Q. What’s so eco about hemp? Is it just crunchy granola potheads who are into it, or is there actually an environmental reason to choose it over other materials and fabrics?

– Ben, VT

A. Dude — totally awesome question. Stuff made out of hemp is like, stellar, because it's good for the earth and you can like, smoke it.

Actually, sorry, that's not even partly true. Go ahead and try to smoke your hemp pants, but you'll get about as high doing that as you will smoking your organic cotton "save the whales" T-shirt. What you will be doing when you invest in hemp clothing and other items — from iPod cases to backpacks — is lightening your environmental footprint, and supporting a truly sustainable industry.

Hemp can be grown with "relatively little water," according to Hillary Mendelsohn, author of "Thepurplebook Green: An Eco-friendly Online Shopping Guide." That's no small thing, in dry times like these. And the plant requires almost no pesticide at all, thanks to its natural pest resistance. Stacked up against conventional cotton — it takes about a third of a pound of chemicals to make a single non-organic cotton T-shirt — that's pretty dope. 

We should mention, though, that while buying hemp is planet friendly, it's not the most patriotic thing Americans can do these days, economy-wise. That's because when you buy hemp products, you're buying imports from other countries. Believe it or not, U.S. law forbids raising hemp in this great land of the free. Ah, well. Someday.

Story by Tobin Hack. This article originally appeared in Plenty in October 2008. This story was added to MNN.com.

Copyright Environ Press 2008

Got a question? Submit a question to Mother Nature and one of our many experts will track down the answer.

What's so eco about hemp?
Investing in hemp lightens your environmental footprint, and supports a truly sustainable industry.