On a trip to Hawaii, I was surprised to see that pineapples actually grow out of bushes; I'd naively thought they grew in the ground like potatoes, with the crown sticking up out of the ground.
By Suniltg at Malayalam Wikipedia - Transferred from ml.wikipedia to Commons by sreejithk2000., CC BY 3.0
A pineapple plant produces a lot more leaves than what you see sprouting out of the fruit. After harvest, there is a massive amount of leaves that essentially become waste.
Dr. Carmen Hijosa, a former textiles designer, has developed a way to transform the leaves into Piñatex, a convincing leather substitute. The raw material is readily available, and the production process is environmentally superior to the resource-intensive production of conventional leather.
"Piñatex is one of those rare products of design thinking that hits all the sustainability buttons at once," says product designer Clare Brass, director of British sustainability consultancy Department 22. "It is a material that is completely cradle to cradle, it substitutes leather that has a very heavy environmental and welfare impact, and it brings new income streams to subsistence farmers, allowing them to fully utilise their crops."
Here's a brief look at how the stuff is made:
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Dr. Hijosa founded Ananas Anam, a Certified B Corporation, to produce Piñatex. Interestingly, Dr. Hijosa spent her earlier career working with conventional leather for luxury brands; but after visiting a tannery, she was disturbed by its visible environmental impact. This provided the motivation to develop Piñatex.