Saturday, October 14, 2017


Fluoride: Poison on Tap

  • October 14, 2017 

by Dr. Mercola
Today, 74 percent of Americans on community water systems receive fluoridated water.1 Since 1945, it has been widely accepted in the U.S. that fluoride is "safe and effective" to prevent tooth decay. But is it really?
The 2015 documentary, "Fluoride: Poison on Tap," seeks to expose what may be one of the longest-running and most successful deceptions known to mankind — adding industrial waste, in the form of fluoride, to public drinking water. You may be shocked at the lengths to which corporations, industry and government have gone to make this industrial waste product appear beneficial to your health.
Fluoride = Health: How Did We Get Here?
You may be surprised to know the first American commercial use of fluoride, in the form of sodium fluoride, was to kill insects, lice, mice and other vermin. It was quite effective. In the 1930s, aluminum-industry giant Alcoa was the largest producer of fluoride, releasing vapors into the atmosphere that crippled or killed farm animals and scorched crops and other vegetation. In those early years, many lawsuits were brought against Alcoa to recover damages from lost animals and crops.
Growing concerns about the seemingly negative effects of fluoride gas on human beings motivated the company to devise a means of recycling this potent industrial byproduct. The brainchild of water fluoridation was Gerald Cox, a researcher with the Mellon Institute in Pittsburgh. He received a request to look at fluoride's effects on teeth from Alcoa lab director Francis Frary, who was concerned about mounting lawsuits related to the fluoride pollution his plant produced.
Another motivation was the reality that disposing of fluoride waste from its aluminum plants was becoming increasingly costly for Alcoa. Previously, the Mellon Institute had been the leading defender of the asbestos industry, producing research showing asbestos was harmless and worker health problems were purportedly due to other causes. Using "science" as a smokescreen, the Mellon Institute was able to save the asbestos industry from financial catastrophe.
As a result of their success in using science to prop up the asbestos industry at that time, it makes sense Alcoa chose Cox and the Mellon Institute to craft a story around the perceived health benefits of fluoride. To ensure their success, Alcoa executives realized public opinion about fluoride had to be carefully and continuously manipulated.
In a bold move, they hired public-relations pioneer Edward Bernays, who later became known as the "father of spin," to head the U.S. water fluoridation campaign. Using psychological principles targeted at what he called, the "mass mind," Bernays was quite successful in attracting public support for the widespread consumer use of fluoride.2
The Beginning of Water Fluoridation
By the 1950s and '60s, when the practice of releasing fluoride vapors into the air was reined in due to the introduction of air pollution technology, fluoride had already been added to U.S. drinking water. In January 1945, the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan, became the first of thousands of U.S. municipalities to proudly add fluoride to its community water source, under the guise of preventing tooth decay.
As technology has advanced, fluoride acid, also known as hydrofluorosilicic acid, is now caught in wet scrubbers, which curtails air emissions. As such, companies like Cargill, Mosaic and Pencco are able to barrel up and sell fluoride to cities across the U.S. which, in turn, add this unrefined hazardous material to their community water supplies.3 You may be shocked to learn that the fluoride added to your water is not pharmaceutical grade.
Indeed, most of the fluoride added to municipal drinking water is simply an unrefined, highly toxic, industrial waste product. Some of the contaminants that accompany the fluoride added to your drinking water likely include aluminum, arsenic, lead and radionucleotide, among others. As noted in the film, water fluoridation was invented as a profitable recycling venue for toxic waste. Instead of having to pay for proper disposal, this industrial waste is sold for profit, and "disposed of" by being dispersed into drinking water.
Fluoride May Be in More Than Just Your Drinking Water
Should you be fortunate to live far from industrial plants where fluoride is handled and lucky enough to reside in a community where fluoride has not been added to your water, you may still get dosed with fluoride. How? Because it's in beverages and processed foodssuch as cereal, beer, juice and soda. In fact, anything manufactured with fluoridated water will add to your body's fluoride toxicity burden.
According to the late Jeff Green, former national director of Citizens for Safe Drinking Water, fluoride can also be found in selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) medications, such as the antidepressant Prozac. Additionally, it appeared in the banned diet drug Fen-Phen. Rohypnol, the so-called date-rape drug, also contains fluoride.
Green noted the teenagers responsible for the shootings at Columbine High School, in Littleton, Colorado, in 1999 were using SSRI drugs at the time, which he suspects may have impacted their mood and behavior. If you live in the U.S., nearly 95 percent of all toothpaste sold in this country also contains fluoride. Increasingly, dentists are adding fluoride to their cement and filling materials, and fluoride-containing varnishes are often added to children's teeth.
Common Misconceptions About Water Fluoridation
It's a common misconception that fluoride is added to drinking water worldwide. Nothing could be further from the truth. Says Paul Connett, Ph.D., retired chemistry professor and executive director of the Fluoride Action Network (FAN):4
"Water fluoridation is a peculiarly American phenomenon. It started at a time when asbestos lined our pipes, lead was added to gasoline, PCBs filled our transformers, and DDT was deemed so 'safe and effective' that officials felt no qualms spraying kids in school classrooms and seated at picnic tables. One by one all of those chemicals have been banned, but fluoridation remains untouched."
As stated by Connett, the U.S. is one of just eight countries worldwide in which more than half of its population is exposed to fluoride through their drinking water. The other seven countries that fluoridate drinking water are Australia, Colombia, Ireland, Israel, Malaysia, Singapore and New Zealand.
Water fluoridation has actually been banned in most European countries, including Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden, just to name a few. According to biological dentist Dr. James Rota, these countries, as well as China and Japan, have concluded the practice of adding fluoride to drinking water is "ineffective, toxic and should not be used." FAN underscores the limited scope and value of adding fluoride to drinking water, noting:5
  • Nearly 378 million people, representing just 5 percent of the world's population, drink artificially fluoridated water
  • More people drink fluoridated water in the U.S. than in the rest of the world combined
