Indonesia's batik makers turn to mangroves for dye

There's a craftsman in Indonesia who makes natural dye from mangroves.

These trees are abundant in the central part of the country in forests of large, wooden roots that rise out of the ground like stilts.

The dye maker is named Sodikin and he gathers fallen mangrove fruit before he heads home to make what’s called Batik.

It’s a traditional Indonesian dye used in patterns and drawings on fabric for dresses, shirts, and more.

For the past four years, Sodikin and his group of batik makers have shifted away from chemical dyes.

He says the stuff made from mangroves cuts costs, earns a higher profit and helps the environment.

“We use natural materials so as to preserve the mangrove forest at the same time. We do not cut down the trees and we only take fruits or leaves that have fallen from their trees in order to save the mangrove.”

Mangroves themselves play an important role in Indonesia’s environment, serving as barriers against tsunamis and providing a home for fish and crabs.

They also absorb carbon dioxide more effectively than rainforests and peatlands and while the dye they yield is less vibrant than synthetic colors, mangrove ecologist Erwin Ardli says natural dyes are not only more durable, they’re better for the planet and he says lately, they're better for business.

"We've seen the interest for natural dyes increasing, and especially for middle to upper-class people, they seem to be proud to wear clothes using these natural dyes rather than synthetic dyes."

The owner of a gallery that showcases batik work, Iiting Budiarti, told Reuters that items with natural dyes can fetch double or triple the synthetic ones.

For Sodikin, that means business is booming.

"Thank god, since we switched to using natural materials, our income has increased and the color quality is better.”

He says although it’s more work to gather and dye, the results of mangrove-based products more than make up for it.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting