Everyone wants to tread a little more lightly on the planet and buying a sustainable leather belt is no exception. If you buy wisely you can not only reduce the impact you have on the planet long term but the belt serves as a great reminder that through a little research and some wise choices you can do better in just about any purchase.
A sustainable leather belt will be defined by three key areas
- What it is made from
- How it is processed
- The credentials of the companies involved
To be sustainable is to be durable
We talk a lot about this at YOKU because it's true. No matter how well you make your product from an environmentally perspective if it does not last then the customer will have to replace it every year or so and the material, water and energy costs each time will far outweigh the benefits of an otherwise sustainably sourced and manufactured product.
A men's belt especially is a object that should last a long term. It should not only be physically durable but be emotionally durable as well. This means the physical properties of the materials used have to be long lasting but the way it is designed has to also support the owner wanting it for a long time.
The best materials for physical durability
The longest lasting belts are made from three things
- Full grain leather belt for the straps
- Hard metals for the buckle (eg stainless steel or Titanium)
- Little to no moving parts in the design. If it moves it breaks
Everything else is likely to degrade faster and when it breaks or looks bad it will be thrown out. Not sustainable.
The best design for emotionally durability
For a design that you will like over the long term it has to be meaningful over the long term which essentially means it shouldn't go out of fashion. Best to avoid highly visible logos or branding and to look for simple and classic design cues. This is not to say don't get something that reflects your personality but understand if your tastes evolve your choice today may no longer be appealing and as a result your belt might physically fine but you'd not be seen dead in it.
A sustainable leather belt need to be made sustainably
There are three primary inputs to any men's belt that affect how sustainable it is
- The leather used
- The metal used
- How it is packaged and shipped
The leather and how it is made and processed
Regardless of whether you use full grain leather or not where the leather comes from and how it is treated to produce the strap in your belt impacts the sustainability.
The most sustainable leather belts include information indicating where their leather has actually come from and how the leather was processed, primarily around colouration
There are two ways leather can be dyed to make it black, brown, tan or any other colour
- Vegetable tanning - typically recognised as the more sustainable option
- Chromium tanning - it can be done sustainably but you need to see certifications to know it has been otherwise avoid
The metal used
Metal by its nature is a water, land and energy intensive process. This is offset by the fact that if you use a pure metal (ie not coated or plated) then other than scratches or a patina it will be highly durable. If you want to get a sustainable belt you should look for metal buckles where the company/brand understand the energy that went into sourcing, manufacturing and finishing the buckle and has chosen to offset this energy as part of the input costs of the belt.
Packaging and shipping
Most brands will prioritise the 30 second window when you first get your belt over the 30+ year impact the packaging and shipping options might have on the environment.
The best packaging options use
- recycled, compostable materials
- minimal to no chemicals in labels or printing
- Longer shipping options (longer = less impact in general terms)
The actual belt is the prize. The box it comes in should be as minimal as possible if you want it to be sustainable as possible.
The company you buy from has to be sustainable
If you want to not only buy a sustainable leather belt but support sustainability more broadly then buying from companies who actually sustainable themselves is another important factor.
Sustainable fashion brands (or companies generally) will typically have the following traits
- Will talk a lot about sustainability
- Will have certifications such as B Corp status
- Will be very transparent about where and how they make their products
- Will be very open about how much their products actually cost to make and their margins
- Will offset their own energy and carbon intensity
- Will support and champion other sustainable fashion brands, even if they might be competitors
- Will offer product guarantees and/or have a repairs program in place