Cotton vs. Hemp: Which is Better?

The cannabis revolution has undoubtedly changed how we perceive the cannabis plant and its industrial uses. Since hemp production was legalized with the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, the older, 18th-century uses of hemp are making a comeback and being put into practice by various industries like paper, fabrics, construction, furniture, etc. However, today we are going to focus on hemp in the clothing industry.

For now, cotton is king when it comes to apparel, and for good reason. Cotton is inexpensive, widely available, comfortable to wear, and has been the go-to fabric of choice for over 50 years. It is considered a household staple and can be found in just about everyone's closet. 

But don't count hemp fabrics out. It's gained a considerable surge in popularity since it was legalized just a few short years ago. Fabrics made from hemp are typically more robust, more absorbent, more durable, and better insulators than cotton. But cotton provides some stretch that hemp fabric does not, making it ideal for jeans, t-shirts, and garments that require some give. It's typically more comfortable and softer against the skin than the more sturdy hemp fabrics. 

And while cotton may be softer and more pliable than hemp fabric, there's a darker side to cotton that environmentalists are becoming increasingly concerned about. Many researchers have found that the fertilizers used on cotton are among some of the most harmful to the environment. These chemicals flow into freshwater habitats and groundwater, causing oxygen-free dead zones in bodies of water. The Organic Trade Association (OTA), a nonprofit trade organization representing America’s organic cotton industry, considers cotton “the world’s dirtiest crop” due to its heavy use of insecticides. And that's not all. The nonprofit Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) reports that cotton uses 2.5 percent of the world’s cultivated land, yet uses 16 percent of the world’s insecticides—more than any other single major crop.

And while cotton has its detractors, proponents of hemp fabric believe the plant could solve many of the environmental issues caused by the overuse of pesticides in cotton farming. Hemp fabric is naturally hypoallergenic and is believed to be one of the most environmentally friendly fabrics available today. In addition, the cannabis plant is naturally resistant to pests, eliminating the need for harmful pesticides. It also requires less water to grow than cotton, making it the clear winner when it comes to creating more sustainable crops. 

Supporters of hemp believe that it can assist in reducing global warming because it removes large amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, more than most plants per acre. Hemp is also better for the soil than most crops. Despite hemp being an annual crop, its roots grow incredibly quickly and deep into the soil, helping to hold it together and reduce erosion. This helps replenish the soil instead of rendering it depleted after harvest.

Whether you prefer cotton over hemp, it is apparent that hemp is the clear choice when looking towards a future of sustainability. Using fewer natural resources while replenishing the soil and removing harmful toxins from the atmosphere, we hope the transition from cotton to hemp is embraced with enthusiasm. Let's continue to support the use of hemp for garments by making buying decisions that encourage the ongoing trend in hemp clothing. You can check out some fashionable hemp clothing options here.