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One of the more fascinating aspects of the green movement is an awareness in raw material sources. Not since childhood have I been so interested in how things are made and where they come from. Some material resources can be derived for manufacturing with a minimal environmental impact, while others have a tremendous impact not only on the environment but on individuals and societies.

 

I’m not alone in my increased awareness. Many consumers are beginning to question the origin of the goods they buy. If you know a certain material harms the environment, you might choose not to buy products containing the material. This sort of smart shopping can change the whole retail landscape. As designers catch on that environmentally healthy goods are sought after, they incorporate more and more green materials into new products.

 

But for that sort of intelligent capitalism to occur, consumers must become informed. Just as Obama’s campaign reached out to create new participants in our democracy, Greensters can educate their friends about the materials that are best for the earth.

Cotton

When considering buying products made with cotton, it’s important to recognize the environmental cost of cotton production. Cotton is not only a very water intensive plant, but it is also one of the most pesticide laden forms of agriculture. The 2nd largest source of cotton in the world is Uzbekistan, which has a horrible record of human rights abuses to those who work the cotton fields. Blatant human rights abuses characterise cotton production, including the conscription of tens of thousands of Uzbek children, as young as 7, to pick cotton. These children commonly work for up to 3 months in cotton fields, resulting in illness and malnutrition.
Growing cotton leaves a scorched earth and polluted waters in many places where it is grown due to the harsh requirements of its production. These organic alternatives have a lighter impact, but ultimately organic cotton is not nearly as sustainable as hemp.

 

Hemp

I consider hemp one of the coolest materials on earth, mostly due to its sustainability. Here are my top five reasons why hemp rules:

 

1. It’s So Easy to Use. Hemp can be used to make hundreds of products, including paper, cloth, biodegradable plastic, food, and fuel. You can even make hemp jewelry.
2. Hemp Grows Like A Weed: Fast. Hemp is one of the fastest growing crops you can plant. Maybe that’s why it was one of the first plants to be cultivated. (And while I have you questioning whether I meant to get punny about this weed, let me emphasize that the strain of hemp that’s typically used in manufacturing contains too little THC to have any psychoactive effect.)

3. Hemp doesn’t need many pesticides or herbicides. Hemp plants shade out their weeds, especially when grown in a stand. Planting 200-300 plants per square meter creates a mini-canopy that acts like a protective umbrella for the soil, aiding the self-mulching process.

4. Hemp is Strong. In fact, it’s the longest, strongest , most durable, most elastic natural vegetable fiber. It makes great rope, and you can learn how to make hemp rope, too.

5. And yet, hemp is gentle, since it softens with each washing without losing its structure. So, get out there and hemp it up! The earth will thank you.

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