Environmental Sustainability

Presently, the global textile industry is the second largest polluter in the world. The World Bank estimates that 20 percent of industrial water pollution comes from textile dyeing and treatment, much of which is toxic when it is released back into the environment. Commercially-produced fabrics contain residuals of these carcinogenic and allergy-causing chemicals that evaporate into the air we breathe or are absorbed through our skin in the clothes that we wear.

The global textile industry is the second largest polluter in the world.

As the leading manufacturer of international brands, China accounts for 54 percent of the world’s total production. This means that the toxic chemicals used to produce the majority of the world’s clothing end up polluting the soil and rivers of China. It is clear that we need to find alternative solutions for making textiles.

                                             A recent investigation by Greenpeace found hazardous substances                                               in the communal wastewater of two industrial zones in China.

Natural plant dye alternatives

Much can be learned from the all-natural dyes and plant finishes used to treat the traditional fabrics of the ethnic minorities in Guizhou province. The natural indigo dye has medicinal healing properties when worn on the skin, and wastewater of plant dyes is clean enough to be sipped as an herbal tea. By returning to ancient know-how that has successfully endured for thousands of years, we can work with nature to find more environmentally sustainable solutions.

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Miao dye master Professor Yang showing how beautiful natural plant dyes look on handwoven silk fabric.

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The tree bark used to dye this red shade is collected during the month when it will not harm the plant. The hot dye water is safe enough to be consumed as a tea, and the waste material (boiled plants) can be discarded back into the forest..