Posted by Pooja Jha on February 26th, 2021


Cotton is a household staple in the present scenario due to its availability and cost. It makes up the majority of clothes in anyone’s closet, and for good reason. Cotton is cheap, widely available, and relatively comfortable. It can be made into a wide variety of products. Manufacturers use cotton for its obvious benefits, but there is a “darker” side to this fabric.

In fact, environmentalists are increasingly concerned about the role cotton is playing in the planet’s demise. As it turns out, growing cotton takes up quite a few resources. Hemp fabric on the other hand is a type of textile that is made using fibres from the stalks of the Cannabis sativa plant. This plant has been recognized as a source of extraordinarily tensile and durable textile fibres for millennia, but the psychoactive qualities of Cannabis sativa have recently made it harder for farmers to produce this immensely beneficial crop.  Once it is processed into fabric, hemp is has a similar texture to cotton, but it also feels somewhat like canvas.

Hemp fabric is not susceptible to shrinkage, and it is highly resistant to pilling. Since fibres from this plant are long and sturdy, hemp fabric is very soft, but it is also highly durable; while a typical cotton T-shirt lasts 10 years at the most, a hemp T-shirt may last double or triple that time. Some estimates suggest that hemp fabric is three times stronger than cotton fabric.

Proponents of hemp claim that this plant could solve quite a few environmental problems. Sadly, the plant’s benefits and uses have gone largely unnoticed for generations. Now that the 2018 Farm Bill has legalized hemp throughout the United States, however, it could be time to rethink our fashion choices.

Hemp vs. Cotton: A Brief History

To understand the hemp vs. cotton debate, you need to understand the contested history between these two textile crops. Both have a longstanding place in human history. Hemp has been around for millennia. It grows all over the planet, and it didn’t take long for ancient civilizations to realize its bountiful uses. Hemp is a sturdy, hardy plant. Its stalks are fibrous and thick, allowing it to be used in construction. The seeds are also highly nutritious, which is why many modern people use hemp seeds as part of the paleo diet and other nutrition plans. Experts estimate that hemp has been in usage since around 8,000 B.C. This is long before humans were cultivating plants themselves, and long before the invention of the technologies required to make clothes. Nevertheless, hemp stuck around with humanity, and we began to use it in different ways.

Pros & Cons of Hemp Clothing

As with everything in the world, there are pros and cons to hemp textiles. To make hemp clothing, manufacturers use the durable hemp fibres from the stalks and leaves of the plant. The qualities of these fibres dictate the characteristics of the final material, which can feel quite different from the cotton we are used to. These days, cotton tends to be mixed with various synthetic fibres and plastics, which may contribute to micro plastic pollution in the air we breathe. On the other hand, 100% hemp clothing is not hard to come by, meaning you know exactly what is in your outfit.

Let’s take a look at some of the other pros and cons of hemp clothing.

Hemp Clothing Pros

1. Environmentally friendly: Hemp grows densely, saving space in cultivation. One acre of hemp can produce 1500 pounds of fibre – three times the amount that cotton produces in the same area. Hemp can also reduce soil pollution as a bio-accumulator, and it uses drastically less water than cotton.

2. Becomes softer (and more comfortable) over time: With more use and washes, hemp actually grows softer and comfier without losing much of its integrity as a fabric. The same is true for cotton, but rather than maintaining its integrity, it tends to thin out and start falling apart.

3. Highly durable: Hemp fabric is durable – more so than cotton. It is less likely to succumb to wear and tear over time, meaning less consumerism over the long term.

4. Highly breathable: Hemp is said to be up to four times more absorbent than cotton. It wicks moisture away from the skin, keeping you from feeling sweaty and clammy. Also, the antibacterial properties might prevent body odour –   a major benefit for obvious reasons!

5. Holds colour: The absorbent qualities of hemp means that it holds colour better than cotton. While cotton clothes fade over time, hemp will retain its original colour for more or less the life of the fabric.

 Hemp Clothing Cons

1. Expensive: At the moment, the position place hemp has in the market means it is more expensive than cotton clothing. It is often ‘organic,’ and sadly, this label bears a higher price tag.

2. Creasing: The organic nature of hemp clothing means that these clothes usually aren’t supplemented with polyester fabric reinforcement. As a result, they can create a lot. Over time, creases can alter the shape of the garment.

Why Hemp is better than Cotton- for the environment?

Hemp clearly has a number of advantages over cotton, especially when it comes to the environment. The list of pros also outweighs the cons, suggesting that hemp is by and large a more beneficial plant. Before you jump the gun and decide that your entire closet needs to be hemp, however, pump your brakes just a bit. A lot of brands now sell cotton/hemp blends, which are far more economical in terms of price than 100% hemp clothing. Also, combining the benefits of both fabrics can amplify the advantages of each.

Hemp and cotton have a lot in common. Both have been used by humanity for thousands of years, and both can be used in textile production.

However, there are clear reasons why hemp is better than cotton. It is more environmental friendly to cultivate, and the fabric is generally more durable and gets softer over time. It can also retain colour better. For now, of course, cotton remains king of the textile industry. Hopefully, we will see more hemp garments in the future. As hemp use increases globally, however, you at least have the option to shop more sustainably.

Hemp vs. Cotton: Water Usage: Contribute to the environment

Cotton needs around 10,000 litres of water to produce 1kg of fibre; which is almost equivalent to a single T-shirt or pair of jeans, On average, something less than 2,700 litres of water is consumed by a human being in 3 years.

According to the research, cotton consumes 3% of water used in agriculture. The world’s cotton production, from 1997 to 2001, consumed 227 giga litres of water, that’s 227,000,000,000 litres. The conclusion is that cotton needs a lot of water to grow. An alternative is an organic cotton that needs less water but much more land than controversial industrial cotton.

Hemp in opposition to cotton, hemp needs around 2,300 litres of water for production of 1kg fibres. We can already conclude that hemp has also taken a victory here. Different varieties of hemp require different amounts of water for breeding. That quantity is still much smaller than in the case of cotton. It should be noted that irrigation of cannabis is mandatory unless you plant it by river or stream. Hemp is still a plant, and like every plant it requires water.

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Pooja Jha

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Pooja Jha
Joined: February 11th, 2021
Articles Posted: 5

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