The Global Environmental Impact of Chemical Dyes

We’ve discussed how dangerous chemical dyes are for the workers that handle them and the people that wear them. It’s almost enough to make you wonder why they’re still in use at all! Of course, part of the answer is about the cost of materials and labor – there’s a reason cheap, mass-produced textiles favor this dyeing method – but it’s also about scale. Despite growing awareness about their drawbacks, chemical dyes remain a $7.34 billion dollar industry, one that’s predicted to grow to almost $10 billion by 2022.1 An estimated 6.2 million metric tons (or about 1.7 billion gallons) of chemical dye were used in 2017 alone.2 Healthy or not, the industry is massive and growing.

Considering the scale, it’s probably not surprising that the fashion industry is a major polluter. As a whole, the industry is responsible for 1.26 billion tons of greenhouse emissions every year. That’s a full 10% of the world's global carbon emissions!3 The majority of those emissions are from making petroleum-based fabrics (polyester, nylon, spandex, etc.) and from the production and use of chemical dyes, which are made from petroleum and coal tar.

At Sustain, our clothing is free of petroleum – it’s nowhere to be found in either our dyes or our fabrics. Nothing we sell is grown using petroleum-based fertilizers or pesticides and our dyes are derived from plants instead of oil. In fact, unlike a lot of conventional clothing, our organic fabrics our natural dyes are beneficial to the environment. The plants we grow for our natural fibers and dyes actually remove carbon during their growth, meaning everything we sell is either carbon neutral or climate beneficial. Sustain strives to be a net positive for the environment, so we do everything we can to reverse the cause of global warming while still selling you high quality, well-made clothing at affordable prices.

1 "Global Textile Dyes Market Report 2018 Forecast to 2022 - Key Players are Archroma, Huntsman, Kiri Industries, Lanxess, and Zhejiang Longsheng Group - ResearchAndMarkets.com," Dublin BusinessWire, April 11, 2018.

2 "Global Textile Colourants Market to Reach 6,246 Thousand Tonnes in 2017,"  Future Market Insights' Press Release, May 11, 2016.

3 "Fashion industry creates more carbon emissions than some airlines," New York Post, November 30, 2017; "Making Climate Change Fashionable - The Garment Industry Takes On Global Warming," Forbes, Dec 3, 2015.


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