The Vital Transition: Cotton to Hemp within the Fashion Industries
stepping towards the clothing revolution
The history of hemp, also known as cannabis, can be traced as far back as 8,000 B.C. Hemp was used for ropes, various textiles, and medicine. Hemp was extremely popular, until the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 was enforced. The criminalization of hemp resulted in higher crime rates, limitation of medicine, and a decline in the economy. The industrial crop has been a controversial topic ever since it has been outlawed. With the legalization of hemp in several states, people are protesting for widespread legalization of the plant. When given the power, hemp has many achievements. Hemp has been known for providing sustainability, its durable fibers, and its involvement within the movement of waste regulation.
Urbanization, development, and industrialization are all legendary aspects of shaping today's society, but they have also contributed to the condition of the environment. In this time of age, goods are produced at a higher and faster rate than ever before. Specifically, clothing is one of the most manufactured goods. Stacey Howell, author of the article “How Much of the World’s Clothing is Made from Cotton,” provides the statistic that 75% of clothes are made from cotton. Cotton, which has been the matriarch for the clothing industries, is not as sustainable as it seems. Kentucky Hempsters, an organization in favor of the legalization of hemp, states in their article that cotton uses 16% of the world’s pesticides, which its unsafe use of chemicals severely impacts ecosystems that receive runoff from farms, decreasing animal fertility and freshwater biodiversity. Fast fashion is one of the most popular ways of spending, which demands a vast supply. Kentucky Hempsters support,“It takes more than 5,000 gallons to produce two pounds of cotton, which equals out to be one t-shirt and jeans.” It is also reinforced in their article that it only takes 300-500 gallons of water to produce two pounds of dry hemp matter. Overall, hemp conserves 30% more water than cotton does (Kentucky Hempsters). As well as replenishing the water, hemp also gives back to the soil. Hemp reduces the amount of unwanted weeds and also requires less pesticides than cotton. Furthermore, an extensive amount of land is needed to grow cotton, and a new field at that. Crop rotation is not essential to hemp and can be grown in the exact same location for years. Kentucky Hempsters reinforce, “Going organic can cut down on more than one half of the energy in farming either product, but the yield per acre drops due to the inverse relationship between chemical use and land requirements, so hemp farming can produce better yield with less land even if it’s using similar amounts of energy as cotton farming.” There are arguments on whether growing organic cotton would be the proper remedy, but hemp is still proven to be the superior plant. Joe Martino, author of the article “Hemp vs. Cotton: The Ultimate Showdown,” educates readers on why there is rejection towards growing organic cotton. When producing organic cotton, the dilemma is the yield (Martino). The result of organic cotton is merely an increase in expenses, when it is unnecessary. “Changes in Hemp Secondary Fiber Production Related to Technical Fiber Variability Revealed by Light Microscopy and Attenuated Total Reflectance Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy” is an educational resource depicting the importance on switching from cotton to hemp, written by Eva Tendura and others. The article affirms that the natural fibers contribute to lower density of production, which in itself leads into eco-friendly decisions (Tendero et al.). Essentially, hemp is a sustainable, enduring crop that should be the first option when manufacturing clothing.
As well as giving back to the environment, hemp’s material is sturdy and durable. Kentucky Hempsters report that hemp can be utilized for various textiles: “Its fiber can be woven into light materials for clothing, durable textiles for commercial industrial purposes, and even into very strong ropes and cables for heavy lifting and pulling.” With the replacement of these materials with hemp, the value and endurance in the product is increased. This being said, there is a cut back on purchasing the materials needed to manufacture these goods. Kentucky Hempsters also claims that (unlike cotton) the fabric of hemp is not believed to deteriorate over time, but instead soften. With modern technology, methods to making hemp clothing more comfortable have been discovered. The materials are woven in a way in which the fibers are not damaged, but it is not as course. Hemp clothing was once known to feel itchy, but with trial and error, the medium is now more pleasant for consumers. The more the clothing is washed, the softer its material is.The article “Green Thinking but Thoughtless Buying? An Empirical of the Value Attitude- Behavior Hierarchy in Sustainable Clothing,” written by Kathleen Jacobs and others, implies that the switch to purchasing clothing that is more durable is important, so that there is less money invested into the fast fashion industry (Jacobs et. al 1157). The availability of sustainable clothing in stores should be present, so that customers are less willing to only shop online and through catalogues (Jacobs et al. 1165). Substantially, another reason hemp should be enforced is because of its long lasting materials, which can result in the decrease of consumer spending within the fast fashion industries.
