Could you imagine a world where clothes have no color? All fabrics would just be neutral, bland and dreary. Thankfully, this is not a reality.
The first mention of fabric dye dates all the way back to 2600 BC. Back then water, oil, and natural colors were used to dye clothing. Dyes were made from berries, plants, insects and crustaceans. Colors had a meaning and a history. Purple was known as the color of royalty because of the rare Mediterranean snail required to produce purple dye.
The dying process is reliant on a chemical change in the fabric which allows for a permanent pigment change. The strength of the dye and the force of this reaction yields dyes that remain vibrant for different periods of time. The problem that many found with natural dyes was that they faded over time.
With the dawn of the textile revolution in the 19th century, there came a shift from natural dye to synthetic. This seemed like a great alternative at the time because large quantities of cheap and long-lasting pigment could be easily manufactured.
Today 90% of clothes are dyed with synthetic coloring. It is estimated that 10,000 dyes and pigments are manufactured globally. The problem with these dyes is that they have unintended negative consequences on human and environmental health. Dyeing textiles takes a lot of water and produces a lot of water waste. This wastewater contains remnants of dyes that are unable to degrade or release toxic chemicals into the water as they degrade. This toxic water is often released back into large water sources without proper cleansing. These toxins can prevent plants from photosynthesizing and cause kidney disease and cancer in humans.
This water waste is also concerning because we are living in a world with a limited freshwater budget. We are not in a position to be wasting and poisoning the rare water that we have. Hydrating the global population is more important than creating textiles.
With this in mind, maybe the world would be better off in neutrals. I love a good neutral T shirt or jacket, but I live for a red dress moment. Maybe there is a way to just reorient our textile industry back to its natural roots.
Many environmentally conscious and crafty people are making the switch back to homemade plant based dye. Using your avocado peels, lemon rinds, or some old coffee grounds to add new life to your clothes is an environmentally conscious and fun way to keep color to your wardrobe guilt free.
Click here to learn an easy homemade dye recipe!