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Organic Crayons

We developed a process for making crayons using natural dyes, further empowering a community whose primary income comes from the creation of these natural dye-based products.

Video: Nathan Cooke

Natural dyes are a local resource found in abundance in the Himalayan region of Kumaon, India. Members of the AVANI community already use these dyes in their textile and ink products, and they approached MIT D-Lab about collaborating on ideas for new products using these dyes.


Villages in the northern province of Uttarakhand, India, are isolated and separated from each other by mountainous terrain. AVANI is an organization that seeks local, specific solutions to meeting the villages' basic needs.

Located in one of the regions of Uttarakhand, the AVANI community itself lives self-sufficiently through off-the-grid technology. Their mission is to create sustainable livelihoods through traditional crafts and appropriate technology.


I came to AVANI through MIT D-Lab, a program which takes both theoretical and experiential approaches to designing for developing countries. After learning about the broader concepts on development, I took on the project AVANI approached us with: developing a process to create organic crayons using their natural dyes, and determining if the process is feasible and worthwhile to the economic development of the AVANI community.

The project

At MIT, the approach was very experimental, focusing specifically on the design process and high-level steps of making the crayons.

Testing out crayon manufacturing methods

The project was then brought to AVANI, where I observed, communicated, and shared knowledge with people in the community, such as Hansa and Dheeraj.

Working together on the crayon process

Photo: Nathan Cooke

Through our on-site experiments, we developed processes of making crayons with locally available materials.

By the end of two weeks Dheeraj was producing organic crayons successfully, enabling the community to produce and improve on these organic crayons to their benefit.

Seeing Dheeraj light up with happiness on his first successful crayon is one of the moments I will always remember.

The outcome of our crayon tests


D-Lab's philosophy is to make information accessible to all. The crayon making process is documented in-depth in this wiki.

Documentation site

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