The Role Of Hemp In Sustainability
Let’s be honest: climate change is real.
The effects of climate change are being felt the world over. Strong hurricanes, famine, war, extreme heat waves, drought, and torrential rains are just some of the effects of global warming. In order to mitigate these effects we need to start getting creative about finding alternatives to our lifestyle to reduce our carbon footprint.
This is where hemp enters… a magical plant with numerous practical uses. A plant that can even completely eliminate our dependency on fossil fuels, water, energy, and other resources that harm the planet (and us in the process).
In fact, a 1938 article in Popular Mechanics even stated that hemp could be used to create 25,000 different products. But in this article we’ll take a look at a few of the most economical and practical uses for hemp today.
Prevent Deforestation: Hemp Can Replace Timber
Hemp is the same exact plant as marijuana; it is just from a different variety that was cultivated with other plants for industrial uses. This is why hemp does not have psychoactive properties unlike marijuana or other strains derived from the Cannabis family of plants. However, hemp is an extremely valuable natural resource which is so underutilized. It’s not rocket science to understand that the reason why hemp products are not as widespread as its big-name industrial counterparts – it’s because large corporations and many people will lose money by succumbing to the uses of hemp.
Historically speaking, hemp has long been used to create many products. Did you know that the word “canvas” was actually derived from a Dutch word which meant cannabis? This is why real canvas is derived from hemp; during ancient times the magical plant that we know it today was cultivated to make different kinds of commercial products such as paper, textiles, canvas, and rope.
There is so much potential for using hemp to promote sustainability, prevent deforestation, and save the lives of humans and animals:
1. Hemp has the potential to replace pretty much anything that’s made from timber. Using hemp gives us the opportunity to save natural resources while leaving something behind for future generations. It takes anywhere from 20 up to 50 years for trees to be suitable for commercial harvest while it only takes around 4 months for hemp.
2. No other plant or tree in the world today can produce as much paper in each acre. In 1916, it was reported by the US Department of Agriculture that just one acre of hemp can already provide just as much paper as 4 acres of trees each year but despite this deforestation remains a problem. In addition, the paper and pulp industry in the world’s 5 th largest consumer of energy and it also uses more water to produce per product than other industries. Over 40% of logged trees are used to make paper, and almost half of these will end up in landfills. Using hemp as an alternative to make paper will reduce the demand on burdened waste disposal systems and will also reduce energy and water consumption.
3. Hemp paper is of better quality than paper made from wood. Paper made from hemp can last many more years without degrading and can even be recycled more than tree-based paper. Making paper from hemp requires significantly less chemicals to manufacture too.
4. Fabric that is made from hemp doesn’t have any chemical residue which can cause irritation or introduce harmful toxins to the body. Synthetic fabrics contain as much as 8,000 chemicals.
Today manufacturers also add harmful toxins such as Teflon, formaldehyde, and flame retardants to name a few just to give clothing those special “wrinkle-free” properties. Clothing containing hemp is much safer and even those that contains just 50% of hemp can already prevent the harmful UV rays from reaching your skin.
5. Hemp is a sustainable biomass source for methanol. Hemp can produce both ethanol and methanol from an environmentally-friendly procedure called thermo-chemical conversion. Hemp as fuel can replace fossil fuels which are not sustainable sources of energy and isn’t adequate enough to meet global fuel demands for a long time. Our dependence on fossil fuels has had major negative impacts on the environment, such as air pollution, oil spills, acid rain, and climate change to name a few.
6. Construction is another industry that can greatly benefit from hemp instead of cutting down trees to use timber for homes and other buildings. Combining lime with hemp fiber can create insulated and soundproof material that is more durable and lighter than concrete. Reducing concrete and wood from construction sites will also reduce the overall waste matter. Homes that are built using hemp fibers are better insulated and will need to use less energy for heating.
7. Hemp is resistant to pests and because it doesn’t need pesticide and herbicides, it doesn’t contribute to air pollution. A minimal amount of fertilizers is used in growing hemp since its nutritious leaves naturally fall to the soil and provide it with minerals and nutrients needed for healthy growth.
8. Growing hemp plants is good for soil health. It grows aggressively and in very dense batches although sunlight is unable to penetrate the ground which means that there are less weeds. This also results in less topsoil erosion, which thereby decreases water pollution. Hemp plants are also capable of absorbing metals that are present in the soil but are actually toxic – these include mercury, lead, cadmium, and copper.
Hemp is 100% biodegradable and can be recycled – multiple times even. Isn’t it about time we begin using more hemp products in our daily lives?