Why Is Hemp Sustainable?

Why is Hemp Sustainable?

When people hear the word hemp, they often relate it to marijuana, and that is what the government wants you to think! But I am here to report that hemp, while still in the cannabis family, does not hold the same hallucinogenic properties as marijuana. Hemps recreational use comes in a different form: sustainability!

The History of Hemp

Hemp textile has been around forever! Well since 8000 BC, where hemp plants were cultivated in Iraq to make clothing. Iraq was the original trend setter, after their development of hemp production hemp products began popping up all over the world. Knowledge of hemps material benefits spread to China in 2700 BC and Europe in 1200 BC. This means all your favorite historical icons used hemp products, Vincent Van Gogh used hemp canvases and Galileo used hemp sails and paper! It is thought that the word “canvas” was actually derived from “cannabis.” In 1941 Henry Ford built a car with a plastic made from hemp.

Hemp Ropes Used by Vikings

hemp ropes used by vikings

Hemp was grown extensively in colonial America by numerous farmers including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and even the original Levi Strauss was supposedly made from hemp canvas. In more modern times, in the US, hemp was a primary resource up until the 1920’s. Hemp textile accounted for 80% of clothing! By the 1930s, hemp was considered the next billion-dollar crop. So how did the hemp industry go from the next billion-dollar crop to the unknown crop?

As the hemp industry was hitting its peak in the 1930s, so were its competitors. New petroleum based synthetic textiles were making their break in the textile world and many companies were investing into it. Hemp was, rightfully, viewed as synthetics' biggest threat and investors knew exactly how to tear the hemp industry down, the law. In 1937, the U.S government made hemp cultivation illegal under the name marijuana. Hemp products, such as clothing, are completely legal in the U.S. but the cultivation of industrial hemp is not.

“Hemp has been one of the most significant crops for mankind up until this last century. It is astonishing to see how the widespread use of hemp has been deteriorated to such an extent that people barely recognize it as anything but a plant that ‘gets you high’.” - Massachusetts Institute of Technology, The Thistle

How is Hemp Used?

How is Hemp Used?

hemp cloth being detailed

Hemp is one of the most versatile plants in the world. It can be used to produce: textiles, ropes, sail canvas, apparel, sacks, paper, food, building, seed oil for paint, lacquer, printing ink, varnishes, and, even, original Levi jeans were made from hemp! Hemp’s strength allows for its supreme versatility, it is 3x stronger than cotton. In fact, Hemp is one of the strongest and most durable of all natural textile fibers.

“Like linen, hemp moves easily with the body, is breathable and easy to wear across different seasons. Hemp wrinkles less and can start pretty stiff, but softens quickly with each wash and wear. It’s one of the most environmentally friendly fibers because it’s naturally resistant to pests and requires almost no water to grow. It’s also a sister plant, meaning it replenishes the soil for the plants around it.” - Mara Hoffman,  visionary of sustainable style

This strength allows hemp textile to be resistant against bacteria, mold, ultraviolet rays, and salt water, making it the ideal resource for many products. This means that hemp will keep you warmer in winter and cooler in summer than cotton. Like cotton, hemp can be made into a variety of fabrics, including high quality linen. When blended with materials such as cotton, linen, and silk, hemp provides a sturdier, longer lasting product, while maintaining quality and softness. Hemp is environmentally friendly in many ways.

Sustainable Benefits of Hemp

Hemp's strength and resistance are not it's only amazing benefits, it is also one of the most sustainable fibers according to multiple sources, including the Textile Exchange and The Made-By Environmental Benchmark for Fibers. Hemp does not require a large amount of land to cultivate, meaning it can produce up to double the fiber yield per hectare than cotton. Less land means less water! Cotton will take around 50% more watering than hemp in a season. But the water saving does not stop there. Hemp takes four times less water in production than cotton. 

Water and land are not the only ways hemp adds sustainability to resume, hemp grows without herbicides, fungicides, or pesticides! Its dense growing behavior chokes out other competing plants and weeds. As opposed to cotton, whose production accounts for almost half the agricultural chemicals used on American crops. 

Industrial Hemp

industrial hemp

Industrial hemp

Hemp can also have positive effects on soil by replenishing vital nutrients. In some areas, Its root system minimizes soil erosion and It can be planted repeatedly on the same land, and is often used as a “rotation crop” to heal the soil between growing other crops.

Like any produce, there is a difference between organic and non-organic hemp. Organic hemp production does not use a chemical, while non-organic does to lower-costs and increase efficiency. Organic hemp has the least environmental impact, and it is important as a consumer to hold companies accountable for the quality of their hemp products.

The old saying reigns true, do not judge a book by its cover! Hemp has an outstanding resume and deserves to be recognized for it. Just because your family member is a little crazy does not mean you are, let's show hemp some love!

Additional Reading:

Hemp Clothing https://learn.eartheasy.com/guides/hemp-clothing/

Hemp: Facts on the Fibers https://organicclothing.blogs.com/my_weblog/2005/12/hemp_facts_on_t.html#:~:text=Hemp%20fabric%20is%20naturally%20more,herbicides%2C%20fungicides%2C%20or%20pesticides.&text=natural%20soft%20fibers.-,They%20are%20longer%2C%20stronger%2C%20more%20absorbent%2C%20more%20mildew%2D,and%20more%20insulative%20than%20cotton 

Hemp: The Most Versatile Crop in the World https://ecosciences.com/blog/learn-about-cbd/hemp-the-most-versatile-crop-in-the-world/ 

Hemp fabric history: How and when was the first clothing made? https://timeshempcompany.com/2017/01/hemp-fabric-history-first-clothing-made/ 

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