Hemp vs Cotton: The Ultimate Showdown

hempcottHemp has been making a lot of noise lately, especially with the growing awareness surrounding the use of hemp oil for treating cancer. Although the word ‘hemp’ still often gets confused and lumped into the same definition as Cannabis, a similar but psychoactive plant, it’s important to realize hemp can be a major game changer for our world if used to its potential. As we go through this post, you will be wondering ‘why don’t we use this stuff all the time.. for everything?!’ Simple answer, farming hemp was banned in the US and other countries in the 1937 because of the threat it caused to certain companies and their businesses. More about that here.

Although hemp has many practical uses, let’s focus on one that would affect us every day; clothing. For this, we will compare hemp to cotton, as cotton is a very popular resource used in clothing production. We’ll need to focus on various areas that have to be taken into consideration when comparing the two so we can determine not only what is better for us, but also what is best for our environment as it’s important to view things holistically. Let’s do it.

Water

Cotton: To grow cotton you require about 1400 gallons of water for every pound you intend to produce. That’s a lot of water! Some areas of the world that produce cotton are running out of fresh water due to the production of cotton as well as clothing. Some areas of the world have even experienced desertification as a result of producing cotton.

Hemp: You require about half the amount of water to produce hemp as you would if producing cotton. Hemp is a strong and reliable plant that grows very quickly. Not only that, hemp produces about 200% – 250% more fibre in the same amount of land compared to cotton.

The victor: Hemp

Pesticides

Cotton: One of the biggest downsides to cotton is how much pesticides are used to grow the plant. Although organic cotton farming is beginning to catch on a bit more, the production of cotton worldwide takes up about 25% of the world’s pesticide use. The other unfortunate factor is that these chemicals can end up being absorbed into our skin as we wear clothing.

Hemp: The beauty of hemp is that it requires no pesticides to grow. In fact, it doesn’t require any chemicals at all to grow. The growing nature of the plant competes with weeds and over-powers their ability to sustain themselves. This allows the hemp plant to grow freely and quickly.

The victor: Hemp

Comfort & Longevity

Cotton:  Generally very comfortable to begin with, as you continue to wear cotton it ‘breaks in’ to become even more comfortable. There is no denying how soft cotton can be, but it is also true that cotton fibres break down over time and the more it is washed the faster it breaks down.

Hemp: The hemp fibre used in clothing is a strong natural fibre that, like cotton, gets progressively softer with each passing day you wear it and each time you wash it. Although it may not start off quite as soft, it is still soft and certainly would not be considered uncomfortable. The plus is that the fibre is much stronger and durable. Repeated washed will not break the fibre down anywhere near as quickly as cotton. Creating more hemp clothing would mean we would need to produce much less clothing.

The victor: Hemp

Breathability & Wicking

Cotton: Breathability is certainly a strong suit for cotton. It also does not hold odours for very much. This is quite possibly one of the biggest downsides to synthetic fibres, they don’t dispel odour well and don’t often deal with moisture well either. While cotton has a natural wicking system, it also holds moisture a little longer than what might be considered most desirable.

Hemp: Performs very well when it comes to breathability and wicks moisture away from the body effectively. Hemp also carries anti-bacterial properties that trump any other natural fibre. This means hemp will not mold or grow mildew very easily. Since it also does not hold odours, hemp clothing edges out cotton slightly on this one

The victor: Almost a tie, but hemp is our pal on this one again

Aesthetics

Cotton: Without the use of dyes, cotton comes naturally in white, cream and off-white. Cotton can be dyed naturally or synthetically to achieve a desired color. The growing knowledge that cotton is very taxing on the environment and not healthy for our skin is creating quite the demand for organic cotton. In terms of the fashion market, organic cotton is showing up more and more.

Hemp: Given the various processes available to remove fibres from the stem of a hemp plant, hemp can be naturally creamy white, black, green, grey or brown. Without even requiring the use of dye, hemp comes in a variety of colors. Of course, you are still able to dye hemp both naturally and synthetically. Hemp is quickly becoming more and more popular in the fashion market as designers see the potential in the material while being a very environmentally sound option. Since it is durable and lasts a long time, it can be attractive to certain designers.

