Monday, January 3, 2011

Try Some Hemp

Apparel is an effective way to grow your brand and get your message out. Clothing sales account for roughly 40% of the entire promotional marketing industry.

Among fabric alternatives, comfy, affordable cotton is the corporate merchandising king. But in a hopeful sign of environmental consciousness, more corporate clients are purchasing organic cotton or recycled soda bottle apparel with non-toxic screen printing. Bay Area-based computer networking giant Cisco Systems just ordered a planeload of hemp-organic cotton blended shirts for its staff. Sweet!

What most people don't realize is that traditional cotton is not as "natural" as it feels. A typical cotton t-shirt requires 1/3-pound of chemical pesticides and 1740 gallons of water to grow the fabric used in production. (source: Panna / World Wildlife Federation) That’s enough water for you or I to drink for 9.5 years. And even more chemicals are used to process and dye.

Truly natural or organic cotton, on the other hand, does not require the use of pesticides for its cultivation. That's why we recommend organic cotton apparel and bags with natural dyes as the more responsible promotional choice.

An even better — but, in the U.S., harder to find alternative — is hemp. We're not talking marijuana, hemp's psychoactive brother.

Industrial hemp is an amazing product that grows easily without harmful chemicals. Hemp requires only rainfall to flourish, is four times stronger than cotton, is naturally anti-microbial, and naturally UVA protectant. Yet the U.S. government bans its cultivation and considers it no different than smokable marijuana. Much of this has more to do with fear-mongering politics and powerful corporate lobbyists than with common sense or health concerns.

Interestingly, industrial hemp was widely grown in the United States during colonial times. Presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson both grew hemp for making paper, rope, canvas, and textiles. It’s identified as one of the four main crops in early American history.

In fabric form, hemp is totally legal to import here. At Eco Imprints we offer several fashionable styles of soft blended hemp-organic cotton T-shirts, hoodies, sweatshirts, and polos. Hemp typically costs more than cotton, but it's worth it.

It'll take a lot of change before hemp becomes mainstream, but more eco-minded individuals are discovering its unique value and qualities. So next time someone offers you some hemp, give it a try!