Corporations are responsible for most of the output of waste. Jason M. Everett, author of Sustainable Living, proclaims that the wide range of disposable products including: metals, paper and paper products, food scraps, glass trimmings amongst other yard waste, glass, plastics, and textiles have contributed to the amount of waste generated (621). Fast fashion is accountable for chunk of the waste produced in the world. Fast fashion is defined as the inexpensive mass production of clothing (often made poorly) for availability of the latest trends. Fast fashion corporations are generally unethical, given their waste amount and the conditions that workers are put through. Consumers cannot be the one to blame for feeding into the fast fashion industries, when there is ignorance associated with sustainable purchases. Kathleen Jacobs argues, “A lack of knowledge on where to purchase sustainable clothing rather than the actual lack of available products impedes consumer behavior (1163).” A change that needs to be made is to have environmentally friendly products exceed the convenience of fast-fashion products. When proper planning is executed, customers will not always feel compelled to resort to online fast fashion websites or catalogues. Good urban planning limits the amount of pollution, as well as increases the livability of urban areas. It also results in the actions of utilizing resources wisely (Everett 612). Reverberation of cutting back on fast fashion purchases help replenish and conserve energy and resources. In industry, factory owners can conserve energy and water, use non toxic cleaners, and limit waste (Everette 497). Industries should make the efforts to make production of products more beneficial to the environment.
Despite the benefits, there is controversy against the reinforcement of hemp textiles. Farming of hemp is a costly alternative to cotton, which includes the expenses of the machinery and hemp itself. Those who are anti-cannabis argue that the revenue isn’t going to correlate with the costs of production. However, whenever it is taken into consideration, the yield that hemp produces and that there is not a need for crop rotation for the production of hemp material, it is evident that expenses are temporary. With regulating the reputation of hemp and educating consumers, the price of hemp production will become more flexible. As well as enlightening customers, proper investing will go into equipment and machinery. With the adjustment of hemp, the price will not appear as intimidating.
Hemp is a common example of propaganda. Hemp has been labeled as dangerous to the community, when that could not be further from the truth. Plenty of research and evidence provides how instead hemp can be responsible for saving the community, and the world at that. Society needs to be educated further on the effects hemp has on our environment. The crop, when given the power, has the capabilities of saving our environment. Urbanization and industrialization have both left enormous foot prints on nature, but hemp can aid in taking initiative and providing sustainability.
Everett, Jason M., editor. Sustainable Living. vol 3, Gale Cenage Learning, 2016, pp. 496-500,
Howell, Stacey. “How Much of the World’s Clothing Is Made From Cotton.” Leaf Group LTD,
Accessed on April 17, 2019.
Jacobs, Kathleen, et al.“Green Thinking but Thoughtless Buying? An Empirical of the Value
Attitude- Behavior Hierarchy in Sustainable Clothing.” Cleaner Production, Elsevier,
Kentucky Hempsters. “Hemp vs. Cotton: 3 Reasons Why Cotton Is Not King (and Why Hemp
Should Be.).” Leafly, 2015,
Martino, Joe. “Hemp Vs. Cotton: The Ultimate Showdown.” Collective Evolution, 2018,
Tendura, Eva Fernandez, et al.“Changes in Hemp Secondary Fiber Production Related to
Technical Fiber Variability Revealed by Light Microscopy and Attenuated Total
Reflectance Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy.” Public Library of Science, 2017,