As I waded through Salt Creek Hemp Company’s field of sturdy, vibrant hemp plants last weekend, I harbored not a single doubt that this plant has a strong future with U.S. farmers. As I walked through the various exhibits in the horse arena at Hemp on the Slope, eating my hemp ice cream, it was clear to me that the innovative minds of American engineers and product developers will continue to produce sustainable, practical and beautiful products made from hemp. We have all heard the hard facts (and the not-so-hard “facts”) about hemp, the miracle plant, but hearing the actual experience from the farmers who are out in the fields with the plant every day brings new life to the story. It is inspiring to hear from growers like Aaron at Salt Creek. Aaron controls the headwaters of a local water source, and told us about how thrilled and astounded his neighbors are about how much water he was able to send downstream this year, since he was using so much less for his new hemp crop. It’s inspiring to see this plant beginning to get its due after more than 70 years of being relegated to the DEA enforced shadows. Yet, there is still a long way to go.
I got an e-mail from Vietnam yesterday. I know it is time to stop being amazed at how a manufacturing company in Vietnam finds my e-mail address at HEMPY’S and finds the right person to send the solicitation to. I get these on a weekly basis, but they still surprise me.
“I am glad you are a purveyor of fine headwear” this particular e-mail started out in the usual not quite natural English intro. Below there was pictures of baseball hats, and trucker hats, flat brims and curved brim, some were polyester, some were cotton etc. etc. From the small catalogue shots they looked like decently made hats. I was about to close the page and move on with my day when I noticed the price listing down the side of the page. I did a double take… is that in US $$$? — wait let me get my glasses, that can’t say $.81. Yes it did. I could buy these polyester/cotton baseball hats for 81 CENTS! Continue Reading
So the printer in our shipping department stopped working here at HEMPY’S the other day. We run pages of mailing labels through it. It is not that old and works great, but I could see that a small piece of a shipping label had peeled off a sheet and stuck to the wheel that feeds the paper through.
Although you could see it and it was only about an inch long, it would stop any new paper from going through and we were getting the “paper jam” reading every time we tried to print with it. Try as I might to get a pair of tweezers down in between the parts to pull off the small piece of sticker, I could not. I realized I would have to take it apart. Continue Reading
Lately, I have been contemplating the question of; how does a mindful company “compete” in a marketplace that is not particularly mindful?. I have come to believe that if we are mindful then we don’t “compete”. The very word has imbedded in it the root problem. We need to get away from the very core mindset that survival on this planet is somehow a competition or zero sum game and move to a solid belief that mutual symbiosis and simultaneous thriving is the natural order of this planet.
For those of us who are mindful AND running a business of any size this question becomes a very real daily issue. Balancing the ideals you hold to be true with the idea that you want all parties to thrive when the larger system within which your company operates is not on board – in fact in some cases may be going full speed ahead in the opposite direction – can be challenging at best.
At HEMPY’S, I struggle with this dilemma daily. I have clear ideals of who I am in the world, and yet find myself functioning in a larger context that does not share those ideals. While I keenly feel the responsibility of providing a context in which all of us could mutually thrive – other companies, do not care about their impact on the planet, the exploitation of their workers, on and on – so how do we as mindful business owners “compete” in a marketplace that is not interested in the same results?
It takes a tremendous amount of courage for me, as an owner of a company, to step out of line and risk the very livelihoods of my friends and co-workers and to say, we are going to do this “as if” the world were a different place. Because the world I want to create and live in, the world I see as already here, is a world where decisions are made for the good of all, not just what is best for a part, and I am going to make real economic decisions on the basis.
How does one find the courage to do so? Remember, I am not talking here about a meditation group at a monastery or a philanthropic organization. I am talking about a living company that is working to bring mundane goods forth to others whilst still having to pay the rent and buy groceries. For me it has become a daily meditation a work in process. Moment by moment I am met with decision points some small, some large, that seem to constantly place before me choice points of what kind of world in which I personally want to live. Sometimes I make bold radical choices, and sometimes I flinch at even the smallest of choice points.
After all, we can’t all open yoga studios, neither can we stop producing and distributing goods to one another and all go sit in a cave and meditate all day. So how are we going to bring forth this new world in real and grounded terms, if we do not begin applying our beliefs to our vocations even if we are not in the healing fields? The “business world” is one of the last frontiers where true consciousness is in its infancy of practice. Now is a unique time on the planet in which we can move rapidly forward in a quantum leap. But it is not the time to be timid or shy about it. I know in my case, I have too long separated my own personal spiritual path from my day-to-day business life. Now is the time to reconcile them and bring them into sharp synchronicity.