  • Western nations that fluoridate their water have rates of tooth decay similar to those that do not add fluoride to their water6
The Effects of Fluoride on Your Body
Given that fluoride is handled as a hazardous material and labeled accordingly, the lack of transparency about its health effects is a true public health travesty.   According to Rota, several of the scientifically-proven health effects of fluoride are already known. He asserts fluoride has been shown to:
  • Accelerate the aging process
  • Cause genetic damage
  • Contribute to arthritis and joint pain
  • Increase the incidence of cancer and tumor growth
  • Interrupt DNA repair
With respect to fluoride's presumed link to arthritis and joint pain, Connett stated: 
"The first sign fluoride has poisoned your bones is that you have pain in your joints, stiffness in your joints and pain in your bones … And the doctor will simply tell you that you have joint pain … We have millions of people in the U.S. and in other fluoridated countries who have joint pain —1 in 3 adults on average. But nobody's ever conclusively looked to see if these arthritis cases have particularly been caused by or exacerbated by fluoride. They just don't want to look."
The spike in the number of cases of hypothyroidism in the U.S. has also been loosely linked to fluoride. FAN noted that studies investigating fluoride's impact on thyroid hormone levels support the belief that fluoride has an "antithyroid" effect under certain circumstances.7
Particularly in instances where your iodine levels are low, fluoride will likely have a greater negative impact on your thyroid. About the probable link between fluoride and hypothyroidism, Dr. Spyros Mezitis, endocrinologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, said:
"Clinicians … should emphasize to patients this association and should test patients for underactive thyroid. Patients should probably be advised to drink less fluoridated water and consume less fluoridated products, including toothpaste. … [S]tudies have also shown that iodine deficiency, that may be caused by extra ingestion of fluoride, is related to hypothyroidism." 
Fluorosis: Are Your Children Affected?
Research8 presented at the 2017 National Oral Health Conference highlighted the reality that increasingly more young people between the ages of 6 and 19 suffer from dental fluorosis. Data from 2011 to 2012 indicate that 57 percent of youth are affected by fluorosis, while according to recorded data, just 37 percent were impacted from 1999 to 2004.
Fluorosis results when tooth enamel becomes progressively weakened and discolored. It is often characterized by white spots and yellow or brown discoloration. About fluorosis, FAN states:9
"Fluorosis is a defect of tooth enamel caused by too much fluoride intake during the first eight years of life. Although fluorosis can be cosmetically treated, the damage to the enamel is permanent. Common causes of fluorosis include: fluoridated drinking water (particularly during infancy), ingestion of fluoride toothpaste, use of fluoride tablets and consumption of processed foods made with fluoridated water."
Often, dentists and public health officials brush off fluorosis as a purely aesthetic issue, one they believe is a worthy trade-off for the supposed benefits of fluoride. In reality, fluorosis is an outward sign that fluoride is damaging not only your teeth, but also most certainly, to some degree, the rest of your body.
Caution: Fluoride Is Extremely Harmful for Infants
Fluorosis is also a huge concern for infants because it is a condition that can progress well before your baby's teeth are visible. Instances of children developing fluorosis due to the consumption of fluoridated "nursery water" are well documented. Breast-feeding is the ideal choice for your baby for many reasons, one of which is that it contains very little, if any, fluoride.
This is by design because infants are extremely vulnerable to neurotoxins. If, however, breast-feeding is not an option for you, and you must use formula, be sure to prepare it using non-fluoridated water. In the book, "The Case Against Fluoride," Connett explains:
"In the view of many critics of fluoridation … it is reckless to expose infants to levels of fluoride in orders of magnitude higher than that found in breast milk. In the U.S., infants who are fed formula reconstituted with fluoridated tap water receive the highest levels of fluoride (per kilogram bodyweight) in the human population.
Specifically, infants who are fed formula made with fluoridated water at the current level of 1 part-per-million fluoride will receive a dose up to 250 times more than the breastfed infant."
The Bottom Line About Fluoride in Your Drinking Water
In their closing remarks, some of the experts featured in the documentary did not mince words about their dislike and distrust of fluoridated water. As noted by Connett:
"Once you put a medicine in the drinking water, you can't control the dose because you can't control how much water people drink. You can't control who gets it because it goes to everybody. If you ask your pharmacist if there's any drug in his store that is safe enough to give to everyone — young people, old people, sick people, well people — at any dose, he'd laugh at you."
Said Phyllis Mullenix, Ph.D., a pharmacologist and toxicologist: "There is absolutely no drug on the market that is given as 'one dose fits all.'" In his earlier writings, Connett shared five reasons he believes fluoridation of community water systems is unethical:10
  • It violates your right to informed consent to medication
  • The municipality cannot control the dose of fluoride you personally receive
  • The municipality cannot track the effects of fluoride on you individually
  • It ignores the fact that some people are more vulnerable to fluoride's toxic effects than others; you may suffer while others may benefit from its addition to the water supply
  • It violates the Nuremberg code for human experimentation
It's Easy to Safeguard Your Oral Health Without Fluoride
When it comes to good oral hygiene and preventing cavities, drinking fluoridated water and brushing your teeth with toxic toothpaste, which contains fluoride, is definitely not the answer. Your toothbrush and natural fluoride-free toothpaste are important, but don't be misled by thinking they're the only options for dental health.
Many natural substances, such as the foods you eat, also have the power to drastically improve not only the health of your teeth and gums, but the rest of your body too. The key to maintaining or improving your oral health hinges on the attention you give to your diet and proper dental care. Areas you may want to consider include:
Eating raw, organic foods
Avoiding sugary foods and processed foods, many of which contain fluoride
Brushing and flossing your teeth daily, ideally twice a day
Rinsing your mouth after meals and, at night, with a solution of baking soda and water to alkalize the pH in your mouth
Oil pulling with coconut oil, which reduces bacterial growth in your mouth, strengthens your teeth, reduces inflammation in your gums and naturally whitens your teeth
Receiving regular dental checkups, ideally from a mercury-free, biological dentist

