Hemp vs Cotton: How Cotton is killing the earth

Cotton has become the de facto source for materials ranging from apparel, bags, sheets, towels, and pretty much most other household fabric. Approximately half of all textiles are made of cotton.

Yet, we don’t hear much about the impact cotton makes to our environment.


cotton vs hemp

Here are some quick facts:

  • Cotton is the largest user of water among all agricultural commodities
  • It can take 2,700 liters to produce the cotton needed to make a single t-shirt
  • Cotton cultivation severely degrades soil quality. In the past 70 years, cotton production has depleted and degraded the soil in many areas
  • Cotton farming uses 25% of the world’s pesticides and consumes 7% of all fertilizers
  • Runoff of pesticides, fertilizers, and minerals from cotton fields contaminates rivers, lakes, wetlands, and underground aquifers
  • These pollutants affect biodiversity and have caused species extinction throughout the world

Considering this reality,the World Wild Life contends that current cotton production methods are environmentally unsustainable — ultimately undermining the industry’s ability to maintain future production.

So what can we do about it?

It’s unlikely that we’ll stop wearing cotton shirts tomorrow. We can’t just start boycotting cotton products – what would we wear if it wasn’t for cotton? Yet, we can start building the foundation that could provide us with an alternative to cotton. Yes, we probably won’t ever be able to “get rid of” cotton, but we can at least reduce its production level to a sustainable amount. And what better alternative is there than hemp.

“I believe that hemp is going to be the fiber of choice in both the home furnishing and fashion industries” – Calvin Klein

Hemp offers us a viable, affordable, and sustainable option to moving away from cotton:

  • Hemp uses 50% less water than cotton to produce
  • It does not require any agrochemicals such as pesticides or fertilizers
  • Hemp actually helps improve soil condition and stabilization thanks to its long, fast-growing taproots
  • Hemp’s wide climatic adaptation and fast-growing foot-long roots allow it to thrive in drought-damaged soil
  • Hemp offers 8X the tensile strength and 4X the durability of cotton

When more consumers, textile manufacturers, and apparel brands become aware of hemp, it will become a viable alternative to cotton. Many pioneers of the clothing industry have already predicted this, including Calvin Klein saying, “I believe that hemp is going to be the fiber of choice in both the home furnishing and fashion industries”.

Ministry of Hemp

Ministry of Hemp is America's leading hemp advocate.

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Latest Comments

  • Avatar Rico R. Guerrero says:

    Excellent points. I am looking to advocate by a number of different means as possible.

  • Avatar Jodi Rodner says:

    South Dakota is hopeful for growing Industrial Hemp soon…I definitely want to be involved! Please keep me informed of all the glorious details of what this amazing plant can do!!
    Thank you!

  • Avatar Pm says:

    Hemp products will be huge her and around the world shortly…

  • Avatar Lindsay says:

    Hi, thanks for the article, I just had a question pop up in my head, would it be possible for hemp fiber to be used as a replacement fiber for making MDF board which is used in a lot of furniture. I could see this cutting back on timber production which is good for the forests