Leather is a very contentious material. Certainly whenever we mention it here, we are inundated with emotional responses from readers. Leather has been a integral element of human history from at least 2,000 BC. But, even setting aside issues of animal welfare, it has not been the greenest of industries, as this report on the leather production process in Pakistan clearly indicates.
So it was pleasing to see a recent media release announcing the construction of a greener leather tannery in Vietnam, that will service clients such as Timberland, New Balance, Keen, Reef, Simple Shoes and Hush Puppies. The plant operated by German/Chinese consortium, ISA TanTec, will produce what they call LITE (Low Impact To the Environment) leather. They make this claim by reducing energy loads by 30% and water use by 50%.Two million square metres of leather will be produced in the factory, which is due to open in June 2009.
A solar hot water system will not only provide the hot production water, but also offer shading for the carpark (did they learn that trick from Patagonia's photovoltaic carpark?). Additional hot water will be collected from the water used to cooled the hydraulic systems. Ground water is pumped up by a windmill and waste water is partially treated by a bamboo grove.
Energy is to be reduced by a variety of means, one of which includes a green roof, which moderates the high Vietnamese humidity and ambient air temperature. No doubt the 280 employees will also welcome this measure.
When in operation it is anticipated that "The tannery will emit 35% less CO2 than conventional production facilities, based on the carbon dioxide emissions for each square meter of leather produced."