Prickly Pearther Replaces Pleather

Sustainable fashion and innovative ways to reduce our carbon footprint are twin interests of mine.   Two young Mexican inventors Adrian Lopez and Marte Cazarez from Guadalajara have created an eco-friendly leather alternative made out of prickly pear cactus. People thought they were crazy and even engineers did not believe it could be done. They travelled to Milan, Italy to present their innovative leather to the top designers of the fashion industry at the Lineapelle Leather Trade Exhibition.

Making leather out of cactus caught my eye because I have seen the negative results of introducing the prickly pear cactus in Kenya and hope new, innovative ideas can help the plague of prickly pear cactus Kenya is experiencing. 

What is good for one ecosystem can be the kiss of death to another ecosystem. During colonial times in Kenya, the British decided to introduce the prickly pear cactus as an ornamental plant that thrives in dry climates.  An invasion occurred and the prickly pear cactus plague is the result. The cactus threatens grazing, one of the mainstays of the Kenyan economy, and is thought to kill baby elephants, which impacts the tourist industry. 

While the species of prickly pear cactus in Mexico and Central America have many uses, the species is Kenya is strictly ornamental and useless. It has a chokehold on the landscape and the economy. 

Each time, I visit Kenya and I am overwhelmed by the prickly pear problem that I can’t stop thinking of ways to stay this invasion. Two young inventors have devised an organic blend of prickly pear and cotton with the proper hand feel and attractive look leather consumers crave. Maybe this new innovation can be used in Kenya to help end the scourge of this invasive species of cactus.

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