Natural Dye Alternatives

Synthetic dyes are dangerous for people and nature. Today we can see the severe damage these dyes cause all around the planet. However, this was not always the case, and is not necessary today! Dying cloth and food have a long history (5000 years ago, cultures in the middle and far east knew sophisticated dying techniques). Local artists and manufacturers are re-discovering this traditional knowledge of dying, using natural or organic dyes made from plants or fruits. They recognize that we need better and more fair (“just”) ways to produce our colors.

The big promise of natural dyes is that they are “local.” We can make them from plants that grow locally (you don’t need to ship resources around the planet to get them to the factories, causing pollution). Local production can create jobs in the local economy instead of exploiting cheap labor in countries far away. And most importantly: to always have a reliable source of dying materials, you have to make sure that the plants are healthy – and therefore that the ecosystem as a whole is healthy.

The manufacturing of synthetic dyes is extractive because the process just “takes” from nature and the companies that make the dyes do not see themselves as part of nature. For natural dyes this is different. Natural dye producers understand that they are part of nature and are affected directly by how they treat the environment. To produce good colors in a “generative” way, you have to care not only for the quality of your product and the profits you make but also for the health of your workers and the environment, as it is the environment that provides you with the resources to make the dyes. If you harm your environment, you will not have the resources you need for making new dyes and selling them.