North Americans are facing increasing environmental concerns on multiple fronts, these days. Increased CO2 levels are causing our climate to change, non-biodegradable plastics are polluting our land and water, and our reliance on finite resources like wood and fossil fuels are destroying the delicate eco-systems that sustain us. The problems at hand can feel so large that no amount of recycling and re-purposing can save us, but maybe the solution has been in front of us all along.
Hemp is an industrial crop that is related to marijuana, but does not contain the substances responsible for the psychoactive effects of marijuana. This one amazing crop has over 50,000 known uses (including food, fuel, textiles, plastic, and paper) all of which have a positive environmental impact. Here are a few of the great things hemp can do for our planet!
Benefits of Growing Hemp
Long before hemp gets turned into a useful product, it serves as a valuable caretaker for planet Earth. Acre for acre, it removes 4 times more CO2 from the air than trees, and it does not require herbicides or pesticides to grow. It also leaves the soil cleaner and rich in nutrients, which means farmers can grow food crops immediately after harvest without a fallow period. It has even been used at nuclear disaster sites like Chernobyl, to help clean the radioactive properties out of the soil.
Hemp can be used to make 2 different types of bio fuel: hemp biodiesel made from hemp seed oil, and hemp ethenol/methenol made from fermented hemp stalk. One acre of hemp yields 1,000 gallons or 3,785 liters of fuel, and the CO2 absorbed by the crop during the growth period offsets the CO2 released when the fuel is burned. These eco-friendly fossil fuel alternatives could reduce our reliance on coal and oil, which are major contributors to the global warming crisis.
Hemp has been used to make paper for at least 2,000 years, and it is more efficient and environmentally friendly to produce when compared to traditional paper made from trees. Hemp can produce 4 times more paper per acre than trees, and since it has a lower lignin content than wood, it can be turned into pulp faster and easier. Hemp pulp is naturally lighter than wood pulp, which means it does not need chlorine bleaching, which releases a toxic substance called dioxin into the environment. Finally, hemp can grow to maturity in just 90-110 days, making it is a far more sustainable option than trees, which take 15-20 years to reach adulthood.
It is estimated that we manufacture 250 to 300 million petroleum-based plastic products every year. The production and disposal of these non-biodegradable products release tons of toxic substances into our air, water, and land. Luckily, hemp bio-plastics, which are made from the stalk of the hemp crop, can be produced in a 100% toxin free manner, and they bio-degrade completely in a matter of months. They can be used for everything plastic from disposable items like plastic cutlery, to sturdier items like furniture or even cars! Studies show that switching to bioplastics can reduce the plastic industries carbon emissions by 30-80%!
The environmental crisis we face today is daunting, but the solution is not beyond our reach. Replacing our toxic and unsustainable consumable items with hemp based products could have a lasting positive impact on the future of our planet. To learn more about the potential of this one amazing crop, check out the book Hemp Bound by Doug Fine, or simply head to our store to try out some great hemp products for yourself!