Ever tried an artisan vegan burger. It’s possible to savor the flavor of your favorite meat patties while still letting the animal live.
What if you could enjoy a guilt-free fast fashion too. Hemp looks like the answer.
There’s a whirlwind of change around hemp legislation. The crop has been lobbied for in the U.S. and Australia over the last 5 years and is now slowly contributing to several industries there—such as paper, textiles, fabric, oil, protein powder, bioplastics, skincare, rope, and even automobile manufacturing.
Its broad utility is it is re-emerging as a major player in the agricultural world. After almost a century of stigmatization by misassociation to its unruly cousin—marijuana—it's making a deserved comeback! Appreciate it.
Previous Legal Obstacles to Hemp
Industrial hemp and marijuana are derived from the same plant, Cannabis sativa, albeit from two different varieties of it. The marijuana variety contains more tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which has mind-altering effects. The industrial hemp variety is the one which is the topic of discussion here.
As recently as 2010, most American states still restricted or outright banned the cultivation of this plant. But in 2014 and 2018, legislation was made to accommodate the industrial hemp variety of the plant in America. Similar changes happened in Australia in 2017. The hemp industry is now catching on to its versatile potential. The future became bright.
The Sustainable Advantages of Cultivating Hemp
Hemp’s properties and requirements make it a very economical plant to cultivate. Here are some of them:
It grows quickly, within 4 months. This helps farmers plan their harvesting cycles more flexibly and allows them to use more crops on their land.
As a weed, it doesn’t need much water to thrive. Compared to cotton, water usage is less than half as much, per plant.
It grows densely and has higher pulp production per acre than many trees.
Can be used as a rotation crop, since it has nitrogen-fixation. This enriches the soil for other plants.
Hemp doesn’t require special topsoil, nutrients, or fertilizers for optimal growth. Unlike cotton, it is not very high maintenance.
All of its parts can find use in industry, from the inner core to outer fibers. Wastage is minimum, and farmers get to make the most of their investment.
The Cannabis sativa plant is one of the more resilient plants in nature, in terms of avoiding too much damage by pests. This also reduces the need for pesticides, which are quite expensive for farmers, as well as toxic to the surrounding animal chain.
These facts make it easier for farmers to cultivate the crop, as it becomes a favorable risk to weigh in on. Investing in a crop that has so many uses, as well as such a convenient growth cycle, is a no-brainer.
Hemp’s Use in the Clothing and Fashion Industry
Throughout history, it was used as a fabric and textile, due to the aforementioned legal reasons. Then cotton took over as the main organic source of clothing material in the modern era.
Hemp fabrics are derived from the bast fibers on the outer layer of the plant. These fibers are taken through a process of retting, breaking, scutching, hackling, roving, and spinning, to eventually create fabrics and textiles.
Here are some of their advantages:
Hemp fabrics are more durable than cotton and wool. This also means they are coarser and a little more uncomfortable. The softness does improve, however, with successive wash cycles, so this isn’t anything to worry about.
Cool & airy:
They do compensate for their slight coarseness by being very breathable—air passes through them easily, which cools down wearers immensely. This makes it a great option in warmer climates.
Hardy and tough material:
Hemp fibers are tougher than that of cotton. So clothes and textiles made from them last longer, thus conserving money, material, and reducing the carbon footprint.
Hemp fabrics are better at resisting lint and fuzz accumulating on its surface—a negative phenomenon called pilling—which makes it an attractive option for users.
Resistant to Microbes:
Hemp clothes, being tougher and of different material to other softer fabrics, are more resistant to microbes like bacteria and fungi. So clothes are less likely to catch bad odors from moisture degradation and mildew. They retain their freshness better.
Hemp clothes are a niche category nowadays, but the trend is catching on, as more people become environmentally conscious about the carbon footprint of the clothes industry.
The Effects of Hemp on the Fashion & Clothing Industry
More than just as a great fabric, hemp fabric production will have a positive effect on a lot of other facets of society. Growing hemp will have its direct and indirect effects on the fashion industry itself.
As an alternative to cotton, it could supplement the organic fashion industry and reduce the need for inorganic, non-biodegradable clothing material. Maximizing the organic sector of the clothing industry will keep the Earth cleaner in the years to come, as the climate change issue intensifies.
Biodegradable materials like hemp are not so severe in the environment. Often, used and discarded clothes are disposed of in landfills and/or burned.
Thus, if the clothes are made up of toxic inorganic plastics and such, they are released into the atmosphere or soil. Hemp then does not give out a significant amount of greenhouse gases as a result.
Could slow down Fast Fashion:
The fashion industry has gotten a bad rap, as of recently, due to reports of it being one of the most pollutive industries—with people buying and disposing of synthetic clothes far more frequently—and exploiting laborers in countries with lax labor laws.
The disposable income spent on clothes could reduce in time, as environmental awareness increases. And with better organic products like hemp on the horizon, customers will be encouraged to be more responsible.
When you take a bird’s eye view on the hemp issue, you can see why it is fast turning into a major industry in and of itself. And in fashion, it makes its statement.
Author Bio: Vishal Vivek, Co-founded the NGO Hemp Foundation to increase awareness about hemp which is the most misunderstood plant on the planet. He believes that we can fight climate change, water crisis, and plastic pollution with Hemp. Times Group recognized him as a legendary entrepreneur and published his biography in I Did IT- Vol 2 at the age of just 30!