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Hemp vs. Cotton: Which is Better for the Planet?

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Hemp fiber predates cotton by several centuries. Just because we are using mostly cotton now doesn’t mean that it is the superior textile for clothing. Hemp fiber is actually more durable, and doesn’t wear out like its cotton counterpart.

Another interesting aspect of hemp fiber is that it is incredibly durable, and archeologists have actually found hemp clothing in Egyptian tombs – intact as the day they were made – centuries after they were produced for royalty and noblemen in the ancient civilization.

One of the things that made hemp fiber less desirable for producing clothing was its coarseness. Lignin, a type of natural glue that bound fibers together, was responsible for this coarseness.

Before, people could remove the lignin, but this resulted in weaker fabrics. It was only in recent years that an enzyme was developed for industrial application that allowed the degumming to take place without weakening the constitution of the hemp fibers.

The more hemp fibers you add to the fabric, the softer the end product gets. Luckily, hemp is relatively cheap to produce, and acres of industrial hemp can translate to a lot of usable fiber for clothing.

But which is better for the planet?

The short answer is hemp, and here are the reasons why industrial hemp is a better choice over conventional cotton crops:

1. Industrial hemp produces more than double the amount of fiber as cotton per acre of crop. That’s 250% production per acre compared to cotton. Compared to flax, you get a mind-boggling 600% more usable hemp fiber for every acre of land. So in terms of profitability for farmers, the answer is quite clear which crop brings more profit.

2. Hemp can be cultivated in almost any location, as long as the weather is not too warm. Tropical countries can easily grow hemp at higher elevations, where the ideal temperature for growing Cannabis sativa is attained.

3. Industrial hemp is known for its legendary root system, which is actually a boon for farmers and the land itself. Extensive and robust root systems can help aerate the soil and reintroduce organic matter to it, conditioning the soil for the next growing season.

4. Industrial hemp is known for leaf shedding as it matures, which means it gives back to the soil as much as it takes.

This means the soil will not be burnt out after each growing season, which is good news for farmers, who wouldn’t want to face the consequences of desertification as a result of bad agricultural methods.

Hemp is so good for the land that it is common for tracts of land to be able to sustain the production of this single crop for more than ten decades.

5. This crop requires lower quantities of herbicides and pesticides on the whole, and it has been known to hold its own against weeds and other plant pests. This means cultivating hemp is actually good for the farmer, too.

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