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Hemp, in Use in Fabrics & Textiles, Also an Option for Design, Building

Glenn Hasek

What role does hemp play in the hospitality industry? A lot more than you can imagine, it turns out. According to Brittanica, hemp, also called industrial hemp, is grown for its soft woody fiber or edible seeds. Hemp is grown in temperate zones as an annual cultivated from seed and can reach a height of up to 16 feet. Hemp cultivation for fiber was recorded in China as early as 2800 BC. Hemp is strong and durable and fast growing like bamboo. About two months after planting, hemp is ready for harvest.

Hemp grows without the need of harmful herbicides and pesticides; hemp is planted in dense crops not allowing sun light to penetrate, which reduces weed growth by 95 percent.

Hemp as a Prominent Design Feature

In Beijing, 60,000 meters of hemp rope was used to transform an old school building into a high-end boutique hotel. According to designboom, Domain Architects used the hemp rope to “wrap” around the hotel in a uniform, mesh-row pattern. A sustainable renovation project with a close to zero carbon footprint, the architects primarily used local and natural materials such as timber and hemp, and local labor for the construction.

The hemp does not form the wall or roof of the structure but alters the existing facades while barely touching the structures. Through the mesh of ropes, the original, orange-colored tiles and walls are revealed. The hemp forms a unique design element.

U.S. Company with Hemp Expertise

For more than 20 years, Colorado-based EnviroTextiles has used hemp to create certified sustainable fabric and textiles. “Our fibers and products replace toxic products such as synthetics, polyester, and polyurethane,” the company’s website says. The company’s Hemp Fabric Collection includes Canvas, Twill, Muslin, Plain Weaves, Silks, Jersey Knit, Stretch Knits, Hemp Fleece, French Terry, Specialty Weaves, Apparel Fabrics and Heavy-Duty Upholstery Weight Fabrics. EnviroTextiles’ Hemp Towels are made from 55 percent hemp and 45 percent Certified Organic Cotton.

EnviroTextiles is even developing an initial product line of organic hemp medical supplies. The goal of these new products is to reduce the spread of bacteria such as staph using hemp fabrics with naturally inherent anti-bacterial properties. Products under development include scrubs, sheets, towels, lab coats, privacy curtains, and robes.

Hempcrete & Hempcrete Blocks

One project outside the hospitality industry worth watching is the 84 Harrington Street project in South Africa. 84 Harrington Street is the world’s tallest building being constructed using hempcrete blocks and hemp building materials, says the partnership between two Cape Town-based companies, Hemporium and Afrimat Hemp.

According to Hemporium and Afrimat Hemp, hemp is considered the gold standard for CO2 reduction in buildings. “Afrimat Hemp has developed its own formulated lime binder for hempcrete and is producing hempcrete blocks at one of its commercial block plants,” says Afrimat Hemp MD Boshoff Muller in Creamer Media’s Engineering News.

Adds the publication article, “Hemp is 100 percent natural, CO₂-absorbing, energy-saving and durable; it offers superior acoustic performance, ensuring privacy between units; and it has the ability to absorb and release moisture, which assists with regulating the buildings’ internal humidity, thus maintaining a healthy indoor air quality. The lower density of the hemp also reduces the load of the walls on the foundations and, therefore, the cost of concrete.”

When considering hemp as an alternative for design, fabrics, building material and other products, do your homework. Ask the experts for advice. Look for well-established certifications and especially locally grown product. Having to ship material thousands of miles can easily negate the environmental upside to using hemp.

It will be interesting to watch this plant’s presence grow in our industry. Got a hemp story to share? I would love to hear about it. I can be reached at (813) 510-3868 or by e-mail at greenlodgingnews@gmail.com.

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  1. Glenn, thank you for profiling EnviroTextiles. There aren’t many pioneers of hemp fiber like Barbara Filippone and her daughter Summer. Many of the fine apparel made from hemp that is in the market today is a result of Barbara’s now close to forty-year efforts to bring hemp into mainstream production. I have supplied her fabrics to customers for many years and in some cases, they are still in use decades later. Hemp has amazingly durable qualities and as we all know is one of the world’s most versatile crops, which makes it even more important as our planet warms and fresh water becomes scarce. The hospitality industry could benefit from the use of hemp in more applications but the obsession with synthetic super fibers continues to impact the market in an unsustainable way.