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The Inconvenient Truth about Industrial cotton

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An Inconvenient Truth about Industrial Cotton

There is a very good likely-hood that the clothing you currently have on is extremely harmful to the environment. Whether it is composed from petrochemical fibers such as nylon or from mass-farmed industrial cotton, these products have been traditionally harmful to the planet. Cotton, for example, is an extremely high maintenance crop. The process of growing and harvesting the one pound of cotton fiber needed to make a T-shirt takes an enormous toll on the earth’s soil, water, and air, and seriously impacts on the health of people in cotton growing areas. Some startling facts about the negatives of our heavy reliance on cotton as a primary source for fabrics and textiles:

The pesticide king is cotton. The cotton plant is very susceptible to pests and therefore requires heavy pesticide spraying and treatment. In 1995 for example, U. S. farmers applied nearly 1/3 of a pound of chemical fertilizers and pesticides for every pound of cotton harvested.

Some of the chemicals used in cotton agriculture are among the most toxic as classified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Much of the groundwater tested in agricultural regions around the world has been contaminated by runoff from pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers. Currently 15,000 lakes in the United States are so contaminated that nothing can live in them. In developing countries, pesticide and fertilizer regulations are less stringent and the environmental damage is even more severe.

In the United States, fifty percent of all pesticides are used on cotton, yet cotton uses only 1% of U.S. farmland. To look at it another way, Cotton is grown on 3% of the earth’s best arable land and uses a whopping 26% of the world’s pesticides.

Cotton is always thirsty, demanding heavy irrigation that drains the land of its natural water supply.

Cotton exhausts the soil, forcing farmers to rely heavily on chemical fertilizers.

In developing countries, pesticide and fertilizer regulations are less stringent and the environmental damage is even more severe. Cotton is becoming more widely grown by developing countries desperate for a cash crop to pay international debts

Hemp vs. Industrial Cotton

When you consider all of the above, the mass production of cotton seems like a terrible choice as a primary agricultural product.  But then it seems absolutely insane when you actually consider all the benefits that Hemp boasts as an agricultural product. Consider the points below:

Industrial Hemp can be grown on a wide variety of soil types. In fact Hemp is the only known plant that can be grown from the Equator to the Arctic Circle and to the Antarctic Circle; from the mountains to the valleys, from the oceans to the plains, including arid lands and everywhere in between. This means that Hemp doesn't have to tie up prime agricultural real estate where only tender agricultural stock can grow.

Hemp is actually good for soil. Unlike cotton, Hemp's long roots penetrate up to 6 feet deep, breaking the soil, aerating it and leaving it in perfect condition for the next year's crop. After harvest, that same root stock can be mulched into the soil returning the nutrients back into the soil. In addition because of this root system, Hemp is an ideal riverbed crop, helping prevent soil erosion and mudslides. Perhaps one of the most amazing facts about hemp and its benefits is that it has a strong ability to clean up soil which has been contaminated with toxic metals, pesticides, solvents, gasoline, and explosives. Hemp is currently being used to clean the toxins in the soil around Chernobyl.

Hemp is tough. It can grow without the use of fungicides, pesticides or chemical fertilizers. Weeds are typically a major problem in agriculture, and industrial Hemp is an extremely efficient weed suppressor. For example a normal crop will have 20 to 30 plants per square metre thus shading out the weeds, leaving the fields weed-free at harvest for the next crop. This means clean soil and water where Hemp is farmed.

As a crop, Hemp gives a great return on the farmland it uses. On average, one acre of land can produce 1000 lbs of fine Hemp fiber, this amount is 2-3 times greater than the yield of an acre of cotton.

As a clothing product, Hemp beats cotton in a number of areas:

Hemp is four times softer than cotton
Hemp is three to eight times stronger than cotton (depending on the weave and fiber length)
Hemp is much more durable than cotton
Hemp is flame retardant
Hemp is not affected by UV rays, unlike cotton
Hemp is very breathable but also very moisture absorbent
Hemp clothing wears two to three times longer than other fabrics.
It breathes with your skin, so it is not only one of the most comfortable fibers to wear, but it also can be worn in all seasons

Other Sustainable Fabrics

Cotton isn't necessarily all bad. Currently there is a movement towards sustainable cotton farming practices. Hemp Couture is very proud to use organically certified cotton in some of its products.


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