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Hemp Masks Offer Sustainable Personal Safety During COVID-19 Crisis

Hemp Masks Offer Sustainable Personal Safety During COVID-19 Crisis

Recently we tried out some comfortable new hemp masks. We’re happy to report they’re a great choice for shopping, working, or any time you might be around others.

We tried the new organic hemp face mask with cotton ties created by iLoveBad Organics and The Hemp Cooperative. Available in black, or a reversible black & white option, this simple mask ties around the back of the head. It’s easy to wear and easy to throw in the washer to clean (use a lingerie bag to keep it from getting tangled). But the differences go deeper than the deceptively simple appearance of this mask.

With no finite end to the pandemic in sight, frontline workers, from grocery clerks to delivery drivers, now wear masks all day. Many businesses require masks for entry. Most of us want to keep ourselves and other people safer too. But what about creating masks that are made from more sustainable fabrics

That’s where hemp masks come in. Hemp fabric is extremely durable, and naturally antimicrobial and antibacterial too. There’s no proof this will provide additional protection from the COVID-19 virus. It does mean your mask will stay fresher during long sweaty wearing sessions. 

Workers at a Trader Joe's pose in hemp masks created by iLoveBad and The Hemp Cooperative.
Workers at a Trader Joe’s pose in hemp masks created and donated by iLoveBad and The Hemp Cooperative. (Photo: iLoveBad Organics)

We talked with Daniel Ong, half of the founding team behind iLoveBad Organics. Ong said although they’d been considering making hemp masks for some time, it was Brittanny, the other founder, who spurred them to move forward with this collaboration. 

“Brittanny woke up to this palpable realization that masks are going to be the standard and that we should contribute towards the production to supply our friends at our local supermarkets,” he wrote in an email.  

Creating a hemp mask with THC (The Hemp Cooperative)

“Prior to the Pandemic, I had small talks with my twin brother Dany (a co-founding member of The Hemp Co-op) about the idea of a mask,” Ong recalled. “Shortly after the pandemic took off, he made a prototype, showed it to me and proceeded to go into production with it.”

“We genuinely feel that we’re all in this together.”

Daniel Ong, cofounder of iLoveBad Organics

Originally, Ong became interested in creating hemp masks both out of a desire to create a “weird” hemp fashion aesthetic, and to reduce their exposure to the bad odors of urban life in Los Angeles.

When they realized that the front line workers who supported them needed better masks, they agreed to collaborate with The Hemp Cooperative (a clothing brand cleverly known by theit acronym “THC”). 

“With THC’s help, we made a couple refinements to their design to fit our personal preferences and within a few days, we started production.”

Their hemp masks are manufactured in the U.S. from organically-grown hemp that’s carefully sourced from China. The seamstresses they work with are largely single mothers or senior citizens, and the brands are paying higher than normal wages to help them make it through the pandemic. 

Hemp masks are breathable, comfortable for long wear

“A number of frontline supermarket employees have reached out stating that the masks were perfect for their needs given that they have to wear it for longer periods of time,” Ong told us. “Hearing it directly from them was pretty awesome.”

The iLoveBad & THC masks sell for $21 with free shipping. They sent us a sample to try out. Our Editor wore the mask multiple times while getting outdoor exercise or doing simple chores out of the house.

The masks tie around the back of the neck and the back of the head, unlike the more common design which loops over the ears. This may be more comfortable for longer wear. If you have long hair, you can loop the upper ties over a pony tail, which feels very secure. For anyone having trouble adjusting to the masks, Ong sent us a graphic which shows how to use them properly:

A graphic explaining how to use the iLoveBad masks.
iLoveBad provided a simple graphic explaining how best to use their masks.

While these hemp masks aren’t medical-grade personal protective equipment, current CDC guidance suggests that even wearing cloth masks can help reduce transmission of the novel coronavirus. 

iLoveBad & THC make their hemp masks are made with two layers of fabric. A pocket in between allows the wearer to add their own filter. Popular disposable filter options include paper towels and coffee filters. Another option that’s also washable is a fabric called non-woven polypropylene. Commonly found in reusable shopping bags and conference swag bags, this fabric is washable and closer to medial-grade N95 materials.

Hemp industry offers sustainable solutions during crisis

Hemp fabric is extremely durable, and tends to grow more comfortable with repeated washing. It also typically requires fewer chemicals during manufacture (and while the hemp is grown, as well). iLoveBad make their fashion even more sustainable by contributing a portion of their profits towards valuable causes. These include ending animal abuse and supporting orphans in Mexico. For Ong, it’s important to give back to the community anytime, but especially during the pandemic. 

One other clothing brand, Hemp Black, also recently started making hemp masks. Many CBD brands have started giving away free hand sanitizer, another way to be a part of the solution. We love seeing the industry step up to find ways to be leaders in corporate responsibility during this time. However, Ong stressed that the hemp industry isn’t special here: everyone has a part to play.

“We genuinely feel that we’re all in this together and we all will respond accordingly when the timing is right,” he wrote.

He hopes the hemp industry can find a way to sustain itself through this rocky economy. Like us, he believes in the potential of hemp to change the world.

“If there is one responsibility that hemp brands should take on, perhaps it’s purely to stay in business during these times so that we may continue the momentum that the hemp community had powered over this past decade.”

 

Authored By: Kit O’Connell, Editor in Chief, Ministry of Hemp