Last week, I had the opportunity to speak at the first ever Hemp Industry Daily Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana. The session that I spoke on was called Finding Market Opportunities in Hemp Fiber. The reason why I was so excited to speak on this panel is because of the opportunity that hemp has to disrupt the textile industry.
Let me explain. The global textile industry is a $3.2 trillion dollar giant that is the second most environmentally harmful industry right behind oil on the planet. I grew up in this industry and I can attest to the harsh largely unknown realities of this behemoth. And let me tell you, it is ripe for a shot of technology, innovation, robotics, automation and more. Cue, hemp.
Hemp is the oldest known fiber and has been used for thousands and thousands of years. Did you know that Levi’s first pair of jeans were made out of hemp? Or how about the fact that George Washington had hemp farms and used hemp to sail his ships? And let’s not forget about the United States flag being sewn with hemp fiber. It’s a fiber that is intrinsic to the United States DNA and global history. You might be wondering, okay okay, hemp has a hidden history but other than that, what makes it so great?
What makes hemp so great encompasses everything from the growing of the plant to the performance features of the plant. It uses little to no water to grow and no insecticides and pesticides. It has the capacity to revitalize previously decimated soil by extracting harmful metals and toxins. In an industry, where it takes over 700 gallons of water to produce one t-shirt, hemp is a welcome relief. 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.
Hemp activists know how the plant can revolutionize global manufacturing and contribute to a cleaner planet. So what’s holding it back? If you’re interested to learn more, I recommend reading this short but informative white paper that is a real life application of Simon Sinek’s “Start with they Why” approach. It was published by Eric Henry and breaks down what is standing in the way of bringing hemp back to the United States.
Fast forward ten years, okay, make it five years (because we are that gosh darn excited for the re-emergence of hemp) and there are no barriers left to growing and processing hemp in the United States. Now what? We have a unique opportunity to build an infrastructure from the ground up and rectify all of the mistakes we have made in the global textile industry. We have the opportunity to develop a fiber that will not have a negative environmental footprint on the planet. The opportunity to connect the farmers with the end customer and omit this hazy unknown that comes up when a customer asks where their product was made. The opportunity to implement technology such as blockchain and cryptocurrency from farm to factory. The opportunity to right the wrongs of the $3.2 trillion dollar industry and make it a poster child for a sustainable circular economy.
In the meantime, what can you do today? If you’re a brand or a manufacturer, start gathering data on the raw materials that you use for your products and the percentage that you buy and sell. If you’re looking for a good data template, you can send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Before you can implement hemp into your material portfolio, you have to know what you’re working with. If you’re a customer, take a closer look at the care and content label of your clothes and start to take a mental note of the fibers that you are buying and ask the brands from which you buy where those raw materials came from. If you want to take it a step further, do some research on your state’s legislation regarding hemp to show your support so that more companies will invest in sourcing hemp for their products. Regardless of which place in the textile chain you sit in – we all have an opportunity to start taking inventory of the fibers that we are using and make our own personal case for why hemp.
Hemp hemp hooray.