Hemp – The Rediscovery of an Ancient Crop
Did you know that Gutenberg’s first bible was printed on hemp paper? That is not surprising, since this versatile material was very common in 15th-century Europe. It wasn’t only used for paper, but for everything from for ropes and sails to insulation and clothing. In fact, we have evidence that humans already used hemp fibers thousands of years ago! However, when the industrial revolution and increasing global trade networks made cotton more popular, hemp became less and less significant.
In recent years, with consumers’ growing awareness of the environmental impact of (even organic) cotton cultivation, hemp had an amazing comeback as a sustainable alternative.
RESOURCE FRIENDLY CULTIVATION
The raw material hemp has many ecological advantages:
Hemp is an undemanding plant that grows in almost any soil and climate from the tropics to sub-polar zones. This means that it can be grown close to manufacturing facilities which reduces transport emissions and in areas with sufficient rainfall to minimize the need for irrigation.
Hemp grows up to four meters high and develops dense foliage. This means that the soil gets very little light which is great for weed control. It’s part of the reason why hemp can be grown with little to no pesticides.
Everything from the seeds to the leaves and stalks can be utilized. Leftovers from fiber production are commonly used in eco-friendly building materials and as biomass for power generation.
Hemp fibers are very resistant. That is why paper made from hemp, for example, can be recycled more often than paper made from wood fibers. Extending the material cycle is a great way to save resources.
Sustainable Shopping Made Simple
HEMP IS GREAT IN BED
I knew most of these facts from the research I did a while ago when looking for the most sustainable fine art paper for my photography prints.
What I didn’t know is that hemp fabric has some amazing properties that make them ideal for bedsheets. This is what I stumbled upon when vetting Delilah Home products for inclusion in the askBelynda plugin:
Once hemp is processed into fiber, it gets even better. Hemp has natural performance features that we do not currently see on the market. It is durable, anti-static, anti-bacterial, biodegradable, and much more. (…) Super comfortable, breathable, and gets softer with every wash.
Delilah Home offers a wide range of sustainable and ethically made linens. While the bath and kitchen towels are made from organic cotton, their bedsheets are available both as cotton and hemp versions (both 100% organic). And with all the information provided on their website, I am sure I have a new favorite. Let me share why I want my next bedsheets to be made from hemp:
The natural anti-microbial properties of hemp made it an ideal material for seafaring because the sails and ropes didn’t start to mold or rot as other materials would have. In bedsheets, the more obvious advantage is that the sheets are very hygienic, odor-inhibiting, and perfect for people with allergies.
While static effects are most common with polyester blend materials, even natural fibers differ in their properties. The natural static charge of hemp is the same as that of the human body, so there is no static clinging.
Hemp fibers are very absorbent. They take up moisture quickly and release it slowly, which makes the material so great at thermal regulation. Hemp sheets will keep you cool in summer and warm and toasty in winter.
A key aspect of sustainability is increasing the life span of products. Hemp fabrics, especially thick and luxurious ones like the Delilah Home bedsheets, are incredibly durable. Since they get softer and more comfortable with every wash, they are the ideal candidate for a family heirloom. Just like grandma’s linens, they can be passed on from generation to generation.
There is one downside to hemp sheets which I do not want to withhold from you: They tend to wrinkle. Since I’m not a huge fan of ironing, I found it especially endearing that the Delilah Home website depicts the sheets exactly as they will look in my own home: creased and wrinkled and alive. :)
Jennifer Scales is a photo artist and train travel enthusiast. When she is not vetting companies for askBelynda, she spreads her love for sustainable travel by capturing the beauty of nature seen through the train window.