The voctor: Hemp

Final Decision

Winner by knockout and growing undisputed champion of natural harmony, HEMP! This isn’t to say that cotton, especially grown organically, is not a good material, it simply isn’t better all around than hemp. In some cases, cotton could be a must use if something specific is being produced. The biggest differences are in the facts that hemp requires much less water and no pesticides to produce. Not only that, it boasts a lot more fibre per acre. Concerned about excess CO2 in the atmosphere? Hemp is spectacular at sequestering CO2! Take the time to check out some hemp clothing around the internet or see if there are some local stores who sell it. Although options can sometimes be limited right now, look out for more hemp clothing as awareness continues to spread!

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28 comments on “Hemp vs Cotton: The Ultimate Showdown

  1. Pingback: Reblogging this… « Renovating Your Mind

  2. Pingback: Hemp vs. Cotton | Almighty Co.

  3. JD

    Certainly, it wouldn’t be hard to promote most cotton growing fields to fields used to grow hemp. Most places, especially in the Southern US, where I live, have perfect hemp growing conditions, and so many people make a living off of cotton, that it wouldn’t be a terribly hard transition to openly growing hemp. It sounds like a fantastic idea to me.

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  7. SophiaH88

    More on HEMP

    Hemp and the Economy

    Hemp has well over 50,000 industrial uses; most of which are discussed on various sites on the worldwide web. We believe that if hemp were legal to grow in America, it would have a positive ripple effect on the economics of this country. Hemp has an estimated $500 billion annual potential worldwide market, because anything made from trees, cotton or petroleum can be made from hemp, and usually better than from what it’s made from now.

    Reader’s Digest and Popular Mechanics in 1938 hailed hemp as the first billion-dollar crop. In America alone, the hemp industry has grown from $5 million in 1990, to $50 million in 1995, to about half a billion dollars in 2002.
    The clothing industry has picked up on the usefulness of hemp cloth. Walt Disney Co, Esprit, Calvin Klein, Adidas, and Vans

    are all importing hemp

    for clothing and shoes.

    Many designers are calling hemp the “fabric of the decade”.

    Hundreds of businesses are selling
    imported hemp products in the U.S.

    Why should all the profits go overseas, when hemp can be grown and processed right here in America?

    Because raw hemp is heavy and bulky, its first processing must be processed within about 50 miles of harvest to be cost-effective, which would create thousands of processing, transportation, and manufacturing jobs, including jobs in local further-processing centers, i.e. small weaving factories, seed pressing facilities, and pulp mills. This is exactly what is needed as globalization has swept over America and sent all the labor opportunities overseas, and American farmers are left with weak topsoil, polluted waterways, and clear-cut forests.

    much more : http://www.hemphasis.net/Economy/economy.htm

    • BigPhil

      And think of the benefits that would come from a massive medical and recreational cannabis industry creating tons and tons of EXTRA material in the form of stems and seeds to go to clothing, oils, and other industry and what is essentially a subsidized price because that industry will make more than 95% of their profits from the buds, not the stems. Could lower the price of hemp products just from that alone. What other crop out there has every part of the plant marketable?

  8. laura m.

    I love wearing the high tech poly t shirts with wicking features in vivid colors and standard colors and wear my outfits mostly w/ these items. Me and other retirees wear them all the time with cotton or poly shorts, pants, etc. I would like to try hemp shirts/pants and still wear ctn shirts esp for sleeping, lounging.

  9. so happy to have found your site, via woody’s video, and am learning lot, I think it would be great to provide us with some links to some clothing manufactures using help.

    But it’s a shame that all the hemp clothes I have found in the past are more expensive than their cotton competition, which seems counter intuitive looking at the production cost gains. I guess this is down to the novelty appeal and it come round in the future.

    Finally a question, do you know if there are any initiatives to teach cotton growing farmers the benefits of changing their crops??

    • BigPhil

      Most farmers at this point are on the pro hemp side. They want to grow it, even the actual cotton farmers want to. It uses half the amount of water per acre, produces 4 times as much material per acre and is simpler to grow. Imagine yourself as a farmer, which would you prefer to grow?

  10. Tiffany

    It’s so rediculous that hemp is not legal. What is it? The Declaration of Independence is written on hemp paper? It can be used for everything and is absolutely not psychoactive! I recently saw it can even replace concrete as a better building material, stronger, insulates and mold resistant!!