Landmark Lawsuit Against EPA Seeks to End Fluoridation in US
FAN, along with a coalition of environmental and public health groups, has filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This landmark lawsuit is something many of us have anticipated for decades! It comes in response to the EPA's denial of a petition under Section 21 of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) that seeks a ban on water fluoridation.
In November 2016, a coalition including FAN, American Academy of Environmental Medicine, Food & Water Watch, International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology, Moms Against Fluoridation and the Organic Consumers Association, among others, petitioned the EPA to ban the deliberate addition of fluoridating chemicals to American drinking water under the provisions of TCSA.
The petition, which included more than 2,500 pages of scientific documentation detailing the risks of water fluoridation to human and animal health, was denied in February 2017. At that time, Michael Connett, an attorney with FAN and author of the petition, issued the following statement:
"Unfortunately, the EPA's decision to deny our petition demonstrates that the Agency is not yet prepared to let go of the outdated assumptions it has long held about fluoride … We believe that an impartial judge reviewing this evidence will agree that fluoridation poses an unreasonable risk."
Because the TSCA statute provides an opportunity for citizens to challenge an EPA denial in federal court, FAN is now suing the agency as a means of obtaining an independent legal review of the evidence. Stay tuned for further developments!  For now, you can help the coalition continue its momentum by supporting the efforts of FAN, and by joining or initiating a local campaign to end water fluoridation.
Help End the Practice of Fluoridation
There's no doubt about it: fluoride should not be ingested. Even scientists from the EPA's National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory have classified fluoride as a "chemical having substantial evidence of developmental neurotoxicity.” 
Furthermore, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 41 percent of American adolescents now have dental fluorosis — unattractive discoloration and mottling of the teeth that indicate overexposure to fluoride. Clearly, children are being overexposed, and their health and development put in jeopardy. Why?
The only real solution is to stop the archaic practice of water fluoridation in the first place. Fortunately, the Fluoride Action Network (FAN), has a game plan to END water fluoridation worldwide. Clean pure water is a prerequisite to optimal health. Industrial chemicals, drugs and other toxic additives really have no place in our water supplies. So please, protect your drinking water and support the fluoride-free movement by making a tax-deductible donation to the Fluoride Action Network today. 
Internet Resources Where You Can Learn More
I encourage you to visit the website of the Fluoride Action Network and visit the links below:
Together, Let's Help FAN Get the Funding They Deserve
In my opinion, there are very few NGOs that are as effective and efficient as FAN. Its small team has led the charge to end fluoridation and will continue to do so with our help! Please make a donation today to help FAN end the absurdity of fluoridation.

