Desserto: Vegan Cactus Leather

Desserto: Vegan Cactus Leather

Desserto

12. Responsible Consumption and Production 13. Climate Action

Overview

Notorious for the creation of vegan leather made from nopal, a cactus plant widely known and used in Mexico, Desserto offers a cruelty-free and sustainable leather alternative, without any toxic chemicals, phthalates, and PVC. Founded in 2019 by Adrian Lopez and Marte Cazarez, this Mexican brand has come to revolutionize the production of leather both at home and abroad, becoming a new favorite for luxury in the furniture, automotive, and fashion industries.

Authors

Judith Guerra

Judith Guerra

Eugenio Padilla

Eugenio Padilla

Pedro Azparren

Pedro Azparren

GERARDO ALBERTO MARTINEZ SALAZAR

GERARDO ALBERTO MARTINEZ SALAZAR

School

Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey (ITESM)

Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey (ITESM)

Professors

Consuelo Garcia-de-la-torre

Consuelo Garcia-de-la-torre

Francisco Layrisse

Francisco Layrisse

Innovation

The innovation of the product lies in the ease of harvesting and the ease of manufacturing the leather from the nopal. Little to no irrigation is needed along with the abundance and easiness to plant nopal in all of Mexico. One nopal flower can be harvested every 6 to 8 months and each plantation is approximately done every 8 years. For each hectare, they receive 200 tons of nopal leaves ready to process and for every 3 kilograms, they produce 1 square meter of vegan leather.

Desserto: Vegan Cactus Leather

Inspiration

Adrian and Marte, Desserto's founders, had previously worked in the automotive and fashion industry and were aware of the extremely negative impact these industries have on the environment. Conscious of this situation, Desserto was born to find a solution in those industries and others, opting for developing a product that could change businesses and consumers from an animal leather manufacturer to a vegan cactus manufacturer.

After a thorough R&D process, the nopal was eventually chosen as the base for their product. They found that this cactus plant has a protein that allows them to create a paste-like leather that later can be molded into leather goods, car seats, and other products. In addition to this, nopal is an abundant plant throughout all of Mexico and needs little to no irrigation since humidity is enough for its growth, and is easily cultivated by many farmers in Mexico, becoming the ideal base for their product. This innovative brand has definitely revolutionized the leather industry, having created a product that is not only sustainable but also profitable.

Overall impact

The use of animal leather is related to serious sustainability problems. Extensive livestock farming causes deforestation, overuse of water and land, and gas emissions. The tanning of a ton of leather requires about 50 cubic meters of water, which at the end of the process contains various contaminants, such as chromium sulfide, aluminum, and caustic soda. If these solid and liquid wastes are not treated before discharge, they create considerable contamination. A study, "Pollutants in Tannery Effluents", (United Nations Industrial Development Organization - UNIDO), summarized the main scientific data on the environmental damage caused by the dumping of tanning effluents. For example, if various types of tanned solids arrive in surface or groundwater, including particles and leather residues from chemical and wastewater discharges, they cause severe contamination of such water and can even block and state currents. The high demand for oxygen created by effluents discharged directly into surface water can alter its delicate ecological balance. The various types of chemicals used in tanning processes can be an important source of contamination if poured directly into surface water or waste without any treatment.

Desserto, through the production of vegan leather, positively impacts the environment based on the following aspects:

  • Prevention of deforestation associated with livestock farming.
  • Reduced water consumption. According to studies consulted, the hybrid footprint per kilogram of leather is estimated at 17,000 liters for breeding alone.
  • The elimination of chromium tannins, sulfides, and alkaline and basic mixtures that eventually end up polluting rivers.

Business benefit

Since the start of the project, the founders financed Desserto with private investment, using their own resources as well as investments from friends and family, to perform research and testing with a wide range of materials in hope of creating an environmentally friendly plant-based product. Their R&D activities ultimately led them to choose the nopal as the base for their product. Since the introduction of their product in October 2019, they have seen a growth from 50% to 100% in their sales. With the constant growth of the different industries that use Desserto’s product, they plan in the short term to open a distribution center in Europe and Asia to facilitate logistics with its customers in these areas. Marte Cázarez, one of the founders of Desserto, comments that, in the local Mexican market, even when its product has a very little demand, it has been growing as a result of the customers demanding more sustainable products, making big brands more conscious of where their products’ materials come from.

Social and environmental benefit

They work with local farmers in 5 different ranches in Zacatecas and San Luis Potosi where farmers are taught planting and harvesting techniques along with training to improve their process to obtain fibers, which is used to produce the nopal-based skin that is extracted. In these ranches across Zacatecas and San Luis Potosi, the farmers can harvest 200 tons of cactus in 2.4 acres and for every 3 kilograms, Desserto has enough raw material for 1 meter of environmentally friendly cactus-based leather, 100% free of animal leather and tanning chemicals. Desserto creates alliances with farmers whose land is certified by the "US-Organic" program of the USDA and the "BCS OEKO-GARANTIE" program in Germany. This type of certification guarantees the responsible use of resources such as water and prevents the use of chemicals that affect the land and the environment. As a way to help the farmers to obtain these certifications, Desserto transfers knowledge and technology, which in turn gives the plant a greater economic value and a higher return for the farmers. Through this process, the value of the nopal increases up to 10 times and the remaining fibers can be marketed by the growing partners generating an increase in their additional income from what they generate with Desserto. This way their agricultural partners see economic growth by the training and certification obtained with the help of Desserto.

Interview

Marte Cazarez, Co-founder

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Desserto

Desserto

Guadalajara, Jalisco, MX

Business Website: https://desserto.com.mx/

Year Founded: 2019

Number of Employees: 2 to 10

Desserto®, the leading brand of Mexican company Adriano Di Marti, is a highly sustainable plant-based vegan leather made from cactus, distinguished for its quality and performance, along with a wide variety of applications and complying with the most rigorous quality and environmental standards. Desserto aims to offer a sustainable alternative without the use of any toxic chemicals, creating a partially biodegradable product that has the technical specifications required by the fashion, automotive, and furniture industries.