Levi’s now blending hemp with cotton for more sustainable fabric
Hemp has half the carbon footprint of carbon, but clothing manufacturers have been reluctant to use it until now.
Levi Strauss & Co. has been working hard in recent years to rebrand itself as a forward-thinking, sustainably-minded denim company. It has done an admirable job, introducing a water-saving finishing process, offering recycling services for old clothes in all U.S. stores, launching a line of jeans made from old fishing nets, and encouraging clients to wash their jeans less frequently (or never).
Now, it has just announced a new collection made from a cotton-hemp blend. The Levi’s® Wellthread™ x Outerknown collection launched on March 4th and is the company’s first foray into using a special kind of hemp that has been “cottonized” to feel like cotton.
George Washington Growing Hemp
Throughout his lifetime, George Washington cultivated hemp at Mount Vernon for industrial uses. The fibers from hemp held excellent properties for making rope and sail canvas.
In addition, hemp fibers could be spun into thread for clothing or, as indicated in Mount Vernon records, used in repairing the large seine nets Washington used in his fishing operation along the Potomac.
At one point in the 1760’s Washington considered whether hemp would be a more lucrative cash crop than tobacco but determined wheat was a better alternative.
Hemp Fibre Paper Resists Decomposition
Hemp fibre paper resists decomposition and does not yellow with age when an acid-free process is used. Hemp paper more than 1,500 years old has been found. Hemp paper can also be recycled more times than wood-based paper.
Hemp fibre-board produced by Washington State University was found to be twice as strong as wood-based fibre-board. No additional resins are required due to naturally-occurring lignins.
Eco-friendly hemp can replace most toxic petrochemical products. Research is being done to use hemp in manufacturing biodegradable plastic products: plant-based cellophane, recycled plastic mixed with hemp for injection-moulded products, and resins made from the oil, to name a very few examples. Over two million cars on the road today have hemp composite parts for door panels, dashboards, luggage racks, etc.