Our Guide To Sustainable & Natural, Plant-Based Leather Tanning

Plant-based Vegetable Tanning

Today, almost all leather that is processed worldwide is chrome-tanned, even though chromium has been assessed as one of the top 6 toxic threats for our global water supply and chrome (VI) is known to be a carcinogen. Thankfully, a healthier, more sustainable solution is readily available in forests around the world: plant-based leather tanning, one of the world’s oldest methods of tanning.

Unlike conventional chromium, the right kinds of plant-based tanning agents like those from the mimosa tree, tara tree and valonia, have limited negative impact on the environment. From the tanning process to the treatment of the waste water, to the disposal or repurposing of old leather, the use of plant-based tanning agents heavily reduces the magnitude of environmental problems that can arise from chrome tanning.

Vegetable Tanned Leather Bag

Beyond the ecological and health-related advantages, these natural tanning agents possess a very high degree of skin-friendliness, which means that it can be worn by those suffering from allergies or skin sensitivities. 

What Is Plant-Based Leather Tanning?

Not the same as coloring or dying, tanning is the process of turning animal hide into durable, usable leather. When using a plant-based tanning process, these hides are first prepped and smoothed, and then put into large vats of these natural tannins. These tannins can include tree bark, pods, or other natural elements. The hides soak in this tanning liquid for weeks, until they become more pliable and soft in texture and achieve a beautiful natural hue. 

Plant-Based Tanning Agents

Though plant-based dying is a great step away from the dangers of chrome-tanning, not all environmental tanning agents are made equal, and some may also have damaging effects. For that reason, Natural Nuance only uses plant-based tanning agents that are environmentally friendly, sustainable, and safe for use. 

Here are the two tanning agents we focus on:

Tara Plant-Based Tanning Agent

The tara tanning substance is extracted from the pods and bark of the tara tree. Growing abundantly in the Peruvian Andes, the yellow-red tara pods can be picked without any damage to the tree and also has a variety of uses. With a high content of tanning substances (about 50%) when used in the tanning of leather, tara produces a beautiful cream-colored leather. 

The bark and often even the pods of a Mimosa tree are harvested for their high tannin level and the ability to make a beautiful sandy nude color. The tree itself also has amazing sustainable attributes, such as being fast-growing, having low water requirements, and the ability to thrive in hot climates.

Providing Superior Quality, Naturally-Tanned Leather

At Natural Nuance, our dye-free bags prove that you can create even more covetable, uniquely beautiful bags without using chromium or dyes along the way. Vegetable-tanned leather is rich in character, soft to the touch, and ages beautifully, making it a far superior product that you would want to keep for years to come. And as you might know, offering timeless, chic handbags that our customers love and want to keep for a long time is one of our main goals toward a more circular fashion economy.  


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