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:
https://www.edenproject.com/learn/for-everyone/plant-profiles/hemp
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hemp#United_Kingdom

 

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Organic Cotton for the Eco-newbie

Is it just me who has no idea what cotton is let alone organic cotton?

Here’s the basic facts to mull over…

  • It’s a flowering plant (imagine candy floss on branches!) mainly found in the tropics and subtropics  and in those countries it’sWP_20160215_003 4 big big business. Maybe it’s just me but in the UK we just don’t notice.
  • It’s claim to fame include being hypo-allergenic, soft, super absorbent and breathable.
  • BUT cotton’s got itself a really bad name in terms of it’s thirst for fertiliser, need for pesticides, chemical heavy manufacturing process and most importantly horrific human exploitation. It’s safe to say cotton has very (very) bad history.

But all is not equal in the world of cotton…cotton can be harvested another way…did someone say organic!!

  • Organic Cotton is natural, renewable and biodegradable – all the things that make an eco Mummy smile!
  • The organic version avoids all those nasty chemicals which is great for the workers, the environment and the end wearer. Buying Fairtrade ensures the workers get a fair deal. Show your support at Cottonedon– a great website for all your cotton questions.
  • BUT (there’s always a but!) just because something says it’s organic cotton is doesn’t mean it’s 100% organic and may be combined with non organic stuff or have met some nasty chemicals along its way from the field to your wardrobe. You need to look out for either the GOTS or the Soil Association symbol to ensure the whole process has been organic.

Overall, cotton has enormous eco potential but as with everything in life you need to check your sources.

Sources:

https://www.edenproject.com/learn/for-everyone/plant-profiles/cotton
http://www.soilassociation.org/whatisorganic/organictextiles/organiccotton
http://www.cottons.com.au/info/about/whycotton.php

 

Bamboo for the Eco-Newbie

WP_20160215_003 4We’re really just starting out on our eco-friendly journey, trying to take a step up from just faithfully putting our recycling in the right bin. Our house is now coming down with bamboo products – toothbrushes, pottys, socks, soap bags, clothes, underwear and I’ll be honest I’m not sure why! So, I thought I’d take a look at why some of the common “eco” materials are used. Be warned, this is very much an idiot’s guide for fellow eco newbies-)

So why is this grass (not a tree, who new!) so special?

  • It grows very fast, reportedly up to 90cm per day and in just 4 years it’s ready to be turned into, well, stuff! It’s the only plant that can grow fast enough to keep up with the amount “stuff” we want to make. It definitely lives it’s life at full throttle!

 

  • If it’s not harvested it naturally decays in less than 8 years.  It is the ultimate zero waster!

 

  • Bamboo has big “lungs” breathing in much more carbon dioxide and breathing out much more oxygen than other trees/grasses!

 

  • Bamboo takes care of it’s self without the need for fertilisers and chemicals.Shoots regrow from it’s spaghetti root network and it’s own fallen leaves acts as fertiliser.

 

  • It’s incredibly strong hence why it can be used for all sorts of things from bike frames to furniture to building houses! It’s got a greater tensile strength (how much you can pull it apart) than steel!

 

  • It helps reduce soil erosion in it’s Asian home by supporting the top soil BUT Asia is a long long way from the UK and Bamboo definitely loses eco-friendly points during the flight!

 

  • It can be made into textiles which are breathable and absorbent BUT a word of caution….some (a lot of?)  bamboo is made into textiles using loads of chemicals and isn’t a green option at all! Some might even say that bamboo textiles aren’t really the best use of this otherwise pretty awesome plant.  Take home message…Not all bamboo textiles are created equally! In terms of textiles it might be better looking elsewhere for that truly eco friendly T-shirt?

So all in all Bamboo’s pretty cool but it’s not perfect. For  a UK consumer there’s obvious questions about air miles and it’s use in textiles.

Sources:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bamboo
https://www.edenproject.com/learn/for-everyone/plant-profiles/bamboo
http://www.bamboobotanicals.ca/html/about-bamboo/bamboo-facts.html
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/property/green/8645517/Are-bamboo-products-really-the-eco-friendly-option.html
http://www.rin-hamburgh.co.uk/2014/01/why-bamboo-is-sprouting-up-all-over-go-green/