Hemp and Bamboo... both are known to be more sustainable than cotton and the best natural alternative resources, but which is better? Let's dig in.
Hemp is better for the soil
This is a close one, as both hemp and bamboo grow extremely fast and require less water than cotton. However, hemp requires even less water than bamboo. One point for hemp!
One of the biggest reasons hemp is better for the soil than bamboo is because hemp is a bio-accumulator. This means when planted, hemp detoxifies the soil (ridding it of harmful toxins) and enriches and restores the soil by returning a significant amount of nutrients. Hemp can be planted on barren ground or contaminated soil with no harm to the plant - instead it grows quickly all while purifying the soil through phytoremediation.
We should mention that bamboo isn't a harm to the soil the way cotton is; when bamboo leaves fall to the ground they nourish the grass, and its roots can also absorb carbon dioxide like hemp. Bamboo is also a perennial grass and doesn't require re-planting once harvested. But because of bamboo's extremely fast growth, it's often hard to contain, which is something to be of note to farmers' maintenance capabilities.
All in all, both crops are better for the soil and the planet than cotton, but hemp has a slight edge due its lower water consumption and stronger phytoremediation properties.
Hemp manufacturing is sustainable; bamboo is not
This is a big drawback of bamboo. Hemp's manufacturing processes are far more sustainable and easier on the environment. Hemp is processed manually with little to no chemicals, whereas bamboo has to undergo a rigorous process in order to extract the cellulose from the stalk and turn it into soft fabric.
Bamboo gets turned into viscose or rayon, and in order to do this, the bamboo pulp has to be treated with toxic chemicals. The main chemical used is caustic soda, which is essentially lye. These chemicals are not recycled to use again for another batch, but rather disposed into the environment, polluting the air and airways. In turn, the manufacturers who process bamboo are put at a health risk because of their exposure to these toxic chemicals and can experience adverse side effects. Big no!
There is a more non-toxic and eco-friendly technique that is starting to become more common, which produces lyocell rather than viscose. However it is much more expensive and currently not the norm.
Hemp is far more sustainable and natural to manufacture. The process is more hands on and labor intensive, but there is no use of harmful chemicals or pollutants, which create a healthier work space and a healthier environment.
Hemp fabric is antibacterial
We spend about one third of our lives in bed, so you should ensure you're sleeping on clean and natural antibacterial and antimicrobial bedding. After being processed into fabric, hemp retains its antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. It is naturally resistant to mold, bacteria, and odor. After sleeping in our hemp bedding, you'll feel the difference after just one night.
Bamboo gets turned into cellulose before becoming viscose, during which many of its sustainable factors disappear. This intensive, chemical-heavy process also causes the bamboo to lose its antibacterial properties, making it susceptible to bacterial growth and odor.
Hemp fabric is durable
As you can guess, bamboo's manufacturing process decreases the strength and durability of the fabric. You might notice your bamboo sheets wear out faster than anticipated, causing you to purchase another set. This is not sustainable either - financially or environmentally. Rather than going for more bamboo sheets, opt for hemp instead.
Hemp is known for its durability due to the strength and length of hemp fibers. Hemp fabric lasts longer, gets softer with each wash, and doesn't wear out - it wears in. This aligns with our central tenet of sustainability: invest in products that last.
The answer: hemp is the more sustainable and natural option compared to bamboo.
Apart from all these benefits, hemp fabric is also more breathable and moisture-wicking than bamboo. Many people report their bamboo sheets feel silky smooth, but if they're sweaty sleepers, they often wake up in pools of sweat and find the fabric to be slippery.
Hemp on the other hand naturally draws moisture away from skin and can absorb up to 30% of its own weight in moisture. It's also extremely breathable and porous, lessening the likelihood of night sweats to begin with. Being someone who used to constantly "sweat the bed", hemp bedding is a dream.