Is Hemp Really That Sustainable? Here’s The Truth

Is Hemp Really That Sustainable Here’s The Truth

It’s no secret that the fast fashion industry is one of the biggest contributors to climate change. As a result, more and more fashion companies are using eco-friendly alternatives to textiles that otherwise impact the environment – whether it’s for their own sustainable incentives or for the sake of capitalism. 

Hemp fiber is one of the leading greener alternatives to common fabrics such as polyester. This natural plant fiber is said to be the least harmful to the environment. Not only this, but hemp fiber is one of the strongest textile fabrics, allowing clothes to remain intact for longer. 

Problem is, it’s normal (and sensible) to be skeptical about the sustainability of so-called “eco-friendly” fashion textiles. It’s not always clear whether a fashion brand uses textiles like hemp for the sake of the environment, or purely for their own financial gain. 

So, is hemp really that sustainable? Here’s the truth. 

What Is Hemp?

Firstly, let’s take a look at what hemp actually is. Hemp is a natural plant fiber derived from the stems of a cannabis plant. While hemp is harvested from the same plant that produces marijuana, the processing of hemp ensures that the THC potency level remains under 0.3 percent. 

This also means that hemp doesn’t smell like marijuana. 

Interestingly, cultivating hemp for textile use isn’t a modern practice. Throughout the 16th and 18th centuries, hemp and flax were the leading fiber crops in North America, Asia, and Europe. However, hemp couldn’t compete with cotton, so it’s only ever been used as a sustainable last resort. 

Is Hemp Really That Sustainable?

Yes, hemp really is that sustainable! Hemp is considered sustainable for a variety of reasons, most notably because it is a renewable fiber that can be grown quickly in a range of climates. 

As it’s not man-made, and instead is harvested from a cannabis plant, it does not negatively impact the environment. 

Here are the key reasons why hemp is sustainable. 

Hemp Requires Less Water

One of the main reasons why fabrics such as polyester, nylon, cotton, and rayon are so unsustainable is because they require a lot of water during the manufacturing process. 

Hemp, on the other hand, requires little water and no extra irrigation. Interestingly, the water used for paddock-retted hemp is usually up to 4 times less than the water required for fabrics such as cotton. 

This also means that hemp is the ideal fabric to wear during summer, as it absorbs more moisture than other fabrics such as cotton. It’s a breathable fabric, and its absorption abilities means that it reduces perspiration without making your clothes feel wet, sticky, or heavy. 

Hemp Promotes Soil Health

Hemp is good for the soil, as the root system reduces soil erosion. As a result, the soil is given replenishment through essential nutrients, therefore leaving a positive impact on the soil. It typically returns 60-70% of the nutrients it uses from soil. 

When the soil is replenished, the soil works to capture carbon from the atmosphere. 

In some farms, hemp is grown on land as a preventative measure to remove pollutants including mercury and zinc. 

Also, hemp doesn’t need a large amount of land to cultivate. It typically produces up to double the yield of fiber per hectare than cotton, and cannabis plants can be grown in any climate. 

Hemp Requires No Chemicals

Hemp is naturally disease-resistant, meaning it does not require the inclusion of herbicides, fungicides, and pesticides to combat common diseases. While these chemicals are good for destroying diseases, they can be harmful to the soil and local environment. 

Hemp is also a dense and fast-growing plant that almost always wins against competing plants. This is

Hemp Is Zero Waste

A little known fact about hemp is that every part of the cannabis plant can be used by humans. This includes everything from the fiber to be used for clothes, the leaves to be used recreationally, and the seeds. 

Hemp seeds are known as a superfood that boast a rich nutritional profile, and are consumed to improve skin conditions, boost heart health, and protect the brain. The seeds are even used as a derivative for hemp oil, which is used as a biodiesel and oil for lamp lights. 

Is Hemp Really That Sustainable Here’s The Truth

Hemp Is Carbon Positive

Hemp is often grown industrially because it is proven to absorb more carbon than any forest or commercial crop. This makes hemp a sustainable and environmentally-friendly alternative to cutting down mass forests – though there is still a long way to go with this. 

How Is Hemp Not Sustainable?

For the most part, hemp is a sustainable fabric. However, there is one key factor that might make some hemp fabrics unsustainable. 

While hemp can be processed organically with no chemicals, many companies will produce it chemically. This process is intensive on the environment, but it’s substantially cheaper and quicker to complete. 

Hemp fabric that has undergone this process is labelled “hemp viscose”, after the toxic chemical regular viscose which is often used in the harmful process. 

Pros And Cons Of Hemp For Fashion

As with any fabric, there are pros and cons to hemp. For the most-part, however, hemp is considered one of the most eco-friendly and sustainable fabrics to be used in the fashion industry. 

When it comes to the fashion industry, fast fashion is the biggest contributor to climate change. Trends go in and out of style within a matter of days, so companies make up for this demand by mass-producing cheaply-made clothes that don’t last long. 

Hemp is a great alternative to cheap fabrics like polyester, which are bound to develop wear and tear faster than hemp. Hemp is surprisingly durable, and can last a long time without degrading – even when it becomes softer with every wash. 

This is another example of hemp’s sustainability, as hemp clothes last way longer than polyester clothes. 

Not only this, but organic hemp fiber is 100% biodegradable. This means that when the clothes can no longer be worn, the fabric can be composted. 

Plus, hemp is hypoallergenic, making it suitable for people with sensitive skin. 

However, there are some downsides to hemp fabric. Firstly, the reason why hemp isn’t used by all clothing brands is because there is a constrained supply of hemp. 

There are less like 1 million acres of hemp in the world compared to 33 million acres of cotton. So, you can guess who fast fashion companies will opt for cotton over hemp. 

While hemp is biodegradable, this only counts for organic hemp. Hemp is quite a rough fabric, so it’s often combined with synthetic fibers to soften the fabric. This lessens the fiber’s biodegradability. 

Lastly, pure hemp fabric doesn’t smell great, nor is it completely white like cotton. To combat the smell and make it appear whiter, hemp requires a lot of bleach to make the fabric usable for clothes. 


So, there you have it! For the most part, hemp is a really sustainable and eco-friendly fabric that is beneficial to the environment and can last a long time. Just make sure to avoid items labelled “hemp viscose”, as this indicates that the hemp went through an intensive process that doesn’t benefit the environment. 

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