  •   UORIDE









Monday, October 2, 2017









Sunday, October 1, 2017



How Natural Textile Dyes May Protect Health and Promote Environmental Sustainability

Rebecca Burgess, author of “Harvesting Color: How to Find Plants and Make Natural Dyes,” has 15 years’ worth of experience in this area and is the executive director of Fibershed — a word she coined — which is a resource for creating safe, organic textile dyes.
“I started this work when I was taught to train young children in how to use dyes when I was in college,” Burgess says. “It was a textile art summer program [and] I was in charge of direct instruction for [a group of] 9-year-olds. It was a summer job. It exposed me to the arts and crafts side of textile dyeing … I was helping them use these compounds to color t-shirts.
We had to wear gloves. I had to wear a mask. People had to wear aprons. We couldn’t let the powder get in the air. We were so careful once we opened these jars of powder to not get it in our lungs or on our skin. The ingredients list wasn’t very clear.
The molecular breakdown of what was in the material wasn’t clear, but the producers of the dyes were asking anyone who uses them to be very careful with inhalation and exposure, especially skin exposure … A light bulb went off. ‘Why am I having children use a material that they have to wear masks and gloves [to use]?’ While we’re making the dye, we’re suited up.
And then we take the T-shirt out of the bucket. We rinse it a little, and then we put the T-shirt on our bodies. Somehow it’s OK to wear the stuff on your skin, but it’s not OK to touch the powder? There was a chasm between what seems like solid logic in what we were willing to expose ourselves to and why we were doing what we were doing.”

Plant-Based Versus Synthetic Dyes  

At that time, 21 years ago, Burgess used the search engine of the time (Ask Jeeves) to inquire about alternative dyes and discovered you could use things like onion skins, cabbage and beets. Armed with onion skins, cabbages, beets and hand-harvested blackberriesand dandelion leaves, Burgess set to work learning how to create natural dyes.
“I just started bringing food-based products into our textile program. The kids started cutting up vegetables and putting it in pots of water, heating it up and making tie-dye T-shirts, but with cabbage, collard, onion, beets, blackberries and dandelion. And then we can take that fluid, cool it down, and then pour it back out on the lawn. It was tea essentially.”
Over time, Burgess discovered industrial dyes contain a number of fossil carbon-based chemicals known to be endocrine disruptors. A master’s thesis circulating around the UC Davis campus at the time pointed out that it took 400 pounds of coal tar to make a single ounce of blue dye. Interestingly, the first synthetic dye actually came about by accident.
“William Perkins was looking for a cure for malaria and was using coal tar. He had an explosion in his lab in 1856. All this purple goo landed on the walls. He realized that could actually be [used as] a textile dye … All of the dyes, ever since then … are fossil-carbon derived and heavy metal combined. That, in itself, was how we started our industrial dye process.
Of course, things have evolved. There are processes that take the heavy metals out of the dyes. Those are called acid dyes. But at the end of the day, all of the dyes have endocrine disruptors … [Hormones are] messenger chemicals. If those are scrambled, you can create a lot of subsequent health issues, from cancer to autoimmune diseases, to learning disabilities.
Some people say there are multiple generation impacts … intergenerational DNA damage … The peer-reviewed science on endocrine disruption is very clear. We don’t know enough about how many parts per trillion, parts per billion or parts per million of these endocrine disruptors are in the textiles when we put them on our skin, because it’s just an unknown body of research.
Who’s going to pay for that? Not the industry. We have an unknown, but we know we have risks. We have enough science to know there are risks. That’s why I’m a proponent of using plant-based dyes.”

