It’s Time For The Fitness Industry To Ditch Cotton And Switch To Hemp
Do you frequent the gym? If yes, you must have a vast collection of activewear. I know, I do.
Even if you don’t frequent the gym, there’s a high chance you have some activewear with you. You use it to go running, do yoga or just to make a quick stop at our local grocery store.
I understand that. Activewear is trendy, comfortable and figure-flattering. Who would want to restrict that to just the gym?
We have made activewear a part of our daily lives.
As per Cotton Incorporated’s Survey, 9 in 10 consumers claimed to wear activewear in activities unrelated to exercise. Due to the increasing demand, the sale of activewear has doubled when compared to non-active apparel, over the past several years.
Among nylon, polyester and cotton fabric there’s a high chance you’ll pick cotton because of its comfort. This is true for almost all consumers. Most of the athletic apparel is made from cotton, because consumers find it the most comfortable.
Synthetic fabric might cause irritation and chafing. While cotton is more comfortable and durable.
However, your cotton apparel comes at a great cost. The cost of our environment.
This may sound strange to you because when we think of cotton, we think non-toxic and natural. Especially because recent studies have found that sportswear from major brands contain hazardous chemicals, like Phthalates, PFCs, Dimethylformamide (DMF), Nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs), and Nonylphenols (NPs).
To reduce such concerns, many major brands such as Nike and Patagonia have made the shift to 100% organic cotton. These brands also want to reduce environmental harm by using organic cotton.
Organic cotton sounds better right? Less pesticides and harmful chemicals, less water for production. The organic systems help maintain soil fertility and aid a sustainable livelihood.
Well, yes organic cotton can be better, but is better good enough?
The answer is no. Let me tell you why.
Busting the myth of organic cotton: it is not as sustainable as you think
Non-organic cotton uses 5,000 gallons of water to produce two pounds of fabric. Let me put that in perspective. Your one cotton shirt can use up to 2,700 liters of water. However, 80% of organic cotton crops are rain-fed and can be grown using 91% less water than non-organic cotton.
Your cotton clothes use a quarter of the world’s pesticides. The runoff from these pesticides harms both the ecosystem and people. Organic cotton is cultivated without these pesticides, hence it can reduce water pollution by 98%.
Now, let’s talk about labor.
Many toxic chemicals are used in cultivation of traditional cotton. Your trendy cotton activewear poses a massive health risk to farmers around the world. It can cause cancer, neurological diseases, and reproductive complications. Organic cotton doesn’t use chemicals. By purchasing organic cotton, you support a far more environmentally conscious production method.
Organic cotton sounds like the perfect solution, doesn’t it?
Well, it’s not.
Organic cotton is not a miracle that can stop the environmental degradation. Unsustainable farming practices often offset these environmental perks of organic cotton.
It is very hard to locate the production methods of these brands, hence, you might just be getting ‘greenwashed.’ Meaning, the brands are tricking you into believing that they are more sustainable, than they actually are.
Moreover, organic cotton fields yield 40 percent less than conventional cotton. Hence, it uses more land and consequently more resources. So, it doesn’t really reduce water usage.
As per, Cotton Inc. we need 290 gallons of water to grow enough conventional, high-yield cotton to produce a T-shirt. Your same T-shirt when made from organic cotton requires about 660 gallons of water.
To increase harvest, farmers often have to invest more to ensure soil fertility. As organic cotton is chemical- free, the plant can be prone to pests. Hence, organic cotton becomes a huge financial risk to the farmers whose survival depended on their crop.
And even after that cultivation of cotton, your fabric has to be dyed. Dying uses chemicals and a lot of water.
So, unless you’re aware of each step of manufacturing and the process used, the ‘organic’ label is essentially meaningless in regard to sustainability.
Meet the solution, meet hemp
Hemp is a variety of the cannabis sativa plant. However, do not mistake hemp to be the same as marijuana.
Hemp can’t get you high. THC is responsible for marijuana’s mind-altering effects. Marijuana contains much more THC than hemp, while hemp has more CBD (cannabidiol),
Hemp is an eco-friendly and essentially zero- waste plant. Each part of the hemp plant can be put to some use.
Currently, hemp is being used in different markets. It is used in the food market, for construction to make composites, etc.
The major reason why hemp has gained such popularity is because it’s considered eco-friendly. Hemp is a low-input and high-yield crop. Moreover, it can absorb carbon dioxide from the air and maintain thermal balance.
Hemp is superior to cotton
- Hemp requires very less or no insecticides and pesticides. Cotton is responsible for using 25% of the world’s pesticides. This puts the farmers at risk and causes water pollution.
- Hemp is a high-yield crop. Cotton can yield only 1/3rd of the amount of fibre produced by hemp per hectare. So, your hemp clothes will require much less land compared to cotton apparels.
- Hemp fibers make superior textile than cotton. Hence, hemp is more durable. While your typical cotton T-shirt can last up to 10 years, hemp fabric is much more durable and can last double or triple that time.
- Hemp grows really fast. We can harvest hemp up to four times a year. You create the demand, we fulfil it.
- Hemp can be used as a rotation crop. It can be planted on infertile lands. The leaves and hurds can be ploughed back into the soil as fertilizer. This helps to replenish the soil fertility to help grow the next round of hemp crops.
Hemp is the miracle solution we’ve all been looking for
The most important demand you must have from your activewear is breathability and comfort.
No one wants to smell how sweaty you are. You don’t want to suffocate people with your stench.
You want your fabric to be comfortable, stretchable and low-maintenance. No one has the time to read and follow extra care instructions.
I hear all your demands. And I present to you my miracle solution, hemp activewear.
We separate the long strands of fibers that make up the stalk of the plant and spin the fibers to make a continuous thread. The threads are then woven together to make the hemp fabric.
Hemp fabric can be easily dyed with organic and all-natural dyes. The dyed fabric can then be stitched together to make your activewear.
- Hemp fabric gets softer with each wash. Given how often you need to wash your activewear, hemp activewear seems like the perfect fit.
- It is easy to wash and is low-maintenance.
- Your hemp fabric is lightweight, hence highly breathable. Wear it in the heat, workout for an hour, run your errands. You don’t have to worry. The fabric facilitates the passage of moisture from the skin to the atmosphere.
- Hemp fabric is also highly resistant to mold, mildew, and potentially harmful microbes.
- Hemp fabric also forms a UV shield around your skin to protect you from the sun. So, just go jogging, or take a walk in the sun. With hemp, you don’t have to worry.
- Lifting weights, stretching? Afraid you might cause a rip in your fabric? You don’t have to worry about that embarrassment with hemp fabric. Hemp is much stronger than cotton.
- Because hemp is all-natural, it is great for your skin.
- After your apparel is worn off, the fabric can easily be reused or recycled.
Compared to cotton, hemp is a premium fabric. So, enjoy your luxury while being sustainable.
Today, sustainability is not a choice. It has become a need.
We are all responsible to make choices that do not harm the environment.
Switching to hemp activewear is the simplest thing you can do. You do not have to sacrifice on the quality or style. Rather, you receive a better quality product.
You can create a demand for hemp activewear and encourage the big brands to turn to the only acceptable alternative, hemp.