Picture credit: Ecouterre

Did you know this? You boil 50,000 silk worms to their death while making a silk saree.

Here’s short video of some really nice folks boiling these poor critters

And another here…

And after knowing this, would you feel the same way while buying a silk saree next time? I wouldn’t!

While I knew that people do kill silkworms to make silk sarees, I somehow had never bothered to think too much about it. Perhaps, deep down in my subconscious, I must have visualized a couple of silkworms put to painless death. That was why it probably didn’t bother me. Perhaps.

But 50,000 silkworms killed so I could wear one blooming silk saree? And killed how? Not by some painless chemical, but by boiling them in freaking hot water.

50,000 living creatures boiled to death in the most painful way so you and I could sashay around in a pretty saree!

Sounds nasty? It did to me. But giving up silk sarees is not easy either, not for me, not for millions others.

If you have pangs of guilt, but you still want the silk saree, it is possible. How? Through Ahimsa Silks, which has found a method to make silk without killing the worms.

Ahimsa is one example of an emerging trend in the saree world – environment friendly sarees.

As we, the users of sarees, become more environmentally aware, we are beginning to show greater discrimination in what we buy and use.

Be it the use of banana fiber (where you use a waste material to make sarees), or bamboo (which requires far less resources per saree than cotton) or the above-mentioned “non-violent” silk, a significant number of alternatives are cropping up in the eco-friendly saree marketplace. This post provides some interesting resources and inputs.

Ahimsa Sarees

Here are some more details on the interesting Ahimsa Silk sarees:

Ahimsa is the Hindi word for Non-violence, and practically every can relate Ahimsa to the great man Mahatma Gandhi. Owing to Gandhi, the word Ahimsa is now popular world over.

All right, here’s how the Ahimsa Silk concept pans out.

In the Ahimsa Silk method, the silkworm isn’t boiled. Instead, when the silkworm has completed metamorphosis, it pierces through the cocoon with its mouth and is allowed to fly away. The cocoon left behind is then used to make silk yarn.

As you can observe, contrary to commercially cultivated silk, this process does not involve killing of the larva.

The Ahimsa Silk appeals to the demand of environmentally conscious and non violent clientele all over the world. Not surprisingly, Ahimsa silk is finding many takers all around the world, including countries such as Germany, Israel, United Kingdom, United States and many others in Europe. It provides an alternative for these discerning consumers to make their choices in such a way that even as they buy silk they are able to accord the respect that our fellow living beings on the earth deserve from us.

Ahimsa silk might lack the shine of regular silk, but it is comfortable to wear, is wrinkle free and has a better fall.

Here’s a detailed video of the Ahimsa Silk process

A couple of links provided below give info on the Ahimsa Silk sarees where the silk fiber is made without killing the silk worm.

Taking the Violence Out of Silk – the celebrated Ahimsa Sarees

Ahimsa Silk – Silk Sarees without Killing a Single Silkworm – one more of that

Banana Sarees

Is cotton much better than silk sarees when it comes to cruel treatment? Perhaps yes, but cotton growth does have its own drawbacks. Let’s say your cotton saree weights 2 Kgs (the usual weight is between 1.5-2 Kg for cotton sarees). It takes 20,000 liters of water to produce 1 Kg of cotton.

So, the cotton saree you are wearing has just blown 40,000 liters, enough to feed 5,000 families for a day in water starved nation.

But are there alternatives when you wish to buy a saree that has a much lower water footprint?

How about Banana Sarees? No, I have not gone bananas!

Sarees are now being made from the waste of the banana plant (plantain) bark.

Now, this is cool, isn’t it? The fiber being used here is otherwise mostly wasted, which means it has used little or no water purely for its growth.

So, when you purchase a banana saree, you  could say you have indirectly, in some way, helped 5,000 families for a day.

Sounds awesome, doesn’t it?

If you are wondering how you make the banana fibers, here are 2 nice videos for you on that

And one more on banana fiber

Some interesting sites on the banana sarees

Banana Fiber Textiles – from Chennai – these are supposed to be uber-cool

Details of Banana Fiber

Bamboo Sarees

We mentioned earlier that cotton fiber needs 20,000 liters per Kg of the fiber. For bamboo, the water requirement is a lot less. And it is indeed cool to be wearing bamboo sarees, which are known to have a silky texture and appeal too!

Here’s a video that details the sustainability and eco-friendliness advantages of bamboo over cotton

Some more details on bamboo sarees apparel from these links

Beat the Heat with Bamboo Shirts & Sarees

Using Bamboo to Spin a Yarn

Bamboo Textiles


Other Natural Fiber Sarees

Anakaputtur Weaver Association – these folks make sarees made of literally and metaphorically colorful fibers –

Saree made from natural fibers launched

An Aloe Vera Saree? – Is there no end to what you can use to make a saree??


Ethical apparel from Ethicus – interesting company indeed