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Vegan People
Respecting All Animals
Synthetic VS Natural Dyes 
23rd-Jan-2013 01:49 pm
I rarely buy truly new clothing; I have gotten nearly all clothing for 3 years from second hand stores. I do buy new underwear/socks/shoes but that's it and I carefully buy it from certain stores. I have a wedding coming up and making that vegan/eco-friendly as possible has been a bit of a brain stretch. I'm going heavily on the "re use" route.

The only new thing: Wedding dress. I have conscripted a local tailor/corsetiere to make my wedding gown from scratch. I hate white and I want to make something I'll wear very often, so I've gone totally non traditional in my approach to shape and color. I really wanted to like hemp as a fabric but man, the samples I tried were not very soft at all. And I avoided the bamboo-made-into-cloth options. Picked "organic" cottons. Then the question of natural vs synthetic dyes came up.

I did a lot of google research and there are more sources saying natural dyeing is dangerous and not eco friendly than not. Iron, Aluminum, copper, and lots of water are used with natural dyes. Also, when you are avoiding animals fibers and bug/creature based dyes, the color doesn't stick as well. I ended up heavily leaning towards a certain set of low impact synthetic dyes. And then I saw the MSDS sheet (Material Safety Data Sheet) for the synthetic dye and right smack in the middle of the page was a description of the safety testing. 

Which, of course, in this cruel world, involved dripping this synthetic dye directly into rabbit eyes. The conclusion was that it wasn't very irritating to rabbit eyes. Ugh.

This put me into a conniption. All that careful buying, and anything dyed involved a synthetic product 99% likely to be tested on animals. There are very few places in the USA that dye with natural dyes; it's a bit of a lost art and inefficient. Finally, I understand why everything "organic vegan" clothing wise usually has no dye at all. Boring browns, whites, sands. And yet, my macbeth vegan shoes are blue and black...and my vegan saucany shoes were black and white. And my man made materials shoes are various colors. I understood man made materials meant oil industry but it never occurred to me to even think that a synthetic dye that gets absorbed into a clothing would need to be tested on animals. We don't eat it, we don't rub copious amounts into our skin. Like, why?

In the end, I went with the inefficient natural dyes. I live near a river and I checked in with the water treatment facility and they filter heavy metals. With my first world benefits, seems I can lower the damage that the metals would have by working within the systems I live in.

But it was all severely disappointing and I've cut out some of my secondhand stores as future buying options. I also feel like, in the end, that my ethics against harming animals won out against being environmentally friendly. Being vegan doesn't always mean being environmentally friendly....
But I suppose the upside is that low impact or not, the synthetic was made from oil stuff more than like. And the whole system of animal testing, the facilities, the care are not environmentally friendly.

I guess I'm seeing it this way

Natural Dye
Pros: Non animal testing
Pros: renewable plant resources
Pros:Vivid colors that fade to still good colors
Cons: Not color "fast" so the fade occurs faster
Cons: More water usage
Cons: Heavy metal usage

Synthetic Dye:
Pros: No heavy metals
Pros: Less water usage
Pros:Color fast
Cons: Animal testing
Cons: Non renewable oil sources
Cons: Initial Vivid colors fade to "yuck"

Not really a question. Just sharing a story.
24th-Jan-2013 12:27 am (UTC)
Thank you for sharing this. It can be so frustrating to find that in many situations, no matter what we choose, we will be contributing to some sort of suffering and/or destruction on some level - just a function of the society in which we live today. Eager to continue to collaborate to find ways to lower this impact as much as we can, while still functioning and participating fully in our communities.

One question: What are your thoughts on second-hand less sustainable purchases vs. new purchases that were manufactured more sustainably? Is a purchase of something that has already been bought and paid for and then sent to a second-hand store (even if less sustainable originally) perhaps better than one that would be contributing to manufacturing brand-new clothes with new dyes and/or water consumption/etc.? No agenda here - it's just something I've debated with myself about a lot so just wondering what your thoughts are.
24th-Jan-2013 02:41 pm (UTC)
Well, let me clear up various types of stores.

So, there is wal mart and JC penny. They order everything brand spanking new by certain amounts based on what's "in season." They wouldn't fit my vegan ethics.