Can Dyed Clothing Really Affect Your Health?

Today, all cellulosic protein and synthetic fibers such as nylons and polyesters use synthetic azo dyes. Even organic cotton T-shirts will use synthetic dyes to obtain the colors pink, green and blue. According to Burgess, up to 70 percent of the global use of dyes right now are azo, which are among the most hazardous. They contain heavy metals and are very difficult to clean up.
It’s rare to find Global Organic Trade Standard (GOTS) certified items. GOTS, which also certifies dyes, is the gold standard certification of organic. It’s really the best, most robust certification you can get. While they allow some synthetic materials, including some dyes, they are very strictly regulated. Now, the fact that synthetic azo dyes are toxic in and of themselves is noncontroversial, but can they actually affect your health when worn on your body, especially after a piece of clothing has been washed a few times?
“That question is something I’ve been asking for over a decade,” Burgess says. “The science I have found is very dated. I found some research about children who supposedly died from cloth diapers stamped with an ink. The ink penetrated the kidney area of the infant. This science was done in the 1920s. After that, I couldn’t find any modern science that showed skin absorption had any toxic effects on the wearer from a synthetic dye …
The question is how big are the molecules of the dye? Can they get into the skin after washing the clothing? We’re washing off what we would call the unbonded molecular components of the dye. The stuff that is bonded to the clothing, does that pose a risk? Can it get into the skin if it’s molecularly bonded? These are all questions [that are still] on the table.”
In other words, no one is really examining this issue to assess the actual risks. Burgess, who is doing research for a future book on fabric dyes has been posing questions to reproductive health doctors at Mount Sinai and University of California San Francisco (UCSF) who focus much of their attention on chemical influences. According to these experts, chemicals such as those found in dyes do appear to affect pregnant mothers and fetuses in utero.
The impacts can be seen, and the chemicals are known to be in dyes, but questions still remain as to if and how they may enter the body if you wear a dyed garment. Burgess cites an interesting German study showing that even when all known sources of endocrine disrupting chemicals were eliminated, women still continued to excrete metabolites of endocrine disrupting chemicals. So, somehow, they were still being exposed to them. Could it be their clothing?
“In the paper, they say, ‘One of the exposures we haven’t looked at is textiles in clothing and what women are wearing. This is an area for further research.’ Who’s doing it? We would really like to know, because it’s an important thing,” Burgess says.

Lint and Dust Could Be a Main Culprit

Interestingly, Burgess believes lint and fabric-derived dust, which can enter your body through inhalation, may be a far greater concern than direct skin absorption. Considering the many unanswered questions involved, one of the easiest ways to reduce your potential exposure, if you have not yet made the transition to organic clothing colored with plant-based dyes, is to buy textiles that are white or undyed. Burgess notes:
“Cotton is primarily grown white. Wool is grown white. Most hemp, ramie and linen is bleached with hydrogen peroxide if it’s an ecological process or something a little stronger if it’s not. But most textile grade fibers end up being white if they don’t start that way. That’s probably the safest. The [hand-knit sweater] I’m wearing right now is just the color of the sheep.”
Now, if one were to assume synthetic chemicals can transfer through the skin, then one of the items of greatest concern would be your undergarments, such as underwear and bras. If you’re just now making the transition to organic clothing, replacing your undergarments with a white undyred version would be a good place to start. I never realized this prior to interviewing Burgess and immediately implemented this strategy. We will also be carrying organic white underwear in our store very soon.
Ideally, forgo color and buy items that have not been dyed. Unfortunately, it can be a real challenge to find such items, but the industry is slowly starting to respond to customer demand, so availability will hopefully increase in the future. I’m one of the companies planning to offer GOTS certified undyed, organic underwear. We’re hoping to have them available by the end of 2017. Profits from this line will go to support Regeneration International’s Care What You Wear campaign.

