There are so many uses for hemp that could help save the world.
There are so many solutions out there to save the planet and one of them is hemp. Yes, you heard that right– hemp. Not only is hemp a nutritious addition to your diet, but it is chock full of sustainable alternatives to things such as paper made from trees and petroleum fuel.
Hemp, like oppressed people, is an oppressed plant not allowed to flourish in the United States. It is allowed to be imported, however, which keeps prices higher and does not support local American farmers. Until very recently, it has been treated like a psychoactive drug, even though it cannot get you high like marijuana.
Hemp is technically legal in a very limited capacity in certain states. Part of the Farm Bill of 2014 addresses hemp. According to Vote Hemp, the bill “defines industrial hemp as distinct and authorizes institutions of higher education or state departments of agriculture, in states where hemp is legal, to grow hemp for research or agricultural pilot programs.” For more information on this click here.
That said, there are so many sustainable and empowering reasons to legalize hemp so it can help save the Earth:
1. Hemp makes better, more sustainable paper than paper made from from trees.
- Firstly, 10,000 acres of hemp will provide as much paper as 41,000 acres of forest. Plus, hemp matures for harvesting in about 90 – 100 days, while trees take 50 – 500 years.
- Using hemp for paper preserves forests. Deforestation, for making paper, creates soil erosion, landslides, habitat destruction, the endangering of plant and animal species, plant and animal extinction, pollution of water ways and global warming.
- It takes less chemicals to make paper out of hemp because it has low lignin content (unlike trees). Plus, it is naturally whiter than tree pulp, so doesn’t need harsh chlorine compounds to bleach. Instead, hydrogen peroxide does the trick. This reduction of chemicals protects waterways from the normal contamination brought on by turning trees into paper.
- Hemp paper can be recycled 10 times as opposed to only 3 times like tree-based paper.
- Hemp paper is stronger due its long fibers and also acid-free, which gives it a longer life.
2. Hemp is good for farms and the health of the soil:
- Hemp leaves are naturally high in nitrogen, a nutrient necessary for soil health. As hemp grows, it sheds leaves, thereby nourishing the soil. When it is harvested and left in the fields to dry out, more leaves fall onto the soil. The leaves can also be composted and returned to the soil, since they aren’t the part of the plant that is used.
- When hemp is grown for fiber, it is grown very close together. The shade created by this, chokes out weeds. When hemp is harvested, the soil is ideal for another crop (no weeds), making it an excellent rotation crop and also a great secondary crop and cover crop. Hemp reduces the need for herbicides (toxic weed killers) that are carcinogens and a major source of land, water and aquaifer pollution. It also repels certain pests.
- Hemp’s deep root system is excellent for preventing soil erosion after fire and floods. It also mines for nutrients deep below the soil with its long roots.
- In addition to being weed and pest resistant, it is drought resistant and able to be grown anywhere in the United States.
3. Hemp is a sustainable alternative to petroleum fuel and can help replace foreign oil dependency
- Not only does hemp have a high oil yield (35% oil cotent), but hemp cellulose can be used to create a hemp cellulosic ethanol that burns far cleaner than petroleum ethanol, reducing greenhouse gas emissions over 80 percent. Hemp ethanol and waste from grass clippings for cellulosic ethanol are better options than the starch based ethanols from soy and corn, which only reduce greenhouse gas emissions 12 – 40 percent and also come from a very unsustainable farming practice: monoculture, which relies very heavily on chemicals and wreaks havoc on biodiversity.
- Hemp fuel is less expensive to produce than drilling, shipping and refining oil. Using it would support our local farmers and our economy. The only reason petroleum has financially survived is due to government subsidies paid by our tax dollars. There have even been tax breaks for people who drive gas-guzzling SUV’s and build large, energy-guzzling houses. Say what?!
- Left over plant materials from making hemp biofuels can be made into fiberboard, insulation and food.
4. Hemp is way more sustainable than conventional cotton
- Conventional cotton farming is a very toxic business, using intense amounts of pesticides, herbicides, artificial fertilizers and defoliants. In fact, conventional cotton accounts for 25% of the pesticides sprayed on the world’s crops!
- Hemp, on the other hand, is naturally weed and pest resistant and does not require the chemicals used in intensive cotton farming or processing.
- Hemp also can be grown in more diverse conditions than cotton, using much less water and producing more fiber per acre than cotton.
- Hemp fiber is more durable than cotton and can create everything from strong ropes or can be blended with other sustainable fibers to create soft fabrics such as terry cloth.
That said, hemp and other sustainable plants, hold a lot of potential for cleaning up our unsustainable ways. For more information in what you can do to help legalize the cultivation of hemp, click here.
Do you know of any other sustainable benefits of hemp? If so, please share in the comments section below. I would also love to hear your thoughts on the legalization of hemp.