Clothing production is one of the top polluters of the world and many claim the apparel industry is the second largest industrial polluter, second only to oil. This is a very big deal and unfortunately most of the world is not aware of this statistic. Many who are aware have been switching to sustainable fashion and choosing to only wear clothes made from sustainable materials. However, sustainable fashion is still a business and as the industry grows you see more and more fashion brands claiming to be sustainable when in reality it may not be 100% true.
It is very important to learn what are the most sustainable fabric options and start your shopping from there. When you search for sustainable clothing you will see a lot of organic cotton, bamboo, linen, lyocell and many recycled synthetics like recycled polyester, recycled nylon, etc. Each of these materials have different levels of sustainability and it is good to know which is more sustainable than the other. Most importantly, it is good to know which fabric material is the most sustainable fabric of them all. Is hemp the most sustainable fabric? Let’s do a brief comparison to find out!
Organic Cotton vs Hemp
Conventional cotton is the single largest pesticide consuming crop so it is always a smart idea to go with organic cotton over cotton. Organic cotton is grown without the use of any pesticides or any other chemicals which is huge! Organic cotton not grown with the use of pesticides may be the #1 benefit to switching to organic cotton. But unfortunately the organic cotton benefits stop there.
Both organic cotton and conventional cotton are extremely demanding of the environment as it needs a ton of water to grow and depletes the soil that it is grown on.
Hemp needs 0 pesticides or chemicals to grow and uses about half the water needed to grow organic cotton. Both hemp and organic cotton are biodegradable.
Winner = Hemp
Bamboo vs Hemp
First, bamboo fabric doesn’t exist! Yes, you heard right, bamboo fabric does not exist! Shocking I know, but if you test any of your “sustainable bamboo” clothing in a lab, the lab test will not say it is bamboo but rather say it is rayon. So in reality, all bamboo fabrics are rayon and not bamboo. This is why you will see many bamboo clothing brands sugar coat it by saying, “Rayon from Bamboo”. Don’t get bamboozled.
Bamboo clothing is not all bad. In fact, bamboo is the fastest growing plant in the world. Bamboo does not require any pesticides or chemicals to grow and uses much less water than cotton and is totally biodegradable. This means, the farming process of bamboo is super sustainable which is why bamboo clothing still remains part of the sustainable fashion niche. The comfort and softness of bamboo fabric are also unmatched. However, the sustainability of bamboo stops at cultivation.
After bamboo is cut down it needs to be processed into a yarn to be knitted into a fabric. In order to do so it must go through a process which is called viscose. This is where it all goes downhill and super fast for bamboo. The viscose process is extremely chemically infused and the end result as we mentioned isn’t a bamboo fabric but rather rayon. This viscose process strips bamboo of all of its sustainability. Here is a chart from Made-By that ranks it on the lowest spectrum for sustainability.
Here is a good read by FTC if you’d like to learn more about bamboo: Have You Been Bamboozled?
Bamboo beats hemp as the fastest growing plant in the world. Both bamboo and hemp use very little water to grow and helps replenish the soil it was grown on. However, that is where the sustainability of bamboo stops and hemp thrives.
Winner = Hemp
Recycled Synthetics vs Hemp
Synthetic materials such as polyester or nylon are very common throughout the world, however they are man made fibers deriving from oil. This would probably make synthetic materials the least sustainable material. In reality, synthetics are plastic. Do you want to wear plastic as clothing?
Now the reality is, our world is full of plastics and synthetic materials and they are not biodegradable. This means once created, they are here to stay forever. To lessen the damage synthetics do it is a very good idea to reuse them and create clothing from recycled polyester or recycled nylon, etc. This of course, lessens the damage synthetics do to our environment but it doesn’t take away from the fact that they are still made from oil and will never biodegrade.
Without a doubt the Winner is… Hemp!
Linen vs Hemp
If there was one material that comes close to the sustainability of hemp, that would be linen. Linen is a natural fiber which stems from the flax plant. Many times linen can be mistaken for hemp as it has a lot of the same features and both come from the family of bast fibers. Linen comes with many of the sustainable benefits that hemp does, and are very comparable. However, where they differentiate is in the agriculture arena.
Hemp has a fiber yield that is sometimes double that of which linen can produce. Hemp is also better for the soil and is sometimes grown the year prior to a flax crop like linen to keep the land free of weeds and in good condition. Hemp can also be grown in any season and always be replenishing the soil.
Winner = Hemp
In conclusion, Is hemp the most sustainable fabric? Yes! Hemp takes the lead as being the #1 most sustainable fabric! What does this mean for you as a conscious consumer? Next time you need some new clothes, start your search with hemp clothing. When you find the hemp clothing item you’d like, verify if the brand has sourced their hemp from GOTS certified suppliers to ensure the organic status of the hemp fabric. Once you found the hemp clothing item you’d like and it is also GOTS certified, buy it!
Are you ready to make the full switch to hemp clothing? Start with the clothing item that is closest to your body and counts most, your underwear! Hemp Underwear can protect you privates the most natural way as it is naturally anti-microbial, anti-bacterial with anti-odor properties. Replace all of your old stinky undies in your underwear drawer with your new Hemp Boxer Briefs or Hemp Panties. Next, search for hemp socks, t-shirts, jackets, sweaters, etc. Finally, make the full switch to hemp clothing knowing you have done a great deed in leaving the world a much cleaner place.