We now make 80 billion new pieces of clothes a year. And of this ridiculous surplus, cotton is the most commonly used fibre - it is in 60 to 75 per cent of our clothing.
Cotton is a natural fibre so popular because it is lightweight and breathable. It has been used to make clothing for at least 7,000 years. Nowadays, the massive demand and ensuing abundance of it leads to a really horrific, environmentally catastrophic, social regressive, enslaving super industry.
Honestly, cotton is shocking.
The only way to avoid contributing to the exploration of animals is avoid buying any brand new silk fabric. There are many alternatives available, and many silk garments recycled in second hand shops.
Cotton is unbelievably water-intensive. The global average water footprint of cotton fabric is 10,000 litres per kilogram. One cotton t-shirt of 250 grams costs about 2500 litres.
The water used for India’s cotton exports is enough to supply 85 per cent of the country’s 1.25 billion people (100 million don't have access to clean water)
Alternatively, hemp only needs 2,000 litres of water per kg.
The silk industry known as sericulture – provides employment to rural populations, with around one million workers in China and 7.9 million workers in India. A report by Human Rights Watch revealed that around 350,000 children are used as workers especially in India. They are loaned out by their families, often the lowest untouchable caste destined for little else. They are subject to burns from the boiling cocoons and cuts from the strands.
Indian farmers 270,000 suicides since 1995
They have to buy GMO seeds from companies like Monsnato
Seeds don't reproduce
Have to buy new
The trillions of silk worms reared globally feed on mulberry leaves, which are quite resilient and don’t require the use of pesticides or fertilisers to grow. However you need a shed load to feed all the millions of hungry larvae. They eat nearly two hundred times the weight of their silk in leaves. It is also said that the cleaning of silk uses harsh chemicals. But the fabric, essentially made of worm spit, is entirely biodegradable.
This decade, an Indian man supposedly inspired by Ghandi’s non-violence claimed to have founded ‘ahimsa’ (Sanskrit term for non-harming) silk, which doesn’t require the killing of worms in their cocoons. However, this is not really certified, and there are claims of refrigerating the male moths and breeding the females until they’re no long able to reproduce when they are either crushed or released to the jaws of birds or crushed…
Wild silk seems less horrific and is harvested from fields after moths have emerged naturally. This is the most natural way of harvesting silk but the fabric will have a darker and less luminescent appearance so it is in less demand. The colour varies depending on the worm’s diet in the wild.
Silk is being researched by the medial community for repairing bones, and in the military where it is inserted into the genes of goats before getting their silk-rich milk which is intended to be woven into protective bullet vests (as it’s 4 times stronger than the Kevlar material which makes up most bullet vests) and human skin (in the hope of replacing our the keratin in our skin with silk).
WHAT CAN WE DO?
So, to conclude, silk is supposedly quite sustainable. But ultimately, no material derived from animals can really be an ethical product. It exploits animals (in their trillions) for a very small and very expensive, albeit quite astounding, but essentially unnecessarily animal-based commodity.