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Article: Leather Tanning: Past, Present and what is Needed for a Sustainable Future

Leather Tanning: Past, Present and what is Needed for a Sustainable Future

Leather Tanning: Past, Present and what is Needed for a Sustainable Future

Leather—the timeless material that has adorned humanity for millennia—holds within its fibers a rich history of craftsmanship, innovation, and tradition. Central to the transformation of raw hides into durable, supple leather is the age-old practice of tanning.


The Origins: A Primitive Art

The art of leather tanning traces its roots back to ancient civilizations, where early humans discovered that animal skins could be preserved and transformed into usable materials through a process of curing and tanning. In its earliest form, tanning likely involved simple techniques such as soaking hides in water or rubbing them with animal fats to prevent decomposition.


Ancient Innovations: Vegetable and Mineral Tanning

As civilizations advanced, so too did their methods of tanning. In ancient Egypt, craftsmen utilized tannins derived from tree bark and plant extracts to tan hides—a process known as vegetable tanning. This innovation not only improved the durability and longevity of leather but also paved the way for the development of more sophisticated tanning techniques.

Meanwhile, in other parts of the world, such as ancient Rome, another method of tanning emerged: mineral tanning. This process, which involved the use of alum or other mineral salts, offered a faster and more efficient alternative to vegetable tanning, leading to the production of softer, more pliable leather.


Industrial Revolution: Mechanization and Mass Production

The advent of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century brought about significant changes in the leather tanning industry. Innovations such as the water-powered drum and the invention of chrome tanning revolutionized the tanning process, allowing for faster production and greater consistency in leather quality.

While time and cost to process leather went down with these new advances, the cost to people and planet rose. Chrome tanning involves the use of chromium salts, which poses serious risks to human health and the environment. Additionally, the wastewater generated during chemical tanning contaminates waterways and harms ecosystems.


Modern Techniques: Sustainability and Innovation

Today, conventional, chemical tanning is still largely used, but the demand for greater sustainability has caused traditional tanning methods, such as vegetable tanning, to experience a resurgence due to their minimal environmental impact and natural aesthetic appeal.

At Range Revolution, we work with artisans who utilize this traditional method of vegetable tanning to ensure our products are free from harmful chemicals, protecting the earth, the factory workers and the end consumer.


Empowering Change: The Impact of Sustainable Practices

By prioritizing sustainability in our tanning process, we're not only reducing our environmental footprint but also setting a positive example for the industry as a whole. Our commitment to eco-friendly practices extends beyond our own operations—we're dedicated to promoting transparency and accountability throughout the supply chain.

Moreover, our customers can feel good knowing that their purchase supports a company that values both sustainability and regeneration. Choosing products made with leather produced in a way that values the animal, people and planet, you're contributing to a healthier future both for themselves and for generations to come.

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