Ynside answers: is silk sustainable?
We love silk. This remarkable, durable material looks good, feels great and lasts for years. However, there’s one question we had to answer before we could turn our love for silk into a serious relationship: is silk sustainable? And what makes eco friendly silk? Of course, we also make comparisons with other materials. Let’s dive into the sustainability of silk.
The environmental impact of silk
Is silk sustainable? The first step to answering the question is looking at the environmental impact of silk. Our Earth contains an astonishing variety of terrestrial, freshwater, and marine ecosystems, which provide biological resources and services that are essential to our survival. The textile industry has a major impact on these important living systems. The loss of biodiversity from human activity is of great concern to us and something we see around us frequently.
An example of this is when our silk producer took over a conventional silk farm in the year 2011. Its soil was completely fruitless due to excess and unnecessary use of chemicals. Micro-organisms were missing. Time for change ensuring sustainable silk production.
Instead of chemicals, natural compost was used and the complete sericulture (silk farming) was re-established as per pre-industrial methods and regenerative agriculture (cultivating multiple, complementing crops instead of just one type of crop). Certain innovative methods have been developed since, to control pests and fungus from the mulberry host tree. The host tree for example is simply covered with a large net to keep predators away. Another big hurray for the mulberry trees, by the way, as a study conducted in 2014 demonstrated that mulberry trees have a high capacity for carbon mitigation. All factors leading to eco-friendly silk.
Similarly, the mulberry tree is a fast-growing tree that drastically improves soil on a microbiotic level, delivers highly nutritious berries, feeds animals, provides wood for building, as well as it provides a natural dye (berry juice). Wow, what a tree!
The carbon footprint of silk production
But does this really make silk sustainable? The textile industry has a big impact on our carbon footprint (the total emission of greenhouse gases by human activities). This sector accounts for between 2 and 10% of our total impact worldwide(!). How do these numbers compare to silk farming?
The Waste & Resources Action Program (WRAP) has studied the carbon footprint over 1 year of the most employed textile fibers worldwide. Underneath, you can find the carbon footprint (KG CO2e) per tonne of material produced. It is a large, generalizing study that comes with an important remark: methods may deviate drastically. According to this study, silk is positioned in the middle.
- Wool – 46.284
- Acrylic – 38.428
- Viscose – 30.140
- Cotton – 27.680
- Silk – 25.425
- Polyamide – 24.351
- Polyester – 21.330
- Polyurethane – 19.792
- Flax/linen – 14.998
Taking a quick look back to our chapter about the environmental impact of silk, we are convinced that the way we produce our silk, ensures that the carbon footprint of our silk is a lot lower than the average named above. As said, our mulberry trees have a high capacity for carbon mitigation. Just as well there are different ways to approach wool, types of wool and their origin when taking into account all environmental consequences and/or benefits.
Water usage and silk production
But there is another big factor influencing whether silk is sustainable. When we arrive at the usage of water when producing silk (and other materials), it is near to impossible to find an unambiguous answer about how much water is needed for 1 kilogram of textile fabric. However, there is a consensus that cotton products require the most water. Synthetic fibers, wool and silk require lower water volumes per unit of product. The real question behind such general statements is whether crops such as cotton are produced in close relationship to nature, or whether they come from high input monocultures. Thus, again, this question relates to farming methods and biodiversity.
Further advantages of silk
There are a number of other reasons why we believe our way of production relates to a sustainable, eco friendly silk with unique benefits. Silk production leads to almost zero percent waste. Silk is biodegradable within a couple of years compared to hundreds of years for synthetic materials and doesn’t emit toxins or microplastics. Similarly naturally treated silk does not leak chemicals to the body, a great benefit for the health of our bodies. When taking good care of, silk will not deteriorate easily over time. Sustainable silk, check! Last but not least, sericulture knows positive effects on the soil, biodiversity, climate, economic position, and your health. We could write an entire article about the advantages of sericulture, though…
Ahimsa or peace silk
With respect to nature’s living creatures, Ynside choose to use silk that is known as Ahimsa or peace silk. Is this silk sustainable? Yes! The animal-friendly production process allows the developing moth to escape and to finish its natural lifecycle outside of the cocoon by cutting the top of the cocoon. It is a non-violent way of harvesting silk and thus can be seen as the most eco-friendly silk.
To summarize: Ynside silk sustainable?
- Regenerative: ensures a minimal, negative impact on biodiversity through sericulture and smart, environmentally friendly production solutions. On the contrary it improves soil and creates multiple returns.
- Carbon footprint: with a great deviation between cases, silk generally has a (much) lower footprint than some of the most used fabrics. Thus, the silk environmental impact is low(er).
- Water usage: water is always needed, also on our farm. To grow trees for example. However, the water usage is less than traditional sericulture and way less then a monoculture produced cotton
- Durability: silk will not deteriorate easily over time because of its natural fungal repellency and because chemicals are not used in processing. This means that the material will last for years but is biodegradable
Is Ynside silk sustainable?
regenerative, environmentally friendly way of silk farming is one of the most sustainable ways of textile production. This natural material can be produced and harvested in a sustainable, organic and animal-friendly way with very little input. And thus, in relation to other fibers, the advantages of silk seem to outweigh many fibres, without even mentioning its biofunctional properties and wellness benefits.