Commercializing Vegetable-Based Dyes

Twenty years ago, there were no natural plant-based dyed garments in the commercial marketplace. Even handmade items were typically synthetically dyed. That’s now starting to change, albeit slowly. Patagonia recently issued a tank top and men’s shirt dyed with natural dyes. The color of plant-dyed fabrics does differ from those colored with synthetic dye, as plant-based colors are not isolated to a single pigment like synthetic dyes are.
In a plant or vegetable, the pigment consists of a mix of different colors. For example, a plant is not just pink, there are purples and reds mixed in, so the final color is more nuanced and varied than a synthetically dyed piece, where the color will be very saturated and monochrome. As noted by Burgess, “There’s a whole spectrum of compounds that create pink. That’s why I find natural dyes very beautiful. Patagonia did too.”
Eileen Fisher also issued a natural dye line of shirts for women in the last year. A Tennessee woman by the name of Sarah Bellos also runs a company called Stony Creek Color that produces Japanese indigo (Persicaria tinctoria) on a commercial scale. Cone Mills, one of the last large-scale denim weaving facilities in the U.S. has started to use this indigo pigment in their cotton and denim production. So, changes are afoot.

The Movement Toward Natural Dyes

Over the past decade, Burgess has done a lot of public outreach, speaking to corporations and giving four to five workshops each month. Most of her career has been focused on teaching people how to make natural dyes as a cultural practice that has a place right next to holistic medicine.
“I would say making these dyes today is almost like making medicinal tea … Textiles as medicine is part of an Ayurvedic tradition that goes back … 5,000 years, where wearing turmeric dyed clothes was prescribed to those who had rheumatoid arthritis … Ayurvedic tradition would prescribe wearing indigo for those who had rigid thinking — [people who had] an inability to perceive a more nuanced or dynamic future for themselves …
I want to contextualize the value of this work for you. What I would do is share an hourlong presentation on why making this tea is of such great value to personal and global health. [E]ven when I would teach a class at a botanic garden, there were industry leaders there. I would end up running into someone who was a materials designer for Target.
A couple of the women whose husbands were marketing at Patagonia were in my classes. I think word just [got out]. So yeah, I’m a piece of a movement. But I think that it has been rippling out for a little over a decade. This movement began in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Natural dye traditions and textile saw a resurgence in that era of counterculture … It hit again in the early ‘90s, but it was very commercially focused, not craft focused.
I think what we’re doing now is we’re synthesizing the work of the commercial movement in the ‘90s, pre-NAFTA, North American Free Trade Agreement, Organic American Textile Movement. We’re synthesizing that with the Craft Movement of the ‘60s and ‘70s. I think you’re getting this industrial craft bridge now.
You’re starting to see people bring artisanship into the bigger industry. How to do that is this ongoing conversation. But there are many of us out there. I wrote a natural dye book in 2009. A lot of my friends have written books since. It’s beautiful. In the Northern California region, there are four or five of us who are pretty diligently focused on this work.”

