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Why Is Hemp Fibre a Better Choice Than Cotton for the Environment?

Cotton is one of the most widely used & produced fabrics across the world. Occupying nearly 2.5% of the world’s arable land, 15 million bales of cotton are produced each year to make 50% of all clothes across the globe. And yet, it is one of the most unsustainable fibres with a demand that continues to grow. So, how is hemp the better alternative? We’re about to list the reasons why.

Key Takeaways: 1. Hemp is not resource-hungry 

Cultivating just 1 kilogram of raw cotton takes up nearly 10,000 litres of water — this is quite a bit, especially when you consider that the material is used in most of the textiles produced globally and represents 90% of all-natural fibres used. In comparison, hemp fibre requires approximately 12-15 inches of rainfall each growing season or 3-6 ml of irrigation water per hectare in areas with low precipitation. Moreover, hemp is naturally resistant to pests which removes any need for pesticides. In contrast, cotton is notorious for using up over 16% of global insecticides and pesticides despite covering 2.5% of land worldwide.

2. Hemp restores the earth

Cotton is responsible for a ton of land loss and soil degradation. Why? It’s grown in warmer regions where the soil is often of poor quality with organic content less than 1%; this makes the soil vulnerable to erosion. This also encourages farmers to apply large amounts of fertilisers that lead to high salt levels in soil and render it useless for agriculture. 

Appropriately regarded as a ‘miracle plant,’ hemp is known for removing toxins from the soil while replenishing it with nutrients.  

In fact, research shows that hemp can be used to restore contaminated soils through ‘phytoremediation’ — a process that has proven successful in the early 90s where industrial hemp was planted in some of the polluted Ukrainian regions near the Chernobyl disaster where much of the land was rendered useless. The experiments showed that hemp helped remove radioactive elements from the soil. So while hemp that’s been planted near Chernobyl can not be used as textiles, food, or medicine, it can still be safely distilled into ethanol for use as a biofuel.

3. Hemp doesn’t emit carbon 

Rising greenhouse gas levels are already a life-threatening cause for concern, and cotton fibres are only adding to the problem. Globally cotton cultivation accounts for 220 million metric tons of CO2 per year. Hemp, on the other hand, acts as a carbon sink. One hectare of industrial hemp can absorb 22 tonnes of CO2 per hectare, giving hemp plants a vital role in reversing climate change.

Published by: Vibhuti Vazirani/ 2021-07-06

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