot of energy usage, and, many times, coal-based power plants are the source of that energy.

At Lunar Method, we limit our use of silk, and instead use a material called Tencel Lyocell, produced from sustainably sourced wood by environmentally responsible processes. 

It has a very similar feel as silk without the energy sucking requirements. 

Vegan materials don't rely on animal products. No cows need to spend years of their lives being raised and fed for you to enjoy a vegan bag. No sheep need acres of grazing land in order to supply a just-like-wool wrap. This means that choosing vegan products helps reduce land-use and deforestation. Vegan materials ensure that no animals are harmed in the making of your products.

Any plant-based vegan leather is better than conventional faux leather.

However, some vegan materials are significantly better than others.

You might not realize it, but the bag you carry every day may be harming the environment even though it is faux leather. Most designer handbags are made with conventional faux leather, and conventional faux leather is made using plastics, which are petroleum-based.

So, the unfortunate thing about choosing conventional faux leather over real leather is that you are often shifting from supporting the polluting livestock industry to supporting the polluting oil and gas industry (the source of petroleum). Even worse, just like other plastics, faux leather does not biodegrade. So, when you are done with your bag, it will stick around on the planet for hundreds of years in a landfill.

That’s why we at Lunar Method have chosen to make our products using organic cactus leather. It is a renewable and eco-friendly material that also doesn’t compromise on quality, durability, look, or feel. We have founded our brand on finding the most sustainable solutions to offer our customers because we care about our planet’s future, and we know that you care, too.

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