Organic hemp is one of the most sustainable fibers that can be used from multiple sources, such as Textile Exchange and The Made-By Environmental Benchmark for Fibers. It is a natural plant fiber from the stems of the cannabis plant and requires little water to grow, replenishing soil nutrients to help improve soil health. Hemp fabric offers insulating, anti-radiation and antibacterial properties, making it an ideal choice for those with sensitive skin. It is biodegradable and one of the most resistant fabrics, with traces of its use dating back to ancient civilizations.
Hemp is also hypoallergenic and chemical-free, perfect for those with sensitive skin. It is the planet-friendly miracle fiber produced from the stem of the cannabis plant, using 50 percent less water than cotton. The Made-By Environmental Benchmark for Fibers gives non-organic hemp a “C” rating, while organic hemp gets an “A”, the best possible grade. Hemp was used to make clothes, ropes and candles in ancient times and even the Constitution of the United States was drafted on paper made of hemp.
The first flag of the United States was also made of hemp fabric. Hemp can be blended with other natural fibers to create fabrics with the durability of hemp and the softness of cotton or bamboo. In terms of sustainability, hemp is the least harmful to the environment. And once the water used in fiber processing is taken into account, the total water use for paddock hemp can be up to 4 times lower than that of cotton.
Brands such as Levi's and Eileen Fisher have begun to incorporate hemp into their collections by blending it with cotton to produce soft, portable products that are significantly better for the environment. However, there are still some challenges that need to be addressed in order for hemp to thrive. Brands cannot promote hemp products on social media due to Instagram, Twitter and Facebook restrictions on cannabis-related products. In addition, there are tools and methods to obtain higher quality hemp, but the entire hemp fiber industry still has a long way to grow.
Paul Dillinger, director of innovation at Levi's, spoke about the brand's plans to improve the quality of its cotton hemp so that, in the future, its hemp garments look like cotton. The great news is that growing hemp, if given the right care, can meet high global demands. The main producers of hemp are Europe, Canada and China but supporting it is essential for it to thrive. Hemp's nickname as the “cousin of marijuana” often distracts attention from the fabric's many beneficial uses but it is clear that this miracle fiber has a lot to offer in terms of sustainability.