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Textile chemist Tony Leonard graduated from North Carolina State University in 1970 with degrees in textile technology and textile chemistry. He has worked with dyeing formulas since then, and for the past decade or so, has been developing a non-toxic treatment for cotton fiber that will not only expedite the dyeing process, but also greatly decrease the amount of resources it requires.

In 2010, Leonard, along with Michael Harari, founded ColorZen to make the improved formulation commercially available. This past June, the company tested the treatment on 400 pounds of cotton fiber. The process took only a third of the usual eight hours it would have taken to complete. ColorZen also used significantly less dye, energy, water, and chemicals.

ColorZen is currently pitching its product to apparel retailers and manufacturers and expects to turn a profit next year. According to Leonard, their goal is to “use our technology to improve the waterways… everywhere.”