Silk sustainability; how Silkinc is innovating for the future

Our mission at Silkinc includes innovating towards truly sustainable silk; for us, this includes environmental, social and ethical considerations. No one has found the perfect answers yet, but we are actively working towards this by looking after our people and partners and through improved environmental practices throughout our silk production.

The silk fabric is not only beautiful, but it is also naturally biodegradable and long-lasting which results in a longer lifecycle for each silk product. In addition, our craftspeople are trained to enhance this quality through exceptional workmanship and using techniques that have been honed over thousands of years [add link]. We want to give you the best timeless products to wear over years.

Whilst the natural benefits of silk are recognised, the average silk production process has some flaws. We value honesty and transparency and are keen to share how we have researched and mitigated these concerns through careful planning and design of how we work:

Energy intensive

Silk production can be energy intensive due to requiring controlled temperatures to maintain the quality of silk.

At Silkinc, our orchards are located in the mountains of Chongqing, China, an environment which is naturally maintained at the temperatures required for the best silk production. Therefore, we keep our energy use to a minimum. Furthermore, the mulberry trees are excellent carbon sinks, absorbing carbon from our atmosphere whilst producing oxygen.

The harvesting of silk cocoons can use a lot of hot water and steam. We have more work to do in this space, but we use recycled water where we can and our orchards are located right by natural freshwater supplies, therefore not stressing the water supply in any way. We are increasing our renewable energy supply through solar at a number of our sites.

Natural silk production methods

Some silk organisations use chemicals to grow, clean and dye the silk - our processes at Silkinc are all natural. Our orchards use organic processes, we are certified ‘green farms’ and we use natural dyes where feasible ensuring that these do not pollute any local waters and maintain the fabrics’ natural biodegradability.

It has been found that some organisations do not look after their workforce in the silk industry. This is an absolute no-go for Silkinc, our people are our everything, and we want them to live happy and fulfilled lives in their home environments, near their families and friends. The majority of our workforce are women and we are intent on providing a source of employment in rural environments; providing the option for communities to stay together rather than seeking work in the big cities. We treat our staff with respect and kindness at every stage. You can find more information here regarding our working practices.

In every industry, it is possible to waste resource. At each stage of our supply chain, we have found ways to prevent waste whether this is developing ways to utilise short silk fibres to produce smaller products that maintain quality, utilising the silkworm glue to extract silk proteins to develop mixed fabrics and careful planning and cutting of fabric in order to avoid small unusable offcuts.  

The greatest failing in seri-culture is the inability to produce silk without disrupting the lifecycle of the silkworm.

The majority of global silk production ‘seri-culture’ is currently focused on Mulberry silk in which the silkworm is killed. Even with silks such as Ahimsa ‘non-violent’ silk, the silkworm, which has similarly been fully domesticated, has lost its ability to fly, see, camouflage and fear predators and is completely dependent on humans for survival. It is likely that they only survive for days after emerging from their cocoon. Wild silk is cultivated from moths that live in the wild but similarly to Ahimsa silk, this method produces a fibre that is not as durable (or lustrous) as traditional mulberry silk; and the products developed will not last as long.

Both these options have merit in further research to explore how we can utilise this natural by-product in a sustainable way and Silkinc have prioritised our work at our silk lab to develop ahimsa silk, spider silks, and other more animal-friendly options. However, at present, there is no single solution that has an overall positive outcome and many still have a negative impact on the silkworm just days later whilst being exceedingly expensive and resource intensive.

We are working towards the best sustainable practices, and we certainly have more to do! At Silkinc, we believe that focused research is required to take this to the next level, and you can find out more about our material innovation here.

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