As cotton exports fall, many companies are looking to substitute. This begs the question, however: Can cotton be replaced?

Cotton is a heavily-used resource in the apparel industry, with over 17 million tons produced globally every year. It is in high demand, which makes matters especially difficult when cotton yarn exports fall. According to a recent report from Texprocil, there has been a 33 percent fall in cotton yarn exports from India. This has taken a huge hit at apparel manufacturing, and has triggered a hunt for alternatives. Upon doing some research, we have found these four crops to be just as great (if not more) as cotton. Also, these plants just so happen to be extremely sustainable.


Hemp produces several benefits over cotton, and has proven time and time again to reign supreme. For one, hemp needs much less land than cotton to grow. More product can be produced in a much smaller territory. In addition, hemp uses much less water than cotton: over 9,000 liters to be exact! And, if you didn't think it could get any better, fabric made from the hemp plant has a longer lifespan. While cotton tends to become weaker when wet, hemp retains its strength and durability.


Like hemp, bamboo requires significantly less water to grow than cotton (approximately one-third less). However, the true beauty of this plant lies in its ability to self-replenish. What is meant by this is bamboo can grow on its own, without the need to continuously replant. The end-product of bamboo is also incredibly soft to boot, and has often been compared to Egyptian cotton (one of the finest materials on the market).


This plant is rather unknown to the textile world, but definitely deserves more attention. Fibre from the Ramie plant has the luster of silk, and is much more absorbent than cotton. The only downside to the fabric is how difficult it is to produce, due to its gummy resin that takes a great amount of labor to remove. In the past, there has been a high demand for the fibre (due to slowed cotton exporting), but not enough resources to meet that demand. However, there is no doubt all of the work is worth it in the end, as Ramie makes for a breathable and comfortable product.