Beyond the visuals of color, as amazing and creative as they can be, the story of color is critical from an ecological and human health perspective. As an industry, it means very little for us to use better dyestuffs that are AZO- and heavy-metal-free if those dyes and water systems are not properly managed. If water is wasted or if dyes end up in rivers or soil, there is an environmental and health cost, even with the most gentle of dyes.
That's where sustainable fashion is tackling the nitty-gritty production problems of proper water recycling and correct filtration and disposal of dyes. Starting with better dyes is the first step. Using those dyes, there are some manageable and lower-cost solutions to set up filtration tanks for the used dye water. The solid dye particles settle to the bottom of the holding tank, while what we call "grey water" rises to the top. This grey water, while not suitable for drinking, can be re-used in the dying process, reducing overall water consumption in a fabric production facility. The dye solids can then be properly collected and disposed of so that they do not end up in rivers or agricultural soil. You don't want to eat or drink dyes, no matter how nontoxic they are!
Think of it as a dye-specific septic system for safe ingredient handling and reduced water use. It may not be a fancy high-tech innovation, but it's effective, and in locations where the pricing and production pressures have been so intense that even low-cost safety measures have been viewed as too time-consuming or expensive to install, it's one more way to combat pollution, reduce waste, and increase positive health results. We can change the color story; in fact, we're changing it all the time in the conscious fashion world.