Eco Vegan Leather: Green Banana Paper
Leather. A fabric avoided by vegetarians and environmentalists alike, ranked as the most environmentally damaging material. Yet due to a perceived lack of alternatives, its use is still commonplace. While there has been a rise in the use of vegan leather, this hasn't been without the unique environmental challenges of synthetic materials (plastics made from petrochemicals) and chemical dyes.
What we need as conscious consumers are better options for cruelty-free leather alternatives that don't cost the Earth.
Green Banana Paper is exactly that kind of innovation we're looking for.
Vegan. Sustainable. Non-toxic. Fair trade.
With a large international journey coming my way this year, I needed a new travel wallet to hold my passport and insurance details. My last one had been falling apart for my last few trips, but I'd had little luck finding something I loved enough to invest in and that was not leather.
Green Banana Paper creates sustainable and ethical men's, women's and travel wallets from harvested banana trees, which boost the local economy in a remote island region in Micronesia named Kosrae. (The Federated States of Micronesia is a collection of islands nestled above Papua New Guinea.) Made from what would otherwise be a waste product of a renewable resource, this leather alternative is as close to sustainable as you can get.
The team at Green Banana Paper were kind enough to connect me with the Flora Travel Wallet in purple, which was designed by a Micronesia artist and screen printed with eco-friendly non-azo dyes. It includes a pocket for my passport, three card slots, an ID window, plus a notepad and pen. Bonus points – the elastic to close the wallet and the ID window are both recyclable!
The whole product is a stroke of ingenuity. Banana farmers only harvest the fruit of a banana tree, leaving the trunk of the tree as discarded waste. This trunk must be removed to make room for the new fruit-bearing trees. This is where Green Banana Paper is opportunistic. By buying these tree trunks off farmers, the company reduces viable waste while also bolstering the income of over 70 farming families in Micronesia.
The fibres of the trunk are then turned into a thick, waterproof kind of paper and sealed with a (vegan) wax, detailed in this video. So far, Green Banana Paper has recycled around 70,000kg of banana trees this way
Aside from additional income for local farmers who provide the trees, the company also employ 18 full-time employees and are only growing, keeping the ownership and direction of the brand firmly in the hands of the local community. Staff are guaranteed safe working conditions and fair pay above the minimum wage, and the company provides total transparency and traceability for consumers to have full insight into their factory and the ethical production process.
Utilising the natural elements of the island, Green Banana Paper make use of natural resources for a near zero-waste experience: Open air buildings for drying, rain water tanks, boiling vats fuelled by coconut shells, solar panels, waste composting, and re-using offcuts. Using these elements of nature produces a tear-proof and waterproof material like only Mother Nature can provide.
Finding a company that meets all my ethical considerations is difficult. Products that consider animals, the environment and the people that make them are rare to come by. But Green Banana Paper checks all my boxes. As a minimalist condensing her life down to carry-on only luggage, having a travel wallet that is durable, compact and eye-pleasing is a huge win. I don't make room in my life for just any old possession, but I'm throwing my support behind this initiative.
Read more, follow them on social media, or pre-order your own banana wallet here: greenbananapaper.com