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From Food to Fashion? Delicious Sustainable Dyes

We tend to think that innovation and technology will be the things that save us from our “old” ways, but it willbe a combination of technology and nature that do. That’s why natural dyes are so intriguing. We have found more ways to develop a range of varying colours using natural materials through new processes and new technology. And with a spotlight on the dirty chemistry used for creating dyes, I think a good round-up of sustainable dyes couldn’t hurt!

OH, NUTS! 🌰 One of the first to experiment with natural dyes was Swiss specialty chemicals company Achroma. Their dye range is made from 100% agricultural waste that is also fully traceable throughout the supply chain. Shells from nuts and almonds and leaves from olives and rosemary plants are the main ingredients to create this range, and since only the residues are used for the dyes, the edible parts are still available for consumption! BUT, FIRST COFFEE ☕️ On the topic of food, professor Chunhui Xiang, Nam of ISU, decided to experiment with dyes derived from coffee. First, Dr. Xiang dried the coffee grounds out for three days. Next, he boiled the grounds with purified water to extract the dye. He then applied the dye to cotton, linen, rayon, silk and polyester, resulting in various shades of brown. It sounds like a meticulous process, but Dr. Xiang noted that scaling the process shouldn’t be a problem. With 100 million Americans drinking a cup of coffee each day, not only would there be an adequate supply for coffee grounds, but repurposing the ground would also divert additional waste from the landfill! A win-win I’d say. I LIKE YOU BERRY MUCH 🍓 Nature’s candy can’t be beaten! Can we all agree summer fruit is the sweetest fruit? I am loving my local Ontario peaches right now. But, what isn’t sweet is all of our food waste. Weekday held a workshop that experimented with upcycling food waste into dyes with peels from pomegranate, avocado and red onion, mixed in dye baths with rust, alum, copperas, salt and vinegar. Tonello also launched Wake, which uses plants and vegetable waste, such as flowers, berries, and roots, which are left to dry and infuse without harmful chemical additives.

NOT NEW, BUT NOTEWORTHY 💡 Over the past couple of years, we have seen huge strides in sustainable dyes. Huue (previously known as Tinctorium) is genetically engineering bacteria to mirror the way the Japanese indigo plant, Polygonum tinctorium, makes and holds its color; as well as Officina+39’s Recycrom that pulverizes clothes, textile scraps, and fibrous material into their revolutionary dyestuff range. With so many experiments and passionate people out there, I am very hopeful that technology and nature will help us create the industry we want. But we also can’t forget that we don’t have all the time in the world. We lack a sense of urgency, so light that fire under your butts and get excited by the fascinating experiments out there! Until next time, stay diligent friends :’)

Ani Wells


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