Tag Archives: sustainable farming

4 Ways Hemp Can Help Save The World

Photo Credit:  Joe Merrill

Photo Credit: Joe Merrill

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.

 

 

Love, the Earth and the greenest candle options (Part 2)

RESIZE2012 326 Thank you all for waiting patiently for Part 2 of this article to be written.    If you haven’t read Part 1, please do.  So, let’s continue the love post-Valentine’s Day and explore more important sustainable candle choices:

Choose Rainforest Alliance Certified