Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Benefits of Hemp

Yesterday I had lunch with Marta Swain, the owner of a store in Grand Rapids called Clothing Matters that specializes in sustainable clothing, especially that made from hemp fibers. She's a clothier, but she is also an educator, and her lesson is pretty compelling stuff.

I first went to her store, then called Hemp Goods, shortly after I arrived here in GR more than two years ago. I had just finished reading Naomi Klein's excellent book No Logo (wiki), and I was at a loss to find guilt-free clothing. I used to shop at the Gap, but after reading her book, that was out of the question. After bellyaching to a co-worker, I found a photocopied print ad for Marta's store on my desk. Now it's basically the only place I go for clothes. It's my new Gap.

The hemp stuff does cost a little bit more, but from my experience, it lasts a lot longer. I appreciate that it requires no pesticides or herbicides to produce, especially compared with the alternative of cotton, which is the most "heavily treated fiber crop in the world." The more I think about it, the further I want to be from that kind of stuff. The first place to start is the stuff I let touch my skin all day long.

I find it really comfortable, and I feel great wearing it, talking about it, and supporting it. Unfortunately, it's illegal to grow hemp in this country. Marta says that's because "In 1936 petroleum and forestry interests sabotaged our society's opportunities to benefit from this plant by claiming hemp to be the same as marijuana and thereby shaping a petrochemical vs. agricultural industrial revolution and culture."

Hemp is good for much more than clothing too. Paper, building materials and body care products can all be made from hemp.

For more information, check out the shop's website: www.clothingmatters.net.
To find out more about the movement to legalize the production of industrial hemp in this country (getting traction in North Dakota), check out www.votehemp.com.


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