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I blog about sustainable fashion, earth-friendly fibers like hemp and Tencel, capsule wardrobes, travel wear, and related subjects.
As an advocate for hemp clothing, Sympatico was recently featured on KTVL News 10 in Medford, Oregon. The resulting story by reporter Felicia Le’Cher is part of a series the station produces called “In the Weeds.” With most of the hemp being produced in our area intended to meet the burgeoning demand for CBD, I saw the series as a great chance to expand public awareness of hemp as a textile.
Hemp has been cultivated for thousands of years, and traditionally every part of the plant has been used. Its fibrous outer layers were historically used for rope, paper and sails. Its medicinal properties have been well known for millennia too; as just one example, midwives have used hemp teas to ease childbirth in many cultures. Today, industrial hemp is turning up in everything from home building materials to sound-deadening panels in autos.
Given my couple of minutes of fame, I wanted to stress all the advantages of hemp clothing while also explaining a little about how hemp fibers are produced. I also wanted to touch on hemp’s legal problems in the past. As I explain in the clip, hemp was outlawed right along with its cousin, marijuana, in 1937. The US government made no distinction between industrial hemp and marijuana until 2018 when cultivation of hemp was finally made legal again. Until that momentous change, hemp was in effect lumped together with marijuana as a forbidden Class 1 narcotic—the same designation given heroin!
In comparing the processing of cotton and other fibers to hemp, I point out that hemp is bleached using a hydrogen peroxide solution. Those other fibers are treated with chlorine-based bleaches that release dangerous dioxins into the environment. The solution used to scrub hemp is safely returned to the environment as water. And unlike cotton, industrial hemp is grown without the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Much of hemp’s initial processing is accomplished directly in the fields in a natural process known as retting.The wet fiber is allowed to break down in the fields before being transported to mills for further processing. And unlike cotton, which quickly exhausts soils due to its nutrient-rich demands, hemp actually helps aerate and restore bioactivity in soil.
A further advantage of hemp clothing is its amazing durability. After all, this is the same stuff from which windjammer sails and gold miners’ pants were made. But even when hemp clothes have finally become too threadbare to wear, they’ll naturally biodegrade back into the earth. (I’ve even used Sympatico fabric rags as a mulch to suppress weeds in the garden.)
Contrast that with the production and lifetime impact of fabrics such as polyester, made from petrochemicals. Not only is their manufacture and dyeing highly toxic to the environment, each time they’re washed, synthetic fabrics release millions of microfibers that are polluting our rivers and oceans. I recently blogged about microfiber pollution— it’s a rapidly developing ecological disaster.
The hemp content in Sympatico women’s wear is blended with Tencel, another sustainable fiber that’s produced without environmental damage. Tencel, which is made in a closed-loop manufacturing system, adds a beautiful drape and hand to the fabric while also helping protect our planet’s ecosystems. You can learn more about the unique hemp/Tencel blend used in Sympatico clothing here.
As a conscious consumer you likely seek out ethical clothing companies. Companies whose practices are eco-friendly and protect the health of workers while paying them fairly. But due to the globalization of apparel making, it can be tricky figuring out whether what you find on the rack is actually ethically made or not. Here are [...]
Earth Day and the 2013 Rana Plaza building collapse: What is the thread these two events share? They’re part of a relentless movement to make the world a safer and healthier place for everyone. Yes, Rana Plaza was an enormous tragedy, but the deaths and injuries suffered by thousands of Bangladeshi workers shed light on the true costs [...]
Those of us who seek out organic foods have been dismayed by recent attempts to weaken certification standards. We’re concerned that the very word “organic” will follow the path of “natural” and “green,” ultimately becoming meaningless.A similar problem exists where clothing textiles are concerned. Some fibers touted as eco-friendly, such as rayon made from [...]
A well chosen skirt or two can make terrific travel wear or become essential elements in your capsule wardrobe at home.If you read this blog regularly, you know that I’m a big fan of casual skirts for travel. In fact, I recently put up a Pinterest travel clothing board here to help spread the word [...]
I use an earth-friendly hemp and Tencel fabric and low-impact dyes to create the Princess Top in Turmeric and Cropped Pants in Bayleaf.The question still comes up regularly: exactly what’s involved in the creation of ethical clothes? And that’s a fair question—so many “green” terms are bandied about in the name of marketing and, worse, greenwashing. For the conscious [...]
Why hemp clothing? Because it fells good on your body and it’s good for the earth.When the 2018 Farm Bill was passed by the US congress late last year, you might have expected hemp advocates to breathe a deep sigh of relief. After all, for the first time at the federal level, the bill differentiated [...]
Eco-friendly clothing made with natural fibers offers a solution to the pollution of micro-fibersThe outdoor apparel maker Patagonia along with other industry partners have commissioned a study to better understand how microfiber pollution happens. These tiny plastic particles are shed every time synthetic textiles are laundered. While many people associate plastic pollution with plastic bottles [...]
As an entrepreneur focused on sustainability, I find it encouraging when I come across ethical clothing brands who share my commitment. That’s why I am highlighting a collection of companies, including ethical fashion brands and artisans, who share Sympatico’s values. Here are some those folks and their very gift-worthy creations:The GoLightly Scarf in Pretty PurpleHand-knit in [...]
In a world where market share is the holy grail, running a tiny ethical clothing company can sometimes feel quixotic. The economies of scale and efficiencies that accompany a business growing bigger are a focus of many business plans. That’s especially true for goods such as apparel that the global market sees as a commodity. [...]