The Important Differences Between Plant Dyes And Conventional Dyes

by: Rosie Dalton | 7 months ago | Features

Image: the High Neck Pkant-Dyed Organic Cotton Rib Long Sleeve.

When talking about environmental sustainability, materials are one of the main things we talk about. But, while material composition is incredibly important, the way those materials are treated is equally so. Including how they are dyed.

Conventional dyes like azo dyes contain a whole host of nasty toxins like formaldehyde and other known carcinogens. The Swedish Chemical Agency has found approximately 240 textile-related chemicals which pose a serious potential risk to human life, reports show. And about 120 which pose a serious risk to the environment. Most of these substances with hazardous properties were found to be carcinogenic, mutagenic and/or toxic for reproduction.

This is despite the fact that Greenpeace has asked many major brands to take the Detox Pledge, after research found the presence of toxic chemicals in finished clothing from many well-respected companies.

Although harmful azo dyes are banned in Australia, our regulations aren't as strict as some other nations when it comes to the way that imported products are dyed. Seven News reports, for example, that we should be wary when it comes to imported products. This means that we have to be extra vigilant as consumers and custodians of the planet, to ensure there aren’t toxic chemicals present in our clothes.

It is for this reason that we define ‘sustainable’ brands as those with at least 80% of their products made using sustainable materials and processes. The ‘processes’ part of that equation includes using low impact dyes like plant-based dyes. These natural alternatives to conventional azo dyes are not synthetic, do not contain toxic chemicals and, therefore, offer a much more sustainable approach.

Did you know that Patagonia has used everything from mulberry leaves and pomegranate to dye their clothing? And that Nico’s leisurewear collection is fairly-made from plant-dyed certified organic cotton? Their tie-dyed pieces feature naturally psychedelic hues that derive from the likes of wedelia flowers. Which represents a gentler, healthier, and more sustainable approach to dyeing clothes. 

Now that’s flower power!

If you liked this, you might like to shop Nico's sustainable, plant-dyed leisurewear:



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