Dyes, particularly natural dyes, have been in our lives for thousands of years, providing beautiful aesthetic colours but also for utilitarian purposes. The oldest and most widely used dye is indigo, which has been used in India for the last four thousand years. Natural dyes are dyes or colorants derived from plants or minerals.
Although natural dyes were popular for humans ( our Kings and Queens were using it to dye their dresses, tapestry ...) it quickly fell out of favor due to the ease of use and variability of synthetic dyes. However, in this article, we will be discussing the importance of natural dyes and why they are a sustainable alternative to save our planet and people.
Synthetic dyes are harmful for our planet
Nowadays, the use of synthetic dyes is the normal process used by fashion factories around the globe to dye all our clothes. From the blouse you are wearing today to your jeans and jumpers, all our garment pieces have been dyed using synthetics dyes.
Why do we use Synthetic dyes?
As all our clothes are made using man made fabric such as polyester, nylon or microfiber, the need to develop synthetic dyes was essential to dye those fabrics. In fact, you cannot use natural dyeing on synthetic fabrics as it won't absorb the colour.
These synthetic colours allowed manufacturers and dye houses to operate in large quantities, and offer vivid, rich colours. They became the go-to option as very easy to manipulate and offer a limitless palette of colour options.
How are synthetic dyes harmful for the environment?
In the process of dyeing our clothes, factories and dye houses mix synthetic dyes with water and then reject the waste to the rivers.
Polluted river near a factory in India
As they have been chemically developed to stick to any type of fabrics, the runoff of synthetic dyes in freshwater is contaminating and polluting overtime having a very disastrous effect on our planet.
Rivers are turning green, red or pink in many countries in which our clothes are produced killing river species and contaminating the water that cannot be used by local communities.
Synthetic dyes are harmful for our people
Contaminated rivers have a long term impact on people's lives and health. In fact, rivers used to be accessible water locals could use to grow their crops, vegetables, to cook or take showers. However, the long term effect of synthetic dyes in rivers has made it difficult to use this water and has also developed skin problems, various cancers and acute illnesses among communities.
It made it even worst for people everyday being exposed to those toxic dyes and risking their lives breathing and touching toxic dyes to make our clothes.
A man walks through colored rainwater past a dyeing factory in Shyampur in June 2018. Its waste is dumped into the Buriganga river in Dhaka, Bangladesh. CNN source.
What is the immediate solution?
Overall, reducing our volume of consumption would be the first solution to a fast fashion industry that is hurting our people & our planet.
Is Natural dyeing the best alternative?
But Natural dye is a natural & sustainable process used to dye our clothes using dyes or colorants derived from plants or minerals.
The Natural dyeing is a safe process involves pre-treating the fabric with a type of salt minerals and dyeing it with the desired colours ( and many can be achieved!).
How do we help at Inseparable?
At Inseparable, we use upcycled fruits, vegetables or wilted flowers to dye pure & fine natural fabrics such as silk, linen or cotton. Berries, avocado, onions or red cabbage are all amazing ingredients we find in our kitchen that can be used to dye naturally our clothes.
Naturally dyed scrunchies using wilted flowers, blueberries and onion skins
Have you tried Natural Dyeing before? Do you think it would be a better alternative to colour our clothes?