Hemp is one of the world’s oldest crops, with studies suggesting it was first cultivated about 10,000 years ago. Most recently though, hemp has gained notoriety as the primary source of cannabidiol extracts, more commonly referred to as CBD. While there is no question hemp is a valuable agricultural commodity due to its multiple uses within various industries; did you know a transition to hemp farming could also have planet saving abilities? Known for its wide range of industrial uses, hemp has historically been fabricated into paper, rope, and textiles, but hemp can also produce plastics, construction materials, and can even be used as fuel.
When compared to cotton and other plants grown for industrial purposes, hemp is highly sustainable. Hemp plants grow vigorously and densely choking out any competing plants. As a result, farmers typically do not need to resort to herbicides full of harsh chemicals. In addition, industrial hemp often does not require the use of pesticides as it can naturally repel pests. A huge factor that makes hemp a great environmentally friendly crop is that it needs very little water to grow. Another reason hemp is considered a sustainable option is that it requires a smaller amount of land to cultivate. In addition to more sustainable cultivation practices, hemp can be used to replace many of the potentially toxic materials we use in our everyday lives like steel or wood.
If you are wondering how hemp can benefit the environment, check out these five hemp uses that can have a huge impact on our environment:
Cultivating Hemp Prevents Deforestation
One of the biggest threats our planet faces, is the mass destruction of forests worldwide. Studies estimate that about 15 billion trees are cut down a year. This has a significant impact on global warming, the extinction of species, and the chemical composition of our atmosphere.
Hemp can be a solution to our deforestation problem because of its ability to produce many of the same wood products as a tree. Hemp can be made into hemp paper, wood, building materials, and fiber. With an average harvest time of 4 months, and the potential to produce up to 4 times as much paper per acre, hemp is much more cost effective and efficient than trees.
Hemp-Based Plastics (Bottles/Straws)
There are currently about 7 billion tons of plastic lying around our planet, much of it concentrated in our oceans. Every day, non-degradable plastic kills aquatic animals such as turtles, birds, and fish. Plastic can also contaminate the water we consume and the land on which we grow our food. The worst part is that plastic takes about 400 years to decompose, so it will continue to accumulate unless we make drastic changes.
While there is no easy solution to our planet’s plastic problem, we can implement small changes to make a long-term, long-lasting impact. One change would be to start using hemp as a plastic alternative. Hemp fiber can be used to produce a plastic-like material that offers the same capabilities and characteristics of synthetic plastic but is bio-degradable and will not have a negative an effect on our planet.
Hemp Construction Materials
While it may come as a surprise, hemp can also produce a variety of alternatives that can be used as replacements for construction materials like concrete, wood, and even steel. For instance, hempcrete which is made from hemp shivs and lime can replace concrete and drywall. Meanwhile, hemp “wood” can be used for flooring and roofing. These materials can be used in the construction of houses, cars, buildings, and more.
Most of today’s synthetic fibers are manufactured using polymer-based petrochemical materials which are highly toxic by modern standards. Producing these materials entails an energy-intensive process that releases toxic emissions into the air, often contaminating the fabrics we use. One of the earliest known hemp uses was for fabrics and textiles because of how easily hemp fibers can be removed from the plant. Organic hemp fibers can be used to make clothing with no chemical residue and are highly durable and UV resistant.
Hemp Can Be Used as a Biofuel
It is no secret that fossil fuels have been harming the environment for decades. Processing petroleum and coal release harmful gases into the atmosphere like carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, and sulfur dioxide. Hemp can help minimize our dependence on fossil fuels by helping produce natural fuel alternatives. In particular, hemp can be used to produce biodiesel and ethanol, two types of natural fuels that could help reduce carbon emissions from fossil fuels.
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