Batik is an icon of the Indonesian culture. For centuries, batik has been Indonesia’s most highly recognized and developed art heritage. It has been known to be worn by leaders of the Majapahit empire in the years that they ruled. Till now, batik remains a very popular characteristic of the Indonesian culture. However, its production has a major impact on the environment, and among the small and medium companies in Indonesia, batik enterprises produce the most carbon dioxide emissions, according to an article by The Guardian.

[Batik: Toshiie Koike]

According to the department of industry of Indonesia, in 2009, there was an estimated 50,000 batik producing companies in Indonesia, all of which consume large amounts of kerosene and electricity in their processes. Large amounts of toxic dyes and water are also used up in batik production.

Fortunately, there has been encouraging signs towards sustainable batik practices. The Clean Batik Initiative (CBI) was a program designed to implement cleaner production methods and create a more environmentally friendly product. The program has brought encouraging results. 93 out of 100 SMEs that joined the program shows 70% progress. The CBI has also developed an electric stove with a thermostat, to reduce energy consumption and cost. 64% of SMEs in Yogyakarta have started to use the stove CBI designed.

One of the larger challenges had been the damage from toxic dyes due to their direct pollution into the waterways as wastewater. To improve this situation, CBI built a 15 meter deep reservoir to contain polluted water for the SMEs in Yogyakarta. They also provided containers to reuse dye water and this has seen a decrease of 4% in water use. CBI also encourages the use of natural dyes and their promotion has seen a 3% decrease in the use of chemical dyes in Yogyakarta, and 10% of SMEs have switched to using natural dyes completely.

The batik community is progressing steadily towards sustainability and environmentally friendly practices and that is a positive sign.

How does this affect me?

Batik is a part of the Indonesian heritage and to lose such a historical art form due to its pollution will be a huge loss. In order for a balance to be upheld, purchase batik products from sustainable batik companies such as Batik Bakau and support efforts to provide eco-friendly practices to the batik industry, such as the CBI mentioned above.