Growing Biodynamic Plants for Dyes Helps Improve Soil Quality

Aside from your own health, plant-based dyes also benefit our environment, provided you take it all the way and consider how the plants used for dyes are grown as well. This is precisely what Burgess does. For example, indigo is ideally grown not only according to organic standards but biodynamic standards, which are far more comprehensive. Biodynamic farming includes using as many inputs as possible from the farm itself rather than importing inputs.
“[O]ne of my focal points is also no-till agriculture, to protect the microbiome of the soil … The air pockets in the soil are so important for the health of the microbes. Water-holding capacity is also created by these oxygen pockets. When we turn it up and compact it, when we step on it or when we put a heavy tractor across it, we’re creating the conditions for less life.
Less diverse life in the soil means the plants are not getting access to the same micronutrients, because the plant is giving [fungal networks], through root exudates, access to carbohydrates. These fungal networks eat the root exudates from the plant — taking that as fodder and fuel and going out and getting remote little micropockets of nutrients that might exist miles and miles away from the tree or the plant and bringing these trace minerals back to the plant.
This is what happens in a system that’s not using nitrogen fertilizers, which is like fast food for a plant. But when you’re really allowing these air pockets, microbes and fungal networks to coexist, you’re allowing plants to hold all these micronutrients … that you don’t necessarily get in a system that is tilling soil and using synthetic compounds.
With the natural dyes, I get much stronger dye color from fewer plants if the soil is in this good health, which is porous soil, dynamic and has a lot of microfauna. The same ethics we use for food production around soil health are the same ethics I apply to my textile farming. I don’t see textile farming as really much different from food farming, even on the land …
This is a food fiber textile dye integrative system. A pollinator habitat becomes part of that — hedgerows, where you’re planting species of plants that harbor beneficial insects. Polyculture creates so much more productivity and so many different things you can use — medicine, food and dye. I think polycultures are kind of the only way to go for the future.”

What Is a Fibershed?

As mentioned, Burgess is the executive director of Fibershed, which is a word Burgess coined. A Fibershed is a strategic geography that allows one to garner, produce, farm, ranch and harvest everything needed for a textile resource base. Fibershed is like a food shed, but for textiles.
It addresses the strategic geography that helps clothe you, because, in fact, it is the land that is responsible for equipping us with what ultimately becomes clothing. At present, about 70 percent of the fiber in most people’s wardrobes is synthetic and fossil-carbon derived.
From a mainstream culture standpoint, we face a major public education effort to educate people about the fact that as we divest from fossil carbon, we also need to rebalance our carbon cycle. “We have to divest not only from fossil carbon and energy systems that are fueling our residential and commercial economy, we have to divest from these modern forms of color,” Burgess says, adding:
“We actually have to divest from these modern performance fibers that are made from fossil carbon. They’re made from coal tar. We no longer have the capacity to burn fossil carbon. There’s just a saturation point from our ocean health and the acidification to 407 ppm of carbon dioxide (CO2) in our atmosphere. We’ve burned ancient sunlight. We have to transition.
The organization Fibershed is this intimate idea of ‘What is this strategic geography?’ It’s a very ancient concept. But the idea is to get people to start waking up to land-based fibers. How do we make that transition to these land-based fibers and not rely on genetic engineering or synthetic biology, which are big topics.
I’m really trying to focus people on conservation breeds, resilient heirloom genetics, open pollinated sources of material and focus our land-based systems on strengthening our place-based economies, which to me is a strategy for climate change amelioration, deacidifying the oceans, healing some of the political divide around urban and rural communities.
Because when you develop a Fibershed, you start to need your farming community and your fashion community to work together. Ranchers and high-end designers partnering, there’s a lot of cultural healing that occurs.”

The Wardrobe Challenge That Started It All

The Fibershed concept actually began as a one-year wardrobe challenge. Burgess took design school students to farms and ranches raising goats, sheep, alpacas, cows and horses. The farmer and designer worked together to produce one garment from that farm or ranch, which Burgess then wore for one year.
She had it professionally photographed and videotaped so people could see what these urban and rural collaborations were really about. These collaborations and team efforts created a lot of goodwill between the two industries in the process.
“I ran a Kickstarter campaign to raise enough money to help everyone do these research and development projects. Since then, we’ve seen businesses start. I’ve had ranchers come to boardrooms for urban brands that are deciding on what their climate strategy is.
A rancher, who wasn’t so keen on talking about climate change, came to a boardroom with materials and designs at a major brand, a transnational corporation, and [said] ‘Ranching and farming is a heroic process. We can be part of your climate change solution. We are land-based economies. We can sequester carbon. We grow material that we think is going to be of great value to your supply chain.’
They’re willing to get on the table and just talk openly about climate change from a rancher’s perspective. They’re driving to urban communities to talk about this. Because, really, what they want is an economic tie. How to get that wool into that supply chain? How to get that organic cotton into the supply chain? It opens the doors of perception around … who you think people are. It just gives you time to be with people. It’s pretty powerful, actually. I’ve seen a lot of transformation.”

