London-based high-tech clothing startup Vollebak has just launched hoodies and sweatpants made entirely out of hemp and black algae. Carbon black, a pigment derived from petroleum, is “one of the most harmful yet invisible substances on the planet,” the company says. It will replace this with color made from black algae, which grows in ponds using sunlight and carbon dioxide.
With four times the durability and eight times the tensile strength of cotton, hemp has a long history around the globe. Egyptians used it to haul rock to build the pyramids; the Vikings relied on hemp ropes, sails and nets for their voyages; and Chinese warlords built their armor from it.
From an environmental perspective, the company says that every ton of hemp produced removes 1.6 tons of CO2 from the air. It kills weeds, purifies soil, grows fast and will thrive almost anywhere in the world. A single hemp fiber can grow to over 4 meters, which makes it soft, as well as strong, for use in making clothing.