Is hemp the hero we’ve been ready for?

If you ask someone what they know about hemp, you can almost guarantee they will mention cannabis. While they wouldn’t be entirely wrong (hemp is the same type), it doesn’t convey the psychoactive feeling we associate with marijuana.

After hemp made headlines in recent years for its use in CBD oil and skin care products, the newfound environmental benefits – like phytoremediation, the removal of toxins from the soil to improve its quality for other crops – has its agriculture promoted.

Industrial hemp is a fast growing crop that is best known for its carbon sequestration ability. For every tonne of industrial hemp grown, 1.6 tons of carbon dioxide are removed from the atmosphere, making hemp a natural “carbon sink”.

/ REUTERS

“Hemp is a sector that is returning, and it’s like a whole new world because we have to rebuild the value chain – growing, harvesting, and so on,” said Francesco Mirizzi, senior policy advisor for the European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA .). ).

Across Europe, EIHA works with companies in the hemp manufacturing sector, from farmers and processors to traders. One of their goals is to promote the benefits of hemp in order to further promote its use; for example, the seed is a source of fiber, fat and protein and can be eaten or used raw or cooked.

“It has been successful in food production and since last year we have been trying to provide solutions to expand the use of hemp in the textile sector,” says Mirizzi.

Launched in May, Stole London is a women’s pajama brand that currently uses 100 percent hemp. Their journey began after discovering the awareness of hemp in fabrics and its “sustainable credibility”.

Sura Blue Hemp Pajamas

/ Stole London

Co-founder and creative director Poppy Fordham says the decision to use hemp “has always been at the core of the brand.”

“It is ecologically superior to cotton, mainly because of the high water consumption that cotton consumes. Cotton pajamas require around 4,000 liters of water, while our hemp pajamas only require 800 liters, ”she says.

“Like hemp, organic cotton is still a better option than most fabrics because it is biodegradable. This is important because millions of tons of textile waste end up in landfills, which release large amounts of carbon dioxide. “

But Mirizzi says it’s difficult to compare cotton and hemp because “it all depends on how it’s grown, harvested and processed”.

“It’s better to present hemp as a complementary solution rather than an alternative,” he says.

Hemp is versatile as a fiber and can be spun in different ways to provide different textures depending on which part of the plant is used. Stola London uses finely woven fibers that “become softer with every wash and ultimately feel like a mixture of cotton and linen”.

“We are planning a silk-hemp mix for our next collection and later on I would like to mix our hemp with nettle, which results in a tweed-like texture,” she says.

Albanda White Hemp Pajamas

/ Stole London

Earlier this year, EIHA held its 18th conference in Brussels to discuss hemp and Europe’s Green Deal – the EU’s move towards a zero-emissions economy. It was also the first time they had political commentators and panelists like MEP Adam Jarubas. Following the conference, Jarubas said: “Hemp can play an important role in many areas where the EU has ambitious Green Deal goals.”

Mirizzi says that “helping governments that are open to discussion and new ideas can help revitalize the hemp textile industry”.

“Because of its reputation and lack of regulation, there was little on offer. Only now are countries like the European Union, Great Britain, the USA and Canada working on their legal frameworks to ensure that hemp is seen as a viable crop. “

But that’s not the only problem with the low use of hemp. Hemp used to be widely used in textiles, but due to its association with cannabis, it was considered an unusable crop.

“This means that all existing processing lines have been lost,” explains Mirizzi.

“Italy, for example, had over 100,000 hectares of hemp during World War II and only around 6,000 hectares today. And when synthetic fibers arrived in Europe, they were cheaper to process than natural fibers, which required a lot of work. In order to produce fabric fibers from hemp, you need machines that open the stems, clean the fibers, bleach – it goes on. “

As the COP-26 conference is taking place, there is increasing emphasis on finding alternative ways to live a greener lifestyle. Since hemp lends itself to being a building material, biofuel, and clothing, it can be a harvest to count on.