The Nature Imperative: How the circular economy tackles biodiversity loss
Published September 2021
Desserto produces vegan leather made out of Mexican nopal cactus. Just like cow and synthetic leather, cactus leather can be used for manufacturing clothes, shoes, bags, and furniture, but without altering natural landscapes to support production. The nopal cactus is native to the state of Zacatecas and has a symbiotic relationship with other local species, as well as acting as a natural carbon sink. Desserto grows their cacti without chemical inputs and using a perennial model, such that only the mature leaves of the cactus plant are harvested each time. Part of this harvest is transformed into a range of vegan leather products developed with partner companies, such as H&M, Fossil and designer Karl Lagerfeld, and the remainder is used in the food industry for maximum utilisation.
Early life cycle assessments have shown that Desserto's cactus leather has a 500% lower eutrophication impact compared to animal leather and 10% lower than synthetic leather (polyurethane). Their organic plantations can absorb 8,100 tons of CO2 per year, which makes the 14 acre farm carbon negative, thereby helping tackle a key driver of biodiversity loss: climate change.
This topic area explores how the circular economy works for the fashion industry.
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation works to accelerate the transition to a circular economy. We develop and promote the idea of a circular economy, and work with business, academia, policymakers, and institutions to mobilise systems solutions at scale, globally.
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