It is our responsibility as consumers to encourage these areas are met and to purchase silk from company’s that make a practical effort to improve the safety of their workers and reduce their impact on the environment.
Aoife Doherty, Youth Advisory Climate Council (YACC)
Silk has been used in textiles for at least 5000 years! It’s a natural, long-lasting and biodegradable fibre and is produced by silkworms who feed on Mulberry tree leaves. Positively there has been no reductions in Mulberry tree forestation which means they are probably sustainably farmed and used for the silk industry.even though they have a high water need. The various stages in the production of silk can have a negative impact on the environment. The energy requirements alone can be massive as silkworm need to be kept at a controlled temperatures and humidity as well as the processing of the silk needing hot air and hot water. Most of this energy comes from non-renewable sources and thus has a negative effect on the environment. Water pollution can also be a problem in terms of run-off containing chemicals from the disinfecting and fertilising stages of production as well as the next stages which involve dyeing and finishing. Workers involved with silk are reported to suffer coughs, ulcers, throat infection and hand and eye burning mostly caused by hazardous handling of disinfectants. This is due to them not wearing or being provided with masks or gloves. It would seem the problems encountered with silk could be managed and improved with an emphasis on a more efficient use of water, more sustainable use of energy (renewable energy) and pollution free dyes would make an improvement on the environmental impact of silk production.
So, what can you do? As always try and buy vintage first. If you can buy organic silk or from companies that put sustainability and workers rights at the top of their list of priorities.