Colors of Nature - vegetable dyes in practice

By means of optimization of the production of vegetable dyes and dyeing technology, the vegetable dyestuff "Colors of Nature" will achieve market maturity. In co-operation with farmers and companies of the textile, food processing and wood working industry there has been developed a competitive product throughout the value chain, which will not only yield an ecological advantage, but also generate regional creation of value.

Short Description




The use of natural dyes (vegetable dyes, made out of plants) for dyeing textiles has a long tradition, but despite considerable ecological advantages modern textile industry is nearly exclusively using synthetic dyestuff. In the large majority of cases, also organic textiles are dyed with conventional dyes. A reason for that is the lack of standardized plant dyestuff for the prevalent industrial dyeing processes. Within the project “Colors of Nature – vegetable dyes in practice“ the Austrian Institute of Ecology and the Institute of Textile Chemistry and Textile Physics of the University of Innsbruck have developed an alternative production method for natural dyestuff, which fulfils the quality standards of the dyeing industry. The results of the research are used by the Colors of Nature GmbH for the implementation of the natural dyestuff in textile industry.

Natural dyes are eco-efficient products, which provide the following ecological advantages compared to conventional dyestuff: The raw materials for the dyes are regional dyeing plants from organic agriculture as well as waste materials from the food industry and from wood processing. The natural dyes neither contain harmful substances nor emit such substances into the environment. Environmentally compatible disposal methods are available to eliminate waste from the production of vegetable dyes. The consumption of crude oil, on which synthetic dyes are based, is reduced; this also helps protecting the climate.

The main goal of the "Colors of Nature - vegetable dyes in practice" project was to answer certain research questions necessary for the successful implementation of vegetable dyes as a product in the textile market. Sustainable innovation has been achieved by the adjustment of the dyeing process: Whereas during the first experiments dyeing plants in textile bags were used – the newly developed technology yields plant pigments in powder form. This new production process reflects the requirements of the dyeing companies. Weight and volume of the powder are much smaller than those of the plant-bags – transport and storage are therefore easier and more energy-efficient.

Within the project research questions within the following areas were worked on: Supply of raw material including acceptance criteria, upscale of the production process to a semi-industrial scale, optimization of the quality standards. The results were used to produce samples of naturally dyed textiles together with partners of the dyeing industry. The co-operation between the members of the textile production chain was structured: the exchange of information, the quality of the product and the advantages for the members have thereby been optimized. Further more, the target market was analyzed and a marketing strategy for the Colors of Nature GmbH was made.

The results were brought together within the operating manual, which is used by the Colors of Nature GmbH as a basis for the implementation of natural dyeing in the textile industry.

Project Partners

Project management

Mag. Andrea Wallner, Antonia Wenisch
Österreichisches Ökologie-Institut

Project collaborators

  • Mag. Gabriele Bernhofer, Mag. Nadia Prauhart
    Österreichisches Ökologie-Institut

Project or cooperation partner

  • Dr. Thomas Bechtold, Bsc. Amalid Mahmud-Ali, Mag. Christa Fitz-Binder, Peter Leitner, Edith Winder, Christiane Bilgeri
    Institut für Textilchemie und Textilphysik der Universität Innsbruck
  • Christian Pladerer
    Colors of Nature - Farben der Natur GmbH
  • Mag. Klaus Ladstätter
    DI David Fussenegger Textil GmbH
  • Dieter Oberscheider
    Fussenegger Heimtextilien GmbH
  • Daniela Lehle, Björn Hens
  • Elisabeth Sauerkrenn, Manuela Eisner
    Leinenweberei Vieböck GmbH
  • Michael Riehl, Jim Valakuzhy
    Schoeller Hard GmbH & CoKG
  • DI Dr. Bettina Mihalyi, Daniel Gómez Verbel
    TU Wien Institut für Verfahrenstechnik
  • Dr. Thomas Huber
    Huber Ventures, Unternehmensberater

Contact Address

Österreichisches Ökologie-Institut
Antonia Wenisch
Seidengasse 13
1070 Wien
Tel.: +43 (1) 5236105