Which fabric is more sustainable: hemp or linen
Hemp and Linen are often seen as very similar fabrics:
- both hemp and linen move easily with the body;
- both hemp and linen become softer with each wash and wear;
- both are breathable and have excellent thermo-regulating properties, ideal for keeping cool in warm weather or warm in cool weather;
- both have antibacterial properties;
- visually they are very similar;
- both are natural, and not synthetic.
- like all other natural fibers, you can recycle or compost both hemp and linen
- each part of both plants have many applications across many industries;
- both have an outstandingly low carbon footprint and fibres from each plant can be sourced in a carbon-neutral way
- both require minimal or no irrigation.
If you are choosing between hemp and linen you are choosing between two very sustainable options. Yet, one of these two fabrics is more sustainable than the other. In normal circumstances, these differences might have been insignificant, but as we are facing climate and environmental crisis, we believe that every impact we have on nature matters. That is why we composed this list of arguments on why it is more sustainable to buy hemp over linen.
CO2 absorption: Hemp absorbs 4 to 12 times more carbon than Flax
One hectare of industrial hemp can absorb 15 to 22 tonnes of CO2. If growing two crops per year, the absorption is doubled.
Hemp is one of the most efficient CO2 to bio-mass conductors available - it is more efficient than agro-forestry.
Flax can absorb 3.7 tonnes of CO2 per hectare.
Biodiversity: hemp has net positive effect on biodiversity, while flax has a net negative
When measuring biodiversity friendliness of a crop, the conclusion is that hemp has a net positive effect on increasing biodiversity friendliness, while flax has a net negative effect.
Industrial hemp used for making clothes is ranked as the fifth-best crop for contributing to biodiversity.
Soil: Hemp purifies soil while flax depletes it
Growing Industrial Hemp improves the soil. This works very well both when replanting hemp on the same land for years, as well as for organic grain crop rotation (for example, when hemp is used as a preceding crop to wheat, yields increase by 10-20 percent compared when linen is used as preceding crop).
Sustainability-wise, crop diversity is one of the most important factors in safeguarding food security, adapting to climate change, reducing environmental degradation, and maintaining sustainable agriculture.
Last, but not least, hemp is fantastic at preventing erosion and protecting soil during droughts.
On the other side, flax depletes soil health over time, so it cannot be cultivated on the same land for more than five years. Also, it is not recommended to grow flax on eroding or drought-prone soil because of its short taproots.
Organic growht: Hemp doesn't require herbicides, while flax does
Hemp is naturally resistant to pests and weeds: its dense canopy works as a natural herbicide. On the other hand, weeds develop easily among flax crops and it is much harder to produce a high yield of flax without the usage of herbicides.
Yield per hectare: Hemp is more productive crop than flax
Hemp grows high and fast, producing 600% more fibre than flax (and 250% more fibre than cotton) on the same land.
It takes them approximately the same time to grow to full maturity: flax is ready to cultivate after about three and a half months, while hemp takes from three and four months to reach its full maturity. So, the hight of the plant is what makes the difference: flax just doesn't grow that high as hemp does.
The durability of the fibre: hemp is longer than flax, thereafter stronger
Both hemp and linen are durable fibres, but hemp fibres can reach a length of four, even five meters. Longer fibres make stronger fabric.
Hemp is not only stronger, but also more durable when facing mould, mildew and ultraviolet light. Linen is particularly susceptible to mildew and mould.
Wrinkling: hemp doesn't wrinkle as much as linen
Both hemp and linen wrinkle more than synthetic fabrics. But, hemp wrinkle less than linen. In addition, linen clothes can be weakened by another property of linen to constantly wrinkle on the same spot.
Conclusion: Anything linen can do hemp can do better, hemp can do anything better than linen!
Knowing all these arguments, and some other properties of Hemp, it is no surprise that we at Ethicuette are choosing hemp to be our main fabric. As a sustainable fashion brand that makes plastic-free clothes, which is at the same time durable and long-lasting, Ethicuette is choosing hemp over linen.
Have you been considering buying clothes made of linen or hemp? Did you ever wonder which of the two is more sustainable?
Let us know your thoughts in the comments!