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What it takes to create a low-carbon handbag: -64% CO2 compared to a similar product

A guide to understand carbon footprint using a fashion accessory as an example

Responsible consumers increasingly want to know the real cost of the fashion they buy.  This handbag is the result of the growing demand for alternatives to animal leather, and the success of low-carbon vegetable leather handbags.

As we already shared in our popular article showcasing vegan and plant based leather alternatives, sustainable fashion goes hand in hand with the rise of ethical consumption. In this sense, cruelty-free and more eco-conscious accessories are not just a trend, but definitely here to stay. 

And when it comes to the footprint, we find that businesses are also increasingly aware of the output of their products and how it affects the environment, and therefore, the social consequences in communities that are exposed to high levels of pollution.

What is the carbon footprint of a product

A carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gases (including carbon dioxide and methane) that are generated. This accounts for its whole process – from extraction of raw-materials, production and to end-of-life. 

And why does it matter? Well, if you simply look at the average carbon footprint for a person in the United States – the data shows it’s around 16 tons. Becoming one of the highest rates in the world.

The major contributors to carbon footprints are: food, consumption, transportation, and household energy.

How is the carbon footprint calculated?

Taking a fashion handbag as an example, we need to first realise that each handbag is unique, and like any product that involves extraction of raw materials, production process up to the end of a lifecycle, it carries a more or less significant environmental footprint.

In this sense, the calculation of the carbon footprint of a handbag must take into account the entire life cycle of the product. In summary, the calculation is made taking into account:

  • The extraction of raw materials
  • The energy needed to manufacture the materials 
  • The making
  • The transportation methods
  • The product’s use until it is recycled (if possible – truth is that most of the fast fashion does not get recycled: find out the real impact of the fast fashion industry).

In order to be in perfect coherence with its social, animal, ecological values and the purchase of a handbag, several factors must be considered when one wishes a handbag that respects the planet and has a low carbon footprint.

Carbon footprint and the raw materials 

Making a handbag requires the use of various raw materials. 

As a noble and expensive material, animal leather was very early in competition with synthetic leathers of the imitation leather type. But leather has a considerable impact on the environment, as well as on animal welfare. 

Virgin plastic imitation leather also has a significant environmental footprint and an end of life that is difficult to recycle or even non-existent. 

To reconcile both technical and ecological imperatives, new processes have been developed and have thus led to the development of materials made from plants or plants. These vegetable leathers are used to provide a soft and rot-proof imitation leather.

9 Vegan Plant-based Leather Alternatives that are Revolutionising the Fashion Industry 

 

This explains the growing demand for vegan handbags. But this strong growth has not escaped certain brands, highlighting “vegan bag”, without further details on the materials they use. When you find too little product detail information or labels, it can often be plastic leatherette. So, before buying a new handbag, pay attention to the materials used to make the handbag.

If the mark is transparent, the materials will be well detailed. Choose a handbag made from natural and/or recycled and sustainable materials.

Carbon footprint and the Manufacturing

For the manufacture of handbags, some manufacturers coat the threads with grease or wax to make them more resistant. Then, they are washed in order to get rid of these products. 

This phase is very polluting, as it releases toxic substances into the waters, contributing to the destruction of ecosystems and therefore is harmful to biodiversity and human health.

Carbon footprint and Transport

Transport considerably increases the carbon footprint of a product. The distance from the place of manufacture of the product to its delivery as well as the method of transport considerably increases its environmental footprint. Especially if it is transported by air.

The carbon footprint is at the heart of the concerns, its calculation is a good indicator allowing us to know the greenhouse gas emissions. Thus, they can be ranked by priority in order to be able to achieve emission reduction objectives. 

This is why some brands that are truly committed to the planet have their pieces audited to find out their impact. The results obtained allow the consumer to have all the information on the product and to be aware of its carbon footprint.

LĂ©risa, the low-carbon handbag

From the choice of materials to the entire production chain, the eco-responsible leather goods brand LĂ©risa does not neglect anything to reduce its impact. Thus, LĂ©risa has a mastery of carbon emissions and offers meaningful pieces.

The brand has had its products audited by Carbonfact. According to Carbonfact the “L” handbag emits -64% COâ‚‚ compared to a comparable product. This reduction in emissions is mainly reflected in the raw materials, which represent 75% of the total carbon footprint of the product. 

What it takes to create a low-carbon handbag: -64% CO2 compared to a similar product Lerisa
Photo Credit: LĂ©risa Le “L” handbag

Le “L” handbag is made from natural and recycled materials: grapes, hemp and recycled polyester. This selection of materials emits: between 2.7 and 5.9 kg of CO2 compared to 13 kg of CO2 for a comparable product using other materials. That is a reduction of more than 55% in CO2 emissions. 

Then, the place of manufacture of the Le “L” handbag (Made in France) emits 0.5 kg of CO2 compared to 1.6 kg CO2 for a comparable product.

LĂ©risa brand products are designed to last, the brand provides a repair service during the warranty of its models, 2-year warranty.

Have you ever thought of the actual carbon footprints of the products you consume? Share your experience in the comments below!

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Elsa Ritter

Passionate about fashion, I was a big consumer. I had never wondered about the damage caused by the textile industry on the other side of the planet. When I became aware of this real social, health and environmental disaster, it was an electric shock! This marked the end of my excessive purchases! Aware of environmental issues, I wanted to make my contribution by acting for the good of others. The leather industry being extremely polluting, my choice fell on the creation of a line of vegetable leather goods, a choice more respectful of the planet, humans and animals. So, I decided to review everything, to analyze each component in order to find the most responsible alternative possible.

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