The Return of Cultural Textile Practices

According to Burgess, we are now seeing the emergence of organic vegetable-based dyes in the commercial textile industry. We still have a long way to go though. She estimates that if we were to replace the current use of synthetic blue pigment with plant-based blue, we would need about 56 million hectares (138.4 million acres) of indigo. That’s a lot of indigo to grow. But she also feels we need to have a cultural conversation about how we’re consuming color.
Pre-fossil carbon textiles, Europeans wore textiles made from nettle, flax, hemp and sheep’s wool. In North Africa and South America, they wore cotton. In India and China, they wore cotton and hemp. All of these materials were undyed and the color of the raw fiber, mostly shades of white and gray.
Sheep’s wool has perhaps the greatest variety of color — from black to shades of grey, brown, cream and white. To further alter the color, all you have to do is blend it with nettle, flax or hemp. “You can create really dynamic heathering [effects] by how you spin the fibers together,” Burgess says.
“My solution is to just use the color of the material as it comes off the plant and not really add too much more color to that. The last thing I’ll have to say about the vegetable matter and how we can increase access to natural dyes [is to use] materials that are on their way to being composted. Avocado pits make pink. It’s beautiful. There’s a book called ‘Natural Color: Vibrant Plant Dye Projects for Your Home and Wardrobe’ by Sasha Duerr. She is an artist I work with …
Her book has some really nice processes around avocado pit dye. It’s been a recipe since the ‘70s and the ‘80s as far as I can tell. I just quarter the pit and I put it in a pot of water. I put a little alkaline, like baking soda or oyster shells and then heat it up to about 180 degrees for half an hour or 45 minutes. That’s pre-boiling. That will yield the pink. It’ll start coming out of the avocado. Onion skins are another compostable. You could use that.”

Looking Toward the Future

Fibershed’s vision for the next decade is shared by Regeneration International and other organizations focused on carbon sequestration and environmental restoration through regenerative agriculture. 
“We think about [these Fibershed systems] like food sheds and water sheds,” Burgess says. “We organize around soil and water availability. We don’t engineer nature to do its bidding. We work in harmony with these processes that are in existence. We enhance water holding capacity and dry brittle systems, so that we can produce what we need, even in areas where there’s 10 inches or less of rainfall per year …  
Again, I think these natural productive states create local economies. When you have something you can grow, you have something you can eat. You have something you can wear. You have something you can trade … I think one of the lenses for doing this work is actually approaching it like we want to create more jobs in rural communities. We want people to feel taken care of and nurtured. We want to be buying things from them and supporting their good work on the land.
I think our work in 10 years is to really see these cultural political bridges built through trading and exchanging, but on the foundation of these restored soils. Through these regenerated social biocultural economies, we then trade with each other from strength, and not from the lowest common denominator — imperial attitude — which is ‘I’m going to use this community to produce clothing for me for 10 years.
Until they decide to create a labor union, and then I’m going to throw them over my shoulder like a chicken bone, and then I’m off to Cambodia, and then I’m in Vietnam and then I’m in the Indonesian archipelago.’ That’s been the textile industry. It just keeps on running to the lowest common denominator and leaving a wake of destruction in its path.
We’re trying to reverse that trend of imperial exploitation by focusing on how to work and how to be part of a community that works and labors in a meaningful way, on the land and with each other. Of course, some of us aren’t going to work on the land, but we could consume things from the land with an educated mind and a thoughtful way of approaching consumerism.”

More Information

To learn more, be sure to pick up a copy of Burgess’ bestselling book, “Harvesting Color: How to Find Plants and Make Natural Dyes.It’s definitely one to look at if you have an interest in this topic. Other resources include Kristine Vejar’s book, “The Modern Natural Dyer: A Comprehensive Guide to Dyeing Silk, Wool, Linen and Cotton at Home,” and Sasha Duerr’s book, “Natural Dyes.”
You can also attend the Wool and Fine Fiber Symposium November 11, 2017, at the Dance Palace in Point Reyes Station, California. This annual event is an opportunity to meet and greet people that grow raw materials, fibers and dye. This year’s event is focused on nature’s resilience, illuminating the processes and cycles that clothe us. You can find more details about this event on
On you will also find textile research, economic feasibility studies on regenerative agriculture and how to tie the monetary and carbon cycles together — all the work Fibershed has done on land-based economic development. So, if you want to dig deeper into this topic, is the place to start. You can also find 140 different independent artists and farmers featured on this website, all of whom are doing this kind of work.