Cultivation of cotton is killing the planet. It is high time that cotton clothing is replaced with a more sustainable alternative. Hemp is a sustainable crop whose durability can greatly reduce the production of cotton
We all love clothes. Clothing does more than just covering our body. It is an important part of our culture and crucial to our self-expression.
Our style is how we retain our individuality, how we distinguish ourselves from others.
Hence, your cupboards like mine must be filled with different items of clothing for different occasions. Summer, winter, spring, casual, activewear, night outs, etc.; there are so many occasions in life, and for each one, we need a different outfit.
As a result, pollution owing to textile and textile waste has become a great threat to the environment.
We don’t realize the impact of our clothes on the environment.
- Textile production is responsible for about 20% of global clean water pollution from dyeing and finishing products.
- Fashion industry is responsible for 10% of global carbon emissions
- According to the European Environment Agency, in 2017 in Europe textile purchases generated about 654 kg of carbon dioxide emissions per person.
- Because clothing trends change so fast, there are more unwanted clothes than ever. No one has the time to donate, so we pick the easier option, to throw away clothes. Even if you donate clothes, most of the clothes do not end up going to the poor and being reused. These clothes are sent to third-world countries where they are incinerated.
A major reason why we’re throwing away clothes and purchasing more is because clothes don’t last. Their colors fade, they tear easily, or they are just too hard to maintain.
Cotton is draining our resources
Most of our textile is cotton. If you didn’t know already, cotton, although a natural fiber is extremely taxing for the environment.
Cotton clothing plays a huge role in these staggering statistics of the textile industry.
Cultivating cotton requires a lot of water. One cotton shirt can use more than 5000 gallons of water.
- Cotton relies heavily on pesticides. Globally, 25% of the pesticides go to the cultivation of cotton. These pesticides then wash off to unintended areas and mix with our land and water resources which can cause long-term health issues. More than 10,000 US farmers die each year from cancers related to such chemicals.
- These chemicals generally stay in the fabric after production and are released over the lifespan of your clothing. Hence, cotton clothing can be toxic for your skin.
- Organic cotton which is usually thought of as eco-friendly because it uses no pesticides, also heavily depletes our resources. The yield of organic cotton is much lower than traditional cotton, hence, it requires more water and more land to produce the same amount of fabric as traditional cotton. Moreover, most benefits of organic cotton are offset due to unsustainable farming practices.
- Cotton cultivation causes soil degradation and erosion as well as loss of forest area and other habitats.
- Cotton production is responsible for the emission of 220 million tons of carbon dioxide annually.
The reason we’re throwing away clothes is cotton
Since we’re sacrificing so much to produce cotton, the fabric should ideally be perfect, something that maybe lasts forever. Or else, what’s the point of it all?
What are we really getting in return? Are cotton clothes durable?
The answer is no.
The durability of clothing refers to the service life and the elements that cause them to be no longer wearable.
- Cotton clothing has poor elasticity. Your cotton clothes will most likely shrink after a spin in the washing machine. And because cotton also has poor resiliency, your clothes won’t return to their original shape. Hence, your clothing ends up in your trash.
- Cotton is a natural fiber, hence it risks damage from mildew.
- Unless you take extra care of your cotton clothing, the dyes in these clothes can fade in the washer and dryer.
- Cotton clothing wrinkles easily, so you have to iron it often. High heat then sets the fibers and the garment shrinks. And just like that, your clothing becomes useless.
Cotton is hard to maintain and you’re likely to discard your cotton clothing after you wear it twice or thrice.
Hemp is the alternative to cotton
To solve this problem of wastage, we need another raw material which is eco-friendly and superior to cotton and at the same time looks just as fashionable.
Sounds impossible, doesn’t it?
We already have that raw material, hemp.
Hemp, also known as industrial hemp, is a variety of Cannabis sativa that has various uses. It can be used in construction, for nutrition in the form of hemp seeds and even to extract natural fibers.
Hemp itself is a zero-waste plant because each part of the plant from the leaves to the seeds have some commercial use.
I understand, if you’re feeling unsure about hemp because it is a variety of Cannabis sativa from which cannabis as a drug is obtained. However, hemp causes no psychoactive effects. This is because hemp has lower concentrations of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and higher concentrations of cannabidiol (CBD).
Hemp can heal the environment
The reason why I am so focused on hemp is that unlike cotton, it is eco-friendly.
- Hemp is a low-input and high-yield crop. Cotton yields only 1/3rd of the amount of fiber produced by hemp per hectare. Moreover, hemp requires much less water and no chemicals.
- 300-500 liters of water to produce 1kg of dry hemp matter, whereas 10,000 liters of water is required to produce 1kg of cotton.
- Because so many pesticides are used in growing cotton, the quality of soil deteriorates. Hemp revitalizes the soil. Hence, hemp can be grown on infertile lands and be used to improve the quality of soil.
- Hemp also consumes a lot of carbon dioxide from the air and hence helps restore thermal balance. Each tonne of hemp can eliminate 1.63 tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere.
- Hemp requires minimal effort from the farmers, as it does not need much care to be cultivated.
The stalk of the hemp plant can be used to extract fibers which can be then converted into threads that can be woven into hemp fabric.
Why you don’t need to discard hemp clothing as often
- Hemp fabric does not wear out with time, rather it softens with time. So, as time passes rather than discarding your hemp clothing, you’re likely to wear it even more often.
- Hemp clothes are also three times stronger than cotton clothes. You don’t have to worry about tears or rough use.
- Hemp fibers also make lighter clothes. So, when you’re traveling you can pack more clothes without worrying about paying extra at the airport.
- Hemp clothes are very easy to maintain. They require no additional care, so when you throw them into the washing machine you don’t have to worry about shrinkage.
- You want to protect your skin? Hemp clothes are anti-microbial. This helps prevent the growth of mildew and molds.
- Hemp cloth can protect the skin from UV rays, at the same time hemp clothes are highly breathable. So, you don’t have to worry about odour. The next time you go running, make hemp clothing for your buddy.
Most importantly, if you take proper care of your cotton clothes, they can last upto 10 years. Hemp clothing can last twice or thrice the amount.
Hemp clothes also eliminate the usual problems like shrinking and tears which makes you discard clothes. You have no need to purchase hemp clothing over and over again as they will last you a long time.
As per the Center for Sustainable Systems, for every 10% of textile waste reduction, you can avoid 1,200 pounds of CO₂ emissions.
As per, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 17 million tons of textile waste were generated in 2018. Only 2.5 million tons of this waste was recycled. Hemp clothing is also easy to recycle.
But, what is important is that we are consuming and discarding clothes without thinking about the bigger picture of environmental degradation.
The average American purchases about 70 pieces of clothing each year, and they discard it after wearing it twice or thrice.
Hemp is our miracle solution. Hemp clothing lasts very long, it is one of the strongest and most durable organic fibers available today, Hence, it eliminates the need to buy more clothes and reduces the cultivation of cotton, sparing the environmental horrors.
Given the environmental climate, it is your duty to make the change and switch to hemp clothing.