desserto vegan leather is made from nopal cactus

Sustainable, Eco-Friendly Cactus Vegan Leather: What Is Desserto?

Sustainable, Eco-Friendly Cactus Vegan Leather: What Is Desserto?

Cactus is green, and so is the future. Ever since the Desserto® cactus vegan leather was introduced, it has been the go-to sustainable and eco-friendly material for some designers looking to create new items.

If you’re looking for an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional vegan leather that’s also durable, then look no further than this revolutionary, innovative textile.

This article will talk about how this material is created, why it’s so great, and what you should know before making your purchase decision.

The problem with most vegan leather

Some people don’t realize that many materials classified as vegan leather consist of plastic, like PVC (polyvinyl chloride) and PU (polyurethane). These materials are not environmentally friendly because they are not biodegradable. What’s more, they contain toxic chemicals that can be harmful to our health.

Aware of the problems that synthetic leather production causes, engineers and materials experts have tried to design a vegan option that is eco-friendly and biodegradable. One example of these innovative materials is cactus leather. Let me explain to you about the first, and so far only, one, ever created.

How is Desserto vegan leather different?

Adrián López Velarde and Marte Cázarez, two Mexican entrepreneurs with a passion for sustainable materials, saw the leather problem in industries like furniture, automotive, and fashion and set out to create a solution.

As a result of this interest, the founders decided to leave their jobs, start their company, Adriano Di Marti, and dedicate all their time to developing a vegan alternative to leather made from the nopal plant, a type of cactus, which they called Desserto.

RELATED ARTICLE: 5 Plant-based Vegan Leather Alternatives For The Conscious Fashionistas

It took the creators two years of research and development before they could produce a marketable material.

Before trying nopal, they assessed creating the material using similar plants such as aloe vera and agave, but they remained with nopal because of its added benefits. 

When creating a new, plant-based sustainable material, they realized that evaluating several aspects concerning agriculture is essential. They analyzed factors such as how much water the plants consume, the type and amount of land they need to grow, herbicides and fertilizers, etc., and how the biodiversity is affected by growing that plant.

The nopal cactus is massively abundant in Mexico. It grows naturally, and it doesn’t need any herbicides or pesticides. Nopal doesn’t even need a drop of water to grow because it is a hygroscopic plant, which means it grows thanks to the humidity of the environment; hence it doesn’t need an irrigation system like other crops.

Nopal checked all the marks.

nopal plant to create vegan leather
Nopal is a type of cactus that grows naturally in Mexico, without the need for irrigation.

With this process, they also offer an opportunity to local farmers to learn new techniques and skills, which eventually creates new jobs and increases the value of the nopal. 

Adriano Di Marti caused a splash when it debuted in 2019 at the world’s most important fair for leather manufacturers, Lineapelle.

Today, Desserto is a highly sustainable alternative to leather made from cactus. It is often distinguished by its extraordinary softness at touch while offering excellent performance. It’s suitable for various applications, and it complies with the most rigorous quality and environmental standards.

Apart from the properties mentioned above, Desserto is flexible, breathable, and durable, as it can last up to 10 years.

How is Desserto cactus vegan leather made?

The cactus plants to make Desserto are grown in Zacatecas and San Luis Potosi, Mexico. 

The mature leaves are selected and cut without killing the plant; the new leaves grow every 6 to 8 months, which allows for frequent harvesting cycles.

After cutting them, the mature leaves are cleaned, mashed, and dried out in the sun for three days, aiming to achieve the perfect humidity levels. So, there’s no additional energy used in the drying process. 

After the protein from the plant is obtained, it gets colored with GOTs certified pigments and added some non-toxic chemicals such as bio-polyurethane. 

The final product is up to 68% natural and organic. The rest is composed of recycled polyester and cotton for added strength and durability.

It takes approximately three leaves of cactus to create one linear meter of Desserto.

Is Desserto cactus vegan leather sustainable?

In short, yes, Desserto is one of the most sustainable vegan leather alternatives that exist in the market today.

To evaluate why it is sustainable, let’s look at the unique properties of the raw material, the nopal cactus.

The cactus plantation is perennial, meaning that it’s only planted one time, and the plantation lasts for eight years. It’s different from other plantations like corn that must be cultivated, harvested, and cultivated annually.

Cactus also absorb CO2, which they take at night because it only opens its stoma when the environment is fresh. The plant makes oxygen and takes in water that comes from morning dew.

nopal plant
The nopal plant has unique characteristics that make it inherently sustainable.

To produce 1 kilogram of dry material, other plants need an average of 1,000 liters or about 265 gallons. Cactus only needs 200 liters (about 53 gallons) to produce the same amount; the cactus has a natural process that absorbs water through its stems and leaves.

It’s worth mentioning that the nopal used to make Desserto can only come from certified organic plantations, awarded as USDA organic and VCS.

Since the harvest is fully organic, they use natural fertilizers and never apply herbicides or pesticides; this preserves biodiversity and creates a sustainable ecosystem for animals and plants.

All leftover cactus material not used in the process is exported or sold nationally in the food industry. Nothing goes to waste.

Here is a summary of what makes Desserto® a sustainable option:

  • Considerable savings in water as no irrigation is needed. 
  • Environmental preservation as no chemicals like herbicides or pesticides are used.
  • Cactus is left unharmed to enable repeated harvesting from the same plant. 
  • Energy savings by drying the feed-stock in a solarium. 
  • No cross-industry conflict as the byproduct is directed to the food industry in an increased value form.
  • Full vision and traceability of the farm to ensure sustainable social practices. 
  • Technological enhancements in the farms.
  • Cactus is a natural carbon sink; it has a tremendous CO2 sequestering capacity. 
  • Cactus naturally regenerates soil. 
  • Cactus is a tough and resilient species adapted to extreme conditions to survive in areas where nothing else will grow.

Where is Desserto cactus vegan leather used?

Desserto is partially biodegradable and has the technical specifications required by the fashion, leather goods, luxury packaging, and furniture industries.

In the fashion industry, it’s notably used by brands such as Fossil, Karl Lagerfeld, and H&M

bag made of leather
Desserto vegan leather is used in various products as a substitute for animal or synthetic leather.

How to care for cactus vegan leather?

To care for your Desserto cactus leather, you can do the following:

  • To maintain your product clean and good-looking, use a mild soap and water solution and remove the excess completely using a white cotton cloth damped with water. Dry the surface with a dry white cloth. The light colors might require more frequent cleaning.
  • For spills such as beer, wine, juices, soft drinks, coffee, or tea, simply clean the stain with a solution of liquid shampoo and water and rinse with a cloth soaked in water to remove the excess altogether. Clean the spill as soon as possible.
  • Do not clean with solvents such as alcohol, acetone, paint thinner, bleach, oil, vinegar, waxes, silicones, or detergent cleaners, as they can cause permanent damage to the material.

Cactus vengan leather FAQs

Is cactus leather durable?

Yes, it’s very durable, and it can last up to ten years.

Is cactus leather biodegradable?

Desserto cactus leather is partly biodegradable.

Is cactus leather waterproof?

Cactus leather is water-resistant but not necessarily waterproof.

Final thoughts

Vegan leather alternatives are a must for eco-conscious fashionistas and sustainable consumers. Desserto is an emerging example of this environmentally-friendly trend in the industry, and it’s not only good for your conscience—it looks great too!

I hope you enjoyed learning more about vegan leather alternatives from this article today. If you want to know about another amazing, sustainable leather-like material, check out our article about mycelium and how it can revolutionize fashion.