Is Your Handbag Eco-Friendly?

Is Your Handbag Eco-Friendly?

In the 1960’s a distant cousin of mine opened a business selling crocodile skins. He killed the crocs and built his own abattoir to remove the meat and the hide. The hides were sold to fashion designers who made them into expensive crocodile skin purses, belts, wallets, and even furniture coverings.

The Australian Saltwater Crocodile, prized for the flexibility of its leather thus provided significant income for the area of its habitat. The crocodile is a lethal creature, looks like a dinosaur, and regards humans as dinner. But the crocodile harvesting industry threatened their extinction, and this species was protected in 1971. Now populations have rebounded, as have crocodile attacks on humans and other animals.

Some people regard wearing animal skins and fur as immoral and unsustainable. But as with so many questions, it depends. Recently, I read a Washington Post article about harvesting lionfish, Burmese python, and carp, all invasive predators. Their skin is processed into clothing billed as sustainable. So far, the company owner says, he has killed 50,000 of these creatures and hopes to harvest tens of millions more.

Is this business any more “sustainable” than the crocodile industry? Is it ultimately more sustainable than growing cotton or breeding sheep for their wool? I cannot pretend to know. We solve one problem, only to create another. Maybe the best response to the real crisis of waste and deforestation caused by the fashion industry is just to wear out or reuse our clothing.

I’ll be taking a trip to my local thrift shop this weekend.