People are often asking me but how does hemp compare to cotton when it comes to making comfortable clothing? Can you make soft cloth out of hemp? Is hemp harder to grow than cotton? etc. Luckily more and more these days I am wearing at least one piece of Hemp fabric on my body which I offer them to feel and touch. Most of the time they are shocked that is not only equal too, but often softer than cotton.
I recently came across an article in Wake Up World written by Carolanne Wright that goes into great detail and does a very concise job of explaining some history of the Hemp industry in the United States. Below is an excerpt from that article that specifically talks about Cotton vs. Hemp.
Cotton vs. Hemp
Political shenanigans aside, one of the most desperately needed uses for the plant involves the creation of durable and eco-friendly fabric — especially considering the damaging effects of conventional cotton production. Plainly put: pesticide-riddled cotton is an ecological and health nightmare. The crop requires massive amounts of irrigation, and is largely grown in dry regions of the world where water is scarce, like Egypt, China’s Xinjiang province, California and Texas. The devastating effects of the crop are seen in places like the Aral Sea in Central Asia. Formerly the world’s fourth largest inland lake with a robust ecosystem, the sea has been reduced to a meager 15% of its previous size — largely due to irrigation required by the cotton industry. Compounding the problem, farmers are using increasingly more water on their fields in an attempt to combat the rising level of water and soil salinity in the area. On average, it takes 1,800 gallons of water to grow enough cotton for one pair of blue jeans.
Water consumption isn’t the only issue with conventional cotton, pesticide use on the crop is notoriously high too. As the most pesticide intensive crop on the planet, cotton agriculture harms and kills countless farmworkers around the world every year. One pesticide, aldicarb, is particularly dangerous. It’s deemed “extremely hazardous” by the World Health Organization and a single drop absorbed through the skin is sufficient to kill an adult. And yet, aldicarb remains a popular choice in cotton production. Herbicides and chemical defoliants add to the toxic nature of the plant — all of which typically stay within the finished fabric for the lifespan of the clothing, and are assimilated through the skin. The same is true for bedding and furniture.
The Pesticide Action Network paints a bleak ecological picture of the crop:
- Nearly $2.6 billion worth of pesticides are sprayed on cotton fields each year — accounting for more than 10% of total pesticide use and nearly 25% of insecticides use worldwide.
- A 1997 Danish television documentary showed methyl parathion being sprayed on cotton fields in Nicaragua and Guatemala while children played in and beside the fields. It also documented numerous cases of methyl parathion poisonings in cotton production.
- Fish in Alabama: In 1995, pesticide-contaminated runoff from cotton fields killed at least 240,000 fish in Alabama. Shortly after farmers had applied pesticides containing endosulfan and methyl parathion to cotton fields, heavy rains washed them into the water. The Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries stated that there was no indication that the pesticides were applied in an illegal manner.
- Australian Livestock: Australian beef was found to be contaminated with the cotton insecticide Helix® (chlorfluazuron) in 1994, most likely because cattle had been fed contaminated cotton straw. In response, several countries suspended beef imports from Australia. One year later, farmers were alarmed to discover that newborn calves were also contaminated with Helix, apparently because it passed through their mother’s milk.
- Birds in Texas: A breeding colony of laughing gulls near Corpus Christi, Texas, was devastated when methyl parathion was applied to cotton three miles away. More than 100 dead adults were found and 25% of the colony’s chicks perished.
A Better Way
When we examine the environmental and health impacts of cotton, hemp stands out as a winner for a number of reasons.
- Hemp produces up to three times the amount of usable plant material per acre than cotton.
- Requiring very little pesticide or fertilizer, hemp is a robust crop that can grow in a variety of conditions/soils.
- Water use for hemp is about half of what is required for cotton.
- Unlike cotton, hemp actually enhances the soil. With long roots up to 6 feet deep, the plant aerates and breaks up soil. It also helps to clean soil contaminated with heavy metals, solvents, pesticides and gasoline.
- With 3-8 times the tensile strength of cotton, and 4 times the warmth and absorbency, hemp is an exceptionally durable fabric.
- Hemp breathes and wicks moisture away from the skin more efficiently than cotton.
Even with all the ecological advantages of hemp, the motivating force for industrial change always comes down to profitability. Happily, hemp covers that aspect too. Says Doug Fine in the Los Angeles Times:
“We’re down to 1% of Americans farming; it was 30% when our world-leading hemp industry was stymied in 1937. The crop is more valuable today than it was then. We should be waving flags and holding parades for the farmers ready to plant the crop that Thomas Jefferson called “vastly desirable.” I know I’m ready. To cheer, and to plant.