Is hemp clothing sustainable?

 

Photo of a woman's back while wearing a dress made of hemp as a featured image for a post titled "is hemp clothing sustainable?"

The search for natural, eco-friendly fabrics for creating organic clothes is crucial in today's world of polyester and microplastics. Therefore, educating yourself on the available choices is the first step toward a more sustainable lifestyle. Hemp clothing is a novel and intriguing departure from the conventional poly-cotton blend that dominates today's garment market. Hemp fiber may be used to manufacture anything from paper and canvas to garments and rope because of its adaptability. An increasing number of sustainable fashion labels are slowly noticing the benefits of this versatile and sustainable fabric. But what is hemp, and is hemp clothing sustainable? We've consulted experts from India's first carbon-neutral marketplace, and here's everything you need to know about this fabric and its sustainability. 

What is hemp, and is hemp clothing sustainable?

For starters, hemp is not the same thing as marijuana. Hemp, the plant from which marijuana is derived, has been cultivated for its valuable fibers since at least 10,000 B.C. Hemp has been utilized for a wide variety of purposes, including but not limited to food, medicine, rope, clothing, and building materials. Despite their shared botanical ancestry, the hemp plant is not psychoactive.

Field full of hemp plants during a sunset

Caption: Even though they belong to the same family, hemp and marijuana are not the same.

 

Hemp fiber is a sustainable and renewable material. As a result, a hemp shirt would begin decomposing in a landfill within a reasonable amount of time. Developing biofibers like hemp is crucial to rethinking the fashion business and showing how much sustainable fashion matters as the world gradually becomes aware of how virgin plastic in clothing harms oceans and fills landfills. 

Additionally, hemp has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antimicrobial properties. The elimination of the need to purchase and apply fertilizers and pesticides results in significant cost savings and improved safety for farmers, who benefit together with the general public. More so, hemp strains have been produced with long fibrous stalks and fewer flowers to maximize output.

How is hemp produced?

Hemp manufacturing is notoriously time-consuming and physically demanding because of the number of hands-on tasks involved. The following steps are taken to transform this eco-friendly fiber into clothing fabric and later into gorgeous sustainable hemp clothing and other vegan products:

  1. Sowing - When the plant is between the first and second stages of flowering, farmers begin to collect it. Mostly, they gather the plants used to make this eco-friendly cloth with specialized equipment.
  2. Retting - Following harvest, the stems are left on the ground for some time. It's a degradation process wherein the pectin glue that holds the hemp fiber together breaks down. The procedure removes the bark so that just the fiber remains.
  3. Decortication - This is done while the stems are still wet from retting or after they have been dried to remove the center woody core.
  4. Delignification - Plants' natural resistance to decay is due to lignin, an organic polymer. This is what gives traditional hemp its rough and scratchy feel. Lignin is stripped out of the fiber to make it more pliable and suitable for contact with the skin.
  5. Spinning - Eventually, long threads made entirely of hemp fibers will be weaved into fabrics. The texture of these threads is quite close to that of linen. Fabrics made from these fibers can be mixed with other natural fibers to make them more resilient and comfortable to wear.

How is hemp clothing sustainable?

In simple terms – hemp is increasingly being used to make sustainable clothes. Large-scale hemp production could make it a more environmentally friendly choice than organic cotton. If grown in a pasture, hemp can use as much as four times less water than cotton. You save water because it rarely needs supplemental irrigation. The resulting hemp material is warmer, more absorbent (to keep you dry!), and more robust.

Different hemp products on a white surface

Caption: There is no waste when producing it, which answers the question: is hemp clothing sustainable?

 

This industrial crop does not require artificial fertilizers, pesticides, or fungicides because of its inherent resistance to disease. And if that's not enough, hemp is carbon-positive because it can sequester and transform more carbon than forests. Its root system improves soil health by preventing erosion and adding missing nutrients. As a means of detoxifying the soil of zinc and mercury, hemp is cultivated in some regions.

On top of that, there is no such thing as wasted food or plant material because people can consume even the seeds. These are a "superfood," and a byproduct of the hemp oil is used to make candle wax and biodiesel. Moreover, hemp clothing can easily be recycled or even composted, so if you're unsure what to do with unwanted clothes when moving or after your spring cleaning session, recycling is the best way to go, especially if they are not suitable to pass on. It's truly a one-of-a-kind vegan fabric!

Hemp can be grown profitably, as you get a lot of organic fabric for such a small footprint! The fantastic news is that hemp production can meet high worldwide demands with the correct amount of care. The business as a whole has a long way to go, but new tools and techniques have made it possible to produce hemp of a higher quality. It's genuinely one of the best sustainable textiles out there.

Is hemp fabric comfortable?

Once processed, hemp has a texture similar to cotton (though the finish is a bit rougher, similar to canvas). It's more portable and has a quicker drying time. This eco-friendly material is exceptionally resistant to pilling or gathering into fluffy little balls on the surface. The average lifespan of a cotton T-shirt is around ten years, but a hemp T-shirt can be up to three times as long-lasting.

Pile of colorful hemp towels

Caption: Hemp fabric is three times as robust as cotton cloth. Therefore, it will last a long time.

 

Hemp is a lightweight cloth that has other benefits as well. You'll stay cool in tropical areas or warm weather thanks to its excellent breathability and how it dissipates sweat from the skin into the air. It also has excellent resistance to mildew, mold, and other bacteria that could be dangerous.

The verdict is in!

So is hemp clothing sustainable? We say absolutely! Hemp is a crop that is both low-impact and highly sustainable, and it can be transformed into fabric in an environmentally responsible manner. It’s truly one of the best plastic-free products out there. However, you should verify that the company isn't just "greenwashing" their hemp and always buy eco-friendly clothes and other sustainable products from verified manufacturers or retailers.

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