Hemp is durable, comfortable and breathable, and its cultivation has a low impact on the environment.
Hemp is a natural fiber that can be cultivated with minimal impact on the environment. It needs little to no irrigation and uses less fertilizer than other crops (and does not require synthetic fertilizer). Hemp’s deep center taproot replenishes vital nutrients in the soil and prevents erosion.
Current rates of population growth and irresponsible farming methods have set us on course to lose all our topsoil by 2076. Record rainfall rates in the American Midwest in 2019 washed enough fertilizer and pesticides into waterways to form harmful algal blooms and contribute to the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico—an oxygen-depleted, barren patch that is the size of New Jersey. Hemp can help keep healthy soil in place when we need it the most.
The hemp we use in our products is grown in partnership with suppliers that use sophisticated processing techniques that minimize waste. We’ve developed unique performance materials by blending our hemp with organic cotton, recycled polyester and TENCEL™ lyocell.
The woody core of the hemp stalk—the stuff that’s not used in the textile process—has many bio-composite applications, from “hempcrete” construction to auto-body fabrication, for a holistic approach. We are also researching hemp’s potential use as a cover crop.
For our Workwear line, we created Iron Forge Hemp™ canvas, a 12.9-oz 55% industrial hemp/27% recycled polyester/18% organic cotton canvas that is 25% more abrasion resistant than conventional cotton duck canvas, yet comfortable and breathable. Our All Seasons Hemp canvas, at 9.6 oz, is a lighter-weight version for warmer-weather work. We also use lighter-weight blends of hemp, organic cotton, recycled polyester and TENCEL lyocell in our sportswear.
For decades, hemp farming was criminalized in the United States, so hemp manufacturing moved overseas. But the 2018 Farm Bill finally legalized the broad cultivation, sale and transfer of industrial hemp across state lines. Patagonia has been working with American farmers and processers to bring hemp back to the US ever since.
We’re also working with hemp-processing partners to ensure our entire hemp supply chain has an even smaller impact on the environment. Our goal is to use clean retting (separating the fiber from other tissues), decorticating (stripping the outer layer of the plant) and degumming methods to separate the hemp fiber from the woody inner core and strip it of its sticky lignins and pectins. In addition, we are working with bio-composite companies that can transform the “waste” from our crop into building materials and other goods that provide alternatives to plastics and fiberglass.
For the fall 2021 season, we’re launching our Workwear Hemp Denim line, which uses non-degummed hemp (and less water, too).