Whatever color your clothes are, the process to make them that way is probably pretty toxic. According to the United Nations Environment Assembly, textile dyeing is the second largest water polluter in the world. And not only is fabric dyeing full of harmful chemicals, it's water-expensive: Your average pair of jeans takes up to 26 gallons (100 liters) of water to dye. In these days of fast fashion, our hunger for trendy clothes might be killing us — and a lot of other organisms and ecosystems all over the world.
The denim industry alone uses over 45,000 tons (40,823 metric tons) of synthetic indigo a year, more than 84,000 tons (76,203 metric tons) of sodium hydrosulfite and 53,000 tons (48,080 metric tons) of lye, according to scientists at the University of Georgia. This adds up to a big environmental problem. However, a research team at the University of Georgia has worked out a solution to toxic denim dyeing that eliminates noxious chemicals from the denim dyeing process while using a fraction of the water.