Hemp for the Eco-Newbie

WP_20160215_003 4Hemp and it’s iconic leaf shape have socially gotten themselves a bad name. People immediately think Cannabis and Marijuana BUT legitimate, UK Home Licensed, Hemp contains very little of the psychoactive tetrahydrocannabinol so no one’s getting high! (Try telling that to my firewall – researching this on-line is proving difficult!)

Interestingly France is the current main producer of Hemp worldwide closely followed by China. If air miles are your green worry them check your Hemp sources!

Hemp is a fast growing, bushy herb which grows without the need for fertilisers or pesticides. It’s also one of those super carbon dioxide absorbers. It’s adaptable to many climates and is grown in the UK  – albeit very small scale at present! That means there is a real possibility of home grown textiles. However,  at that point you must decide your own ethical priorities – while it might be greener to “grow our own” that’s not helping those in the developing world desperate to make a living by exporting bamboo and cotton to us!

WP_20160219_003Hemp has a long history in being used for rope and paper. The process in making Hemp into paper is less environmentally damaging than using wood.

For textiles, Hemp is reportedly stronger and more absorbent than cotton and it is incredibly durable. Modern processing has made it soft enough to be used for clothing (it is said to get softer as you wear it!) and it’s resistant to UV light and mould. It’ll be just as happy whether you’re in rainy Northern Ireland or in sunny Australia. If there is any doubt in the ethical credentials of this material just check out THTC, one of the UK’s most ethical menswear brands.

Hemp has a wide range of diverse uses e.g. soap , health food (it’s high in omega fatty acids), skincare, animal bedding. In fact, The Hemp Shop claims Hemp has 25,000 everyday uses so I’ll not attempt to list them here! It’s safe to say there’s a lot of potential in this bushy herb. We’ve been using Simply Soaps hair and body soap for a while now and love it! Do you have any idea how hard it is to find a bar of soap for both hair and body…thank you Hemp!

Having looked at Bamboo, Organic Cotton and now Hemp I think they’ve all got their virtues as well as some limitations. Along the way I’ve learnt never to take eco-credentials at face value and that some companies will happily “greenwash” to increase sales. However, there are some fantastic businesses out there who really are making an effort not leave a dirty great carbon footprint on the  earth. If you’re looking for eco-friendly clothes in the UK check out Braintree and People Tree.  Braintree’s website also has a nice little summary of other  lesser known “moral fibres” if you are interested. If you’re shopping for something else I’d suggest running it past Ethical Consumer to see how your purchases check out!

Thanks for reading, happy shopping!

Other sources:



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