It's time to shed your preconceived notions of what hemp is. Throw out those arcane thoughts of hemp twine bracelets and grown men with thick, tough dreads. After years of living in the shadows, hemp has recently jumped into the lime light.
Hemp is the same species as marijuana (Cannabis sativa) but contains little to no THC. Before the 1950s it was widely grown in America and used for nearly everything. In fact, Betsy Ross made the first American flag out of hemp.
But after the 1950's hemp's popularity dwindled due to its relation to marijuana, it's bolder more psychedelic cousin, and the increasing anti0drug sentiment. was grown widely in America before anti-drug sentiment helped make it unpopular in the 1950s. Today, however, the nation’s turning tide on marijuana means its sober cousin has increased in popularity.
I have been tracking it for years and consistently surprised by its countless benefits, but I thought it would be great to share our top three reasons why we think hemp is special and deserve more than it's 15 minutes of fame.
1. A Farmers Best Friend...Or Crop
Have you ever wondered how marijuana got the nickname weed? We think it originates from farmers experience with hemp back in the early days of the United States. Hemp is a resilient crop that uses very little water and grows in even the worst soil conditions, not to mention it is naturally resistant to pests and predators.
Due to its quick growth rate, hemp makes an excellent ground cover crops, or a crop that is grown in between other crops to cover the ground rapidly, leaving no room for weeds. This reduces the need for harmful herbicides and weed killers, which again can contaminate the surrounding environment. What’s more, while most cover crops are not valuable in themselves, hemp can be a “win-win” crop for farmers, thanks to its high market value.
Besides reducing the need for herbicides and pesticides, hemp is really beneficial to the soil. It's deep and dense roots help hold the soil together while pulling pollutants out of the soil without any ill effects. In addition, hemp produces high quantities of biomass (a matter which returns to the soil and decomposes, feeding nutrients back into the ground). For this reason, hemp is often grown in rotation with winter cereals, which require high-quality soil.
2. The Future of Sustainable Textiles
There are several things that make hemp a dream crop when it comes to sustainable textiles. Hemp requires minimal water when compared to competing textiles and grows at an astonishing rate of 12 inches per week.
That means with less water you can yield more material and fiber faster than other textile fibers like bamboo, cotton or wool.
Lastly, hemp consumes more CO2 per acre then trees. This is mainly due to the fact that hemp is dense and grows in much greater volume that a forest would. This could lead us to more easily create carbon neutral or carbon negative products.
3. Cotton's Worst Nemesis
I hate to say it, but cotton is overrated. It may look soft and fluffy in pictures but when it comes to creating sustainable products it leaves much to be desired. Cotton requires double the land and over 75% more water to produce than hemp, not to mention it's relatively loose root system can result in significant soil erosion. But what about the quality of the final textile?
I am not unlike many of you, I used to think hemp couldn't look better than a burlap sack. It wasn't until I started researching hemp and ordering samples that I learned hemp can look sophisticated and modern. Plus, it's the the strongest natural fiber! Making it perfect for apparel and footwear.