Historically, leather production has been linked to environmental concerns, primarily due to the widespread use of harmful chemicals in the tanning process. We have noticed this when we started Ownever. Still, we wanted to build bags with durability, but the most environmentally friendly. We ended up searching for options, and we discovered vegetable tanning. This type of tanning is chromium-free, and this makes a huge difference.
Fortunately, environmental awareness is growing, and a part of the leather industry is undergoing a big transformation, shifting away from traditional practices that involve harmful chemicals like hexavalent chromium. A great prelude for this eco-friendly evolution might be vegetable tanning.
One of the most pollutant substances used in traditional leather tanning is hexavalent chromium, which poses significant environmental and health risks. Yet, in recent years, there has been a noted shift towards chrome-free tanning methods. Among these, vegetable tanning become an environmentally tidying technique with a unique approach. This is actually an ancient technique that employs natural plant extracts to convert raw animal hides into durable, intricately textured leather.
The art of vegetable tanningThe fundamental principle of vegetable tanning revolves around utilizing tannins derived from plant sources like oak, chestnut, hemlock, and quebracho. These tannins react with the proteins in the animal hide to create a stable and sturdy structure.
In contrast to the rapidity of chromium tanning, vegetable tanning is a more time-consuming process. It may take several weeks to achieve the desired results, as the hides are immersed in tannin-rich solutions and gradually transformed.
The benefits of plant-based tanning
Vegetable tanning overall has a lower impact on the environment. This type of tanning doesn't use toxic chemicals and it also reduces the risk of soil and water contamination, making it overall a more sustainable choice.
Tannery employees can have a safer working environment because they are not exposed to harmful substances like the toxic hexavalent chromium. This leads to improved occupational health and safety standards.
The patient tanning process results in exceptionally tough leather that is very resistant to wear and tear, making it ideal for items like handbags, wallets, belts, and other leather goods.
In our experience, this approach, deeply rooted in history and nature, offers a sustainable and aesthetically pleasing alternative to leather production that respects both the environment and the craft of leatherworking. Overall, the transition towards chrome-free tanning methods in the leather industry represents a positive and sustainable evolution, that’s why most of our bags are made with this type of leather.