It’s only pertinent that before we get down and dirty in the hemp vs cotton debate, we set some background for it.
Hemp, a much controversial plant is now getting a lot of recognition as more and more people are getting aware of its uses, benefits and the fact that it is completely eco friendly. After the ban of hemp in countries such as the US, there have been many attempts to find an alternative to this amazing plant but it was of no use. There was no one alternative which could replace hemp and finally US had to to remove the ban.
Over the time there were many fibres – natural and synthetic which tried to take over hemp but so far no such material could be found even after years of experiments and investment. The only thing that happened was, we lost more and more of our natural resources and contributed to the ever increasing pollution. Many businessmen supported the ban of hemp then as it meant more money in their pockets.
But now it’s high time we keep up the planet before ourselves. Hemp was tried to replace with cotton polyester and other fabrics but nothing could prove to be as versatile as hemp. Here, we do a thorough hemp vs cotton analysis.
1. Hemp is more versatile than cotton
Every part of hemp is usable whereas it is not the same with cotton. Hemp fiber can be used to make ropes, clothing and paper. Its seeds can be used to make milk, oil and other necessary products as they are rich in Omega 3s. It is a suitable alternative for vegans who find it hard to get Omega 3s from their diet. Its leaves can also be chewed or used to make juice.
On the other hand we see that cotton can only be used for clothing. There is no other purpose of cotton in anything but clothing. This highly reduces its versatility when compared to hemp.
2. Production of hemp consumes less energy than cotton
Production of raw materials in case of any textile consumes the most amount of energy though it highly depends on the method of production. Different types of production of one particular textile can increase or decrease the amount spent on it. More than half of the energy is spent on herbicides and pesticides for farming both hemp and cotton. Organic methods can reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
Although both hemp and cotton take the same amount of energy the yield per acre of cotton is half of what hemp produces. Moreover if the farmers stop using any organic herbicides and pesticides for the growth of cotton and hemp, cotton is is clearly the loser as it can barely save itself from pests which can destroy the crop completely.
3. Hemp can absorb more moisture
One thing for which cotton is preferred over other fabrics is its breathability factor. Cotton absorbs all the moisture from your body and keeps it cool and eliminates all body odour.
The thing that most people don’t know about hemp is that it can be more breathable than cotton or any other fabric. Also it can absorb more moisture in lesser time. One thing that hemp cannot do is that it cannot take away the odour.
However, what makes it a star is its antibacterial properties which cotton lacks. This means that cotton can allow the growth of bacteria and different kinds of fungi which hemp would not entertain. This makes hemp a better option compared to cotton as it will not bother your skin and keep it safe.
4. Hemp contributes more to the environment
We can clearly say that hemp is much more eco-friendly compared to other fibres, especially cotton. The only time when hemp can prove to be hazardous is when it is treated with nitrogen pesticides, thereby, polluting the land and the water.
In most situations, hemp is really useful for the environment. Being carbon neutral or carbon negative, hemp restores nutrients back to the soil and makes it fertile and rich in nutrients. It is capable of breathing in large amounts of carbon dioxide and gives out fresh oxygen. This can considerably absorb the carbon emissions from the air and improve its quality.
Hemp requires little or no fertilizers during the retting process. This process is used to separate the fibre from the stock, thereby, returning 70% of the nutrients back to the soil. Also, it has extremely long roots that hold the soil and prevent it from erosion.
5. Hemp requires less water than cotton
Cotton requires huge amounts of water to grow. The countries and states which produce cotton are slowly getting desertified and running out of water. It takes up to 14,000 gallons to cultivate cotton which is a lot. The result – diminishing freshwater reservoirs and other sources of water. Also, they need a huge amount of pesticides to disinfect cotton plants which makes it a complete loser.
On the other hand, hemp requires half the amount of water to produce the same amount of cotton. It does not need a lot of time to grow, unlike cotton. This increases its yield even more.
Same amount of land can produce up to 250 times more hemp on the same land stretch as cotton would take. Also being self sustaining in nature, it requires little or no pesticides and preserves the environment greatly. This can be a boon to countries that are running out of water by replacing the growth of cotton with hemp.
6. Hemp can replace cotton in terms of sustainability and comfortability
Cotton is one of the softest materials on earth. It is comfortable to wear and only get softer with every wash. After a point of time it gets so soft that all you need is a piece of cotton clothing.
However when the cotton reaches is softest phase it loses out on all its fibres and is probably time to discard that very piece of clothing. This means despite being comfortable cotton is surely not the most sustainable.
While most of you know that cotton is the most comfortable material what you would be surprised to know that hemp can be extremely comfortable as well. When it comes to hemp its fibre is stronger but as natural as cotton itself.
Continuous washing does not affect the fibres of hemp as much as it affects cotton. Also clothes made from hemp get softer with every wash but relatively less than cotton. Hemp is more durable and has more endurance than cotton. The strength and sensibility of hemp is way more than cotton but it provides the same amount of comfort. We can safely say that in terms of clothing too hemp is by far a better option.
7. Hemp impacts the lives of humans and animals less than cotton
Maybe not one of the primary effects but farming crops can adversely affect the lives of humans and animals. It is a well-known fact that the production of cotton requires a lot of pesticides. This means it contaminates the soil and the water bodies surrounding it which can lead to several diseases to both humans and animals.
Hemp, on the other hand, takes care of itself and needs no pesticides to grow. Contrary to cotton hemp only contributes to the soil and preserves water.
So, that’s our take on the hemp vs coton debate. Taking into account all the facts stated above, we can say that there’s clear winner- hemp and it surely is capable to replace cotton anytime soon.