Confessions of a Vegetarian Leather Crafter: Part 2

Posted by Craig Wesley on

If you haven't read part I, then click here to read a fairly comprehensive background.

Happy New Year! It's January 2020, just in case you're reading this in the far future. There's been two big changes since my last post in July 2019 that I thought warranted an updated.

First, I'm actually a real vegetarian now. If you didn't read before, I was actually a pescatarian, overindulging in fish and seafood, but skipping meat and poultry, for over ten years. I'll get a lot of eye-rolls for this, but the biggest reason I finally switched to full vegetarian is because of the Game Changers documentary that was playing on Netflix. I personally believe that the way we farm and fish seafood is just not sustainable enough. Additionally, my cholesterol test had shown that I was borderline high, probably from using too much butter and of course eating seafood high in cholesterol. When looking at other data concerning living a longer, healthier life, it just made sense. I actually was trying to go Vegan for a week or two and most of my meals are vegan, but i found it nearly impossible to be 100% vegan 100% of the time.

At the same time that my wife and I started our vegetarian diet, we also realized we needed to limit our spending by not eating out as much. There was a period of two months where we were taking out food at least 4 times a week. Because we're on a tight budget, we could only afford to take out from a handful of places and quiet honestly we were getting bored of eating the same take-out. But also, when going to more affordable restaurants, as well as being vegetarian, we found our options pretty limited. It's pretty surprising being in the SF Bay Area, but it's not easy being somewhat cash poor, vegetarian, and eating out.

It all lead to us cooking almost all meals at home. My wife found a great app with mostly great vegetarian recipes and it's really helped us make the full transition to our new diet. After a month of cooking at home with mostly whole foods and grains and then finally taking out food from one or two of our favorite restaurants, we find that we really don't  enjoy restaurant food that much at all. It's just not as good as what we're cooking by ourselves.

As a nice bonus, I actually lost about six lbs during a one month period, after already losing 20 lbs from intermittent fasting. For those who struggle with weight and want to lose weight, I would highly suggest intermittent fasting, only eating 8 hours a day with bigger meals earlier in the day, and eating vegetarian with whole foods and grains. One of the biggest mistakes new vegetarians make, including myself when I first went pescatarian, is turning into a "carbatarian." Essentially, you can eat potato chips and fries all day and still be a vegetarian. It's an easy trap to fall into, but if you keep reminding yourself that whole foods and grains is actually the key to a healthy diet, then you're headed in the right direction.

The second big change is that Anne Wesley now offers cruelty-free vegan leather goods! For a good part of 2019, I was feeling pretty demotivated to do any work with the business because it got harder and harder to make items out of leather. Some days it's easy to separate the business with my personal feeling, especially when we really need the cash, and then other days it's nearly impossible.

Cruelty Free Vegan Leather Bifold Card Wallet by Anne Wesley

I had been looking into cow leather alternatives, which of course led us to tilapia and salmon skin leather goods, but after learning the possible cons of farmed fish, it was obvious I needed to look further. I am not interesting in PU leather at all because there is a major lack of durability and basically the item turns into waste years before other materials. Then there are all these cool new vegetable leathers being created, but these companies are essentially all in the research and development phase and not accessible to small makers.

Finally, I learned about "washable paper leather." To my surprise, it's been around for a few years already, but of course it hasn't really made it into the mainstream yet. According to the manufacturer that we use, "it is greener than vinyl, clearly more animal friendly than leather. It is a cellulose-based product with a small amount of synthetic latex." Depending on your recycling plant, it can be 100% recyclable and the pulp used to manufacture the paper is FSC Certified. The major con is that it is manufactured in Germany, which means a lot of carbon emissions from all the transporting, but right now a price I'm willing to pay to move away from leather.

In many ways, we're still in an experimental phase with it, but the results are very good so far and has me extremely excited and motivated. To be honest, I don't believe I'll need to design a new product made of cow leather every again, at least that's my hope. Because the company that manufactures the washable paper is small, we're considering the idea that they may not exist in the future and so still looking at more cruelty free materials, but it's here for now.

We haven't sold anything yet, which is why financially it's impossible for us to toss all the leather designs away, but hopefully something will happen that helps washable paper leather catch on and this will be part of the new cruelty free future of Anne Wesley.

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