Then there are stores like Ross:Dress for Less that buy from JC Penny anything that didn't sell by a certain time. So, when JC Penny has ten objects of the same color of two sizes and they need to make room for a new line, they sell the small lot to Ross: Dress for Less. Before, I thought this was sort of ok. Enough steps away that I felt ethically fine about, I guess, supporting big companies indirectly with far far far fewer dollars. And Ross: Dress for less chooses what to accept, but they don't tell a factory to make it. Ya know? But now that I know all the cheap clothing are dyed with the latest cool new blue color... eh. This store no longer balances towards guilt free and more towards guilty.

So, now I'm looking at truly second hand stores like Good Will and Salvation Army. I'm not so sure how the latter works out, but Good Will is essentially a trash receptacle of the masses and they pick the best of the "trash" and sell it. They don't care about brand or style; all shirts are the same price. All pants are the same price. All belts are the same price. They don't buy from the consumer; they accept what would have been sent to the landfill due to the careless consumer. No money flows towards major clothing companies. No money flows towards testing facilities. We're following the "re use/recycle" tenant for a very low dollar. Any secondhand stores that don't pay money for the clothing they receive seems morally acceptable to me. Although I've heard about Salvation Army? being homophobic. But that's a different set of thought out morals for me. I am very much a freedom believer, and sometimes that means that people get the freedom to be douchebags.

Then there is plenty of free clothes from churches. Or Freecycle hand outs.

I still won't purchase/accept anything that is obviously made from: leather, feathers, fur or even look-alike man made synthetic because looking cool in free or cheap p/leather is still looking good in p/leather.

Everything must be decided on a personal level. I'm not the vegan police and I hate the vegan police; they lack compassion. But I am morally ok with getting 90% of my clothing from Good Will and for free from churches while occasionally carefully purchasing specifically the bland colors of underwear/socks/shoes that I need whenever I need it. Even more sporadically dyeing it with some of the least hazardous natural dyes and mordants; probably a lot of indigo and Alum. I think that is a good balance for me.
24th-Jan-2013 11:46 pm (UTC)
Thanks for your insight. I've also always felt the most comfortable with clothing swaps among friends and/or shopping at second-hand stores, since the way I see it, that's the way to contribute to further manufacturing as little as possible.

Side note: I have boycotted the Salvation Army ever since they released those disgustingly homophobic statements, though. True, I agree that "people get the freedom to be douchebags," as you say, but that doesn't mean that we have to support them!
24th-Jan-2013 01:17 pm (UTC)
Fuck, this is bad. Batik & tie dye are something that I like and was planning to do quite a lot of in the future - and that includes dyes. :( Besides that, there is other art stuff - glues, paints, oil pastels, etc., that I really doubt are vegan. Some of them, possibly, but surely not all. Maybe they have all been tested on animals though. I haven't checked yet because I'm afraid that I will have to decide between not wanting to hurt animals and my dream of becoming an artist :(

Personally, I have no problem buying second-hand stuff even if I know it's not vegan (though things that are very obviously not vegan, like some leather products, can kind of creep me out so I don't buy them) because buying second-hand doesn't increase the manufacturing of the product. I have bought second-hand clothes for years, apart from 2 things I bought last summer (that I still feel kind of guilty about). I buy shoes second-hand, too. Not underpants or socks though. Only very slightly guilty feelings about those.

Would one option for you, op, be using second-hand clothes/fabrics to make a dress? That would be the most animal- and environment-friendly solution. Good post, btw.
24th-Jan-2013 02:53 pm (UTC)
I didn't look specifically into batik and tie dyes. Thinking about paint, oil paints have been used a rather long time so I don't know why they would have recently been tested on animals. I am also aware that paint used to be made by the artists just prior to use? In regards to glues, I have no idea, and I am similarly concerned. I'm partially through a tube of fabric fray and have no idea how I'm to replace it later. Off hand, hairspray kind of comes to mind.

Although this makes me wonder. How recently does something have to be tested on animals for you and I to be morally ok with it? Because that are a lot of things we use that were most likely tested in the 50's that I am currently morally ok with. I'm very concerned about the dyeing of cloth, because fashion is fickle and shades of color constantly change. I have to accept that any color on the hanger at a relatively new store could have been tested on animals mere months before.

Regarding the use of Good Will clothes and Free clothes to make various clothing fitting my size and style, this is very possible, although I don't think I will ever have to worry about jeans. ha. I will not be going the direction for the making of this particular dress. I need this dress in 6 months and finding 30+ yards of fabric in the general solid shades I'm wanting sounds like a year long project for weekends. I'm morally ok with with the organic cotton and natural dye selection I've currently made.

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