Q&A: Why should I wear hemp clothing?
May 18, 2019
Q: What's the big deal with hemp clothing? How is it any better than other fabrics?
A: If you’re looking for a way to reduce your carbon footprint, and you’re concerned about the way your clothing choices can impact the environment, choosing to wear hemp clothing makes sense. Compared to cotton, hemp:
- — Requires half the amount of water to grow.
- — Doesn’t deplete the soil in which it grows, which means more crop cycles.
- — Doesn’t require the pesticides necessary for cotton.
Environmentally, it’s also a much better option than synthetic fabrics — like your lycra gym clothes — which require more energy to produce, and are more difficult, if not impossible, to recycle. There's also the serious issue of microfiber pollution.
Q: What’s wrong with polyester and microfibers?
A: Synthetic fabrics including polyester, acrylic and lycra are made of tiny plastic fibers. When you wash your polyester clothing, hundreds of thousands of these microscopic fibers fly off your clothes. These fibers are too small to be caught in any filter, so they eventually end up in rivers, lakes and the ocean, where they absorb other pollutants and last for hundreds of years. We all know how the water cycle and food chain work, so the question is, do we really want tiny strands of toxic plastic in the fish we eat and the water we drink?
Q: Is microfiber pollution something we should be concerned about, or is it just a theory?
Microfiber pollution is real, and scientists have documented how these tiny fibers are spreading deadly toxins into the food chain. As noted in a post at GreenBiz.com:
There is concern about impacts due to chemicals that attach themselves to microfibers, too. Rochman fed fish microplastic pellets that had absorbed toxins via prolonged exposure to seawater near San Diego. The fish accumulated the chemicals — which included polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), all known carcinogens — and suffered liver toxicity and other pathological changes.
Hard to believe this is happening, right? Here's a video from The Story of Stuff that explains microfiber pollution really well:
Q: Why spend $35 or more on a hemp t-shirt when you can easily buy a cotton or polyester t-shirt for for $10 or less?
A: For many people, the microfiber pollution mentioned above is going to rule out polyester. Cotton is more resource-intensive than hemp, requiring more water, pesticides and growing time. Hemp is a more sustainable crop to grow, and as a fabric it has antimicrobial, anti-bacterial, moisture-wicking properties and is super-soft and breathable. Hemp clothing is also more durable and breathable than cotton or polyester.
Q: How does wearing hemp clothing help help solve the problem of microfibers in the environment?
A: According to GreenPeace, one article of polyester clothing can release up to 700,000 microfibers every time you wash it. If you have only a half dozen articles of polyester clothing, you could be releasing millions of microfibers into the environment with every load of laundry. Hemp is a sustainable crop. When you wear hemp clothing, you’re helping to solve the microfiber problem.
Q: Why is hemp clothing so expensive?
A: Hemp clothing is relatively expensive right now simply because of supply and demand: Garments made of hemp are rare because not enough companies are producing hemp clothing yet. Why not? Hemp has always been a versatile textile, but it was outlawed in the United States until the passage of the Farm Bill in 2018. Because of this backward policy, no one could legally grow hemp in the U.S., so any hemp clothing in the U.S. was imported. Now that hemp is once again legal to grow in the country, more companies are getting involved in bringing hemp clothing to market.
As more people learn of the benefits of hemp clothing and begin to buy and wear it, we can expect that more manufacturers will enter the market, there will be more competition, manufacturing will scale up and the prices of hemp clothing will go down. So if you want hemp clothing to get more affordable, buy a hemp shirt and ask your friends and family to do the same.
Q: Besides buying clothing made from natural fibers — cotton, linen, hemp, silk — what else can I do to address the issue of microfiber pollution?
You can sign the Stop Microfiber Plastic Pollution petition here. You could also use a Cora Ball, which goes into your washing machine and catches about 26 percent of microfibers, using the same principles as coral reefs; or the GuppyFriend, a microfiber-catching bag into which you place your polyester clothes when you wash them.
Q: Where can I buy hemp clothing?
A: Companies selling hemp clothing include Patagonia; Washington-state based Jungmaven; out of Los Angeles, Recreator; and hemp underwear provider Wama.
UPDATE: We recently discovered 55% hemp, 45% cotton t-shirts from Greenz Supply. At $35, they are less expensive than many hemp shirts on the market, and we like the way they look and fit. Catch our podcast interview with Greenz Supply founder Skylar Lysaker.