"An estimated 1.2 billion pairs of jeans are sold each year worldwide. The magic behind this timeless piece of clothing is none other than the 50 shades of blue — indigo to be precise.
Indigo is a color, a plant, and a specific molecule. And while there are 5,000-year-old traditions of using natural indigo in places such as India, Japan, and Guatemala, most indigo on the market today is derived from non-renewable fossil fuels — and thus unsustainable.
But Tennessee-based Stony Creek Colors (SCC) is changing that. Started in 2012 by Sarah Bellos, SCC is the first company in the United States to grow the indigo plant at a scale usable by the commercial denim industry."
"Here’s how you make the indigo that gives most denim its signature blue: like many things in peak-oil America, you start by drilling down. Extract petroleum from the earth and then subject it to high-heat, high-energy conditions in order to break it up into its component molecules. One, called benzene, is isolated and then mixed with a host of other chemicals, including cyanide and formaldehyde. The process produces ammonia as an off-gas. “It takes over half a pound of cyanide to make a single pound of indigo,” Sarah Bellos, the CEO and founder of Stony Creek Colors, explains."
"Most people probably don’t know what makes their jeans blue, but indigo plants and dyes have been producing our favorite color for thousands of years. In the early 20th century, chemists began making synthetic indigo dye from petroleum, which helped fuel the runaway success of denim and the blue jeans industry. But natural indigo is back in a big way, thanks to Stony Creek Colors and our friend, Sarah Bellos."