Both real and vegan leather has a significant environmental impact. It's hard to say which one is the best option. Real leather is more comfortable, long-lasting, and can be biodegradable. Leather shoes are often more durable, and it might be more sustainable to invest in 1 leather pair of shoes instead of 10 vegan leather shoes in terms of resource use. However, when you buy vegan shoes, you can be sure that you are not supporting the meat industry and that there were no animals harmed in the process.
In the end, it's important to choose what you feel comfortable with and what aligns with your values when considering what you buy.
Whether you go for vegan or real leather, we do recommend going for the best option in the category. Vegetable-tanned leather is more sustainable than chrome tanned leather and is biodegradable. Also, keep an eye out for brands that are certified by the Leather Working Group to make sure the production was done with regard to the environment.
Want to be sure your leather purchase does not contribute to the meat industry? Look at second-hand or vintage options. If you prefer vegan leather, try to buy plant-based options instead of plastic-based synthetic leathers to significantly reduce your environmental impact. And as always: choose well, and make it last.
The most sustainable choice is the item that you will love for years, that you take care of, repair, and use until it's no longer possible.