Cactus leather is a sustainable and environmentally friendly organic material made of Nopal cactus. This cactus variety is resilient and can grow in harsh climate conditions, and on degraded land without excessive irrigation. It does not require fertilizer or pesticides. Only mature leaves are harvested and used in the production of leather. As the plant is left undamaged Desserto is able to harvest new leaves every 6-8 months. A nopal cactus plant has a lifespan of up to around 8 years.
The harvested leaves are mashed and dried in the sun for about 3 days. It's then ground into a powder and mixed with non-toxic chemicals. This mixture is then shaped into different textures and colors as required. The resulting leather is up to 92% biodegradable.
Nopal cactus has a high CO2 sequestering capacity. Desserto found that from their 14 acres of cactus, they were able to absorb 8,100 tons of CO2/year, while only generating 15.30 tons of CO2 annually.
While there are several plant-based leather varieties available, cactus leather is the most scalable and environmentally friendly alternative.