Using Synthetic Dyes: The True Cost to Our Planet

Using Synthetic Dyes: The True Cost to Our Planet - AIZOME (North America)

Dan Unebayashi

Writer and occasional filmmaker with a passion for things Japanese.

Did you know that the textile industry (any product that is a fabric) produces over a million tons of synthetic dyes a year?  That, in itself, is not a bad thing - the bad thing is that the dyes often contain heavy metals (cadmium and chromate to name but a few) that have severe effects on the environment. Wastewater from textile plants is classified as the most polluting of all industrial sectors, especially as synthetic dyes often resist bio-degradation.

One of the main problems is that there are several loopholes in regulations that many textile companies are fast to exploit. Fabrics are often taken from a mill, dyed at a different facility owned by the same parent company and then sewn at yet another place. This complex supply chain makes it difficult for Greenpeace and other organizations to monitor the companies and the toxic traces they leave behind.

"Dilution is the solution to pollution," ironizes Dr. Sudeep Motupalli Rao, founder of California-based SlowTech Labs, adding: "There's no real transparency in the supply chain. We don't have a material passport. We don't know where a material has been."

Rao started his career in specialty chemicals for the mining and heavy industries, then later as a Greenpeace scientist. He is an advocate of cradle-to-cradle design (as opposed to cradle-to-grave), aiming to make all textiles fully recyclable or biodegradable in a healthy circular economy. He is also a keen student of biomimicry. "If you can learn from nature’s billions of years of evolutionary R&D, why not apply it to solve the challenges facing humanity?"

For Aizome Bedding, making our bed sheets environmentally friendly and fully biodegradable was a given. In addition to using natural indigo and organic cotton, our production produces no waste and uses 200 times less water than synthetically-dyed textiles. The water we do use is later applied as fertilizer. As the textile industry is the second largest polluter of clean water after agriculture, it's our responsibility to follow the lead of people like Rao in creating a "road map to zero".

To pave the way, creating awareness is key. "99% of people have no clue that the textiles they buy are synthetically dyed, and especially what that means to the environment," says Rao. "Natural dyes are not just aesthetically beautiful, they are also life-supporting," he continues. "Do you want to leave a toxic legacy of death, or blaze a trail of health and beauty?"


"If you can learn from nature’s billions of years of evolutionary R&D, why not apply it to solve the challenges facing humanity?" 

   - Sudeep Motupalli Rao, SlowTech Labs Founder


Sleep Aizome - your present to our future

Bed linen from Aizome Bedding uses 100% organic cotton and natural indigo dye, which soothes your skin and provides the ultimate sleeping experience. Handcrafted according to ancient Japanese tradition, our bed sheets are a treat for you and the environment. Buy your set below and put your sleepless nights to rest.

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Samurai Secrets: Three True Stories of Aizome (Indigo Dyeing) - AIZOME (North America)
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