We are all living in a world that is dependent on plastics, fossil fuels and cutting down trees for paper and construction, which is in turn one of the main reasons for the destruction of the planet. So we ask, why are we still using these methods?
Hemp could be the answer to our problems, and it’s been here the whole time. Hemp has been grown for cultivation for over 10,000 years, dating back to ancient China and Mesopotamia, were they used it as source of food and fibre. It even has a rich history in Europe and America and most of the northern hemisphere.
Hemp was outlawed in the UK in 1928. It was then mistakenly grouped with its psychoactive cousin and became a target, which led to an American Marijuana Tax Act in 1937. This led to farmers being dissuaded to grow the plant. Then the war on drugs pushed it further underground until it was completely outlawed in the USA in 1971. Hemp cultivation in the UK was re-legalised in 1993 and is now a licensed activity.
Industrial hemp can be used to replace 100's if not 1000's of the products we use day to day that are adding to the environmental problem, not only that but it's also 100% natural. Hemp fibre is the strongest natural fibre and can be used anywhere from paper and pulp industries to building materials and textiles. So lets stop cutting down trees for paper and timber when we can grow hemp - which provides as much as 4 times more paper per acre than trees can and takes fraction of the time to do so. Trees take around 20-50 years before they’re big enough to be harvested, while hemp takes around 4 months. Also 40% percent of trees being logged are used for paper and pulp production, half of which will end up in landfills from waste. The timber industry can also be transformed with hemp based substitutes that can be finished with the same natural wood look we have come to know and love, it’s a win win. You can even build houses with the stuff, hempcrete is more economical, more insulated, lighter and more durable than concrete. Mixing lime and the hemp fibre together makes hempcrete and with its superior insulation to concrete it will in turn save you money on your energy bills.
Plastic pollution and the state of our sea and landfills are at breaking point and we need to do something now. Again hemp is the answer: its becoming a viable option as an eco-friendly alternative to carbon-based plastic. Not only is it safe and sustainable its also typically biodegradable and recyclable. It can also be used in 3D printing, think of the potential. It can do everything plastic can do but better and safer for the planet, why are we still using it?
Not only that but the oil extracted from the hemp seed can be converted into ethanol and methanol via an environmentally friendly procedure called thermo-chemical conversion. This means we can use the oil as fuel allowing us to replace our dependence on fossil fuels and the devastating effect it has on our planet.
Hemp fibre is the new cotton. Cotton is also an industry that has a negative affect on the planet, and as our demand for the stuff increases so does the damage. It can take around 20 times as much water to grow cotton compared to hemp, over the same space and you can get more than twice the yield from hemp. Also modern synthetics can contain as much as 8,000 chemicals. Fabric made from hemp doesn’t have any chemical residue, which means less irritation and harmful toxins entering the body.
To cap it all off, the hemp plant grows resiliently and doesn’t need the same level of pesticides and herbicides that other crops do. This means the pollution of air and local water sources are kept to a minimum. Not to mention the chemicals we use to get rid of pests are also killing the planet and bee population.
The question ‘why hemp’ seems even more relevant now we have been over its potential. Its going to take the spread of good information to break the stigma and laws surrounding this incredible plant but we want to be part of the generation that can say we took the steps to save our planet, not the ones full of regret when generations to come don’t have one to live on at all. Lets change the world one plant at a time.