    • Cannabiz

      Monsatan, Big Pharma and their partner in crime, The Gov won’t allow it to happen. If we stop supporting them financially, we will be able to win. Don’t buy Monsatan’s and Big Pharma’s products.

      • ” NOTHING can stop an idea whos time has come”
        ~Ed Steele

        and here we have an historical example
        people NEED the income and health benefits
        as well as the huge commercial range that open a whole new
        source of jobs and sharing among we who toil.

        Yes this is an idea that has been around long enough to
        grow RIPE and READY to bear fruits for the PEOPLE

        nothing can now stop this as its already deeply embedded in the culture
        yeahhhh…

        • Rocky Fella

          Deer Rockefeller, let me remind you, in your writings, please replace the word “people” with the word “sheeple”.

    • Richard

      Hemp is the male cannabis plant. While it is not psychoactive, you have to use the female plant to get seeds. Yes, the female plant is psychoactive.

      • Richardlies.

        FAAAAALSE.

        • Green Thumb

          Brilliant reply Richardlies, however it is you who are incorrect. Hemp and cannabis are one and the same. Centuries of human breeding of cannabis have produced MANY different strains of the plant, but they are still the same plant. Telling people hemp isn’t cannabis is a LIE and hurts efforts to try to legalize it once again.

          • BigPhil

            Green Thumb, Actually it is you who are totally incorrect. You can absolutely breed a totally different strain of plant that deserves a separate designation. Hemp has almost zero THC or CBD and grows much differently than Cannabis. While they are both types of cannabis they are very different strains, VERY. Genetically all plants come from the same plant but they are different now, same goes for hemp. Regardless though that is not the point. Richardlies was completely correct in refuting Richards completely wrong assertion.He said that hemp is the male plant which is totally wrong. Hemp is a different strain of Cannabis, not a sex. The male cannabis plants are just like females, even have some THC in them unlike hemp.

            They need to be classified differently because they ARE completely different. They are grown for completely different purposes. That being said here in Colorado, cannabis production for medical and now recreational has led to a huge increase in the leftover materials from growing cannabis. They take the “buds” from cannabis and then process the rest of the plant just like hemp and use the stems for bags and clothes, the seeds for oil, and even the roots for fertilizer. I asked a shop owner recently how much of the plant gets used and she said every last piece gets used somehow.

  11. Richard

    Just to make your article more scientifically correct, Cannabis has a female plant and a male plant. The male plant is Hemp. It is the female that is psychoactive and has the medicinal properties. The to take it one step further, there are two types of Cannabis. Cannabis Sativa and Cannabis Indica. Indica has the medicinal properties that affect the body such as controlling blood sugar, pain, appetite, etc. Sativa is used to deal with issues of the mind such as depression, ADHD and Autism. A simple search of the internet will validate this.

    • Cannabiz

      “Cannabis has a female plant and a male plant. The male plant is Hemp. It is the female that is psychoactive and has the medicinal properties.” – now I know why females are banned in public places in some countries….

    • Sharing a great source here:

      “[...] the international drug control system is floundering, for the first time, under the speed and creativity of the phenomenon known as new psychoactive substances (NPS).”
      (UNODC 2013 World Drug Report – Jun 26, 201

      This site has the benefits and liabilities of many natural substances
      To educate yourself on whats fact and whats fiction..
      .erowid. org/psychoactives/psychoactives. shtml

    • Sid

      You left out ruderalis :)

    • Well what you said isn’t even close to being correct…

    • BigPhil

      You mean to say a simple search will completely refute what you said. Why don’t you give google a shot before you even open your keyboard. Hemp is a different STRAIN, not a different sex. A male cannabis plant is a cannabis plant. Hemp fields are full of both male and female HEMP PLANTS, THAT’S HOW THEY GET SEEDS!!!!! While you are right about the 2 different major strains, Sativa and Indica, in reality there are 3 major strains, Sativa, Indica, and HEMP and there are males and females for all 3 strains.

      If you still think you are right then go ahead and find me an example of Sativa hemp. Should be easy if you are only looking for a male sativa plant.

  12. Monsatan

    Growing hemp? Great! But that will make Monsatan, sorry, Monsanto, very unhappy… :-)

  13. why cant my registration complete?

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