Fabrics Dye Vats in Morocco

Published on June 15th, 2010 | by Becky Striepe

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Fab Fabrics: Why Earth Friendly Dyes are Important

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Dye Vats in Morocco

Unless you’re working with muslin, chances are your fabric underwent some sort of dye process to achieve the colors and patterns that we love so much. There are a ton of options out there for fabrics dyed in an eco-friendly way, but sometimes it’s important to remember why we choose these materials over conventional ones.

One of the most heartbreaking examples of textile dyes’ impact on the environment is the denim industry around China’s Pearl River. This video about the industry is extremely eye-opening:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eFnP13l0AC0&feature=player_embedded

Finding Eco Alternatives

And denim is just one example. Conventional dyes are loaded with harsh chemicals, just like the ones used to turn denim navy blue. Whether those dyes end up polluting the water or not, some of those chemicals remain on the finished fabric. It’s not healthy for you to work with or for folks who are going to be using what you make.

Depressing, right? But don’t despair just yet!

You have a lot of power as a consumer, especially as a consumer of raw materials. Every time you choose fabrics from small producers colored with plant-based dyes, it makes a difference. When you opt to make your own non-toxic mix and dye your own fabric, it makes a difference.

Many makers of organic fabrics use vegetable based dyes in their process, but it’s probably not a good idea to assume. You can always contact the manufacturer and ask about their dye process.

In Europe, you can keep your eye out for fabrics certified with the Oeko-Tex Standard 1000. According to their website:

To qualify for certification according to the Oeko-Tex® Standard 1000, companies must meet stipulated criteria in terms of their environmentally-friendly manufacturing processes and provide evidence that at least 30% of total production is already certified under Oeko-Tex® Standard 100.

The Oeko-Tex Standard 100 tests finished fabrics for residual chemicals to ensure that they are safe for consumers. The Standard 1000 takes it a step further, looking at the entire process and its impact on the environment.

I couldn’t dig up any U.S. standards, though. If anyone knows of a legit certification program for textile dyes in the U.S., I’d love to hear about it!

[Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by anasantos]


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About the Author

Hi there! I'm Becky Striepe, a green crafter and vegan foodie living in Atlanta, Georgia with my husband and two cats. My mission is to make eco-friendly crafts and vegan food accessible to anyone who wants to give them a go. If you like my work, you can also find me on Twitter, Facebook, and .



15 Responses to Fab Fabrics: Why Earth Friendly Dyes are Important

  1. MJ Mitchell says:

    Hello Becky. I really loved your article.
    To answer your questions about standards. There are standards for sustainability. You can find out more at the sustainablefurnishingscouncil.org website.
    They have an incredible library of information.

    thanks
    MaryJane

  2. Didn’t find any information regarding specific certification programs pertaining to dyeing standards in the US, but the US EPA (environemental protection agency) alongside NESHAP (national emission standard for hazardous air pollutants) seem to work together to regulate and standardize dyeing techniques and applications to ensure an eco-friendly process. Thanks for the info!

  3. Rebeca Nolan says:

    If anyone is looking for Herbal Dyed organic fabric we offer a beautiful selection at EdenFabrics.com , and will continue to add new prints often.

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  5. Lynn says:

    This is heartbreaking, but not surprising. Many American rivers in the east turned colors with dreadful consequences in the days when clothing factories flourished there. Not only have we exported our businesses abroad, but all the attendant problems. This CAN be cleaned up as I know a lot of it has been in the U.S. but whether the government has the will to make it happen…well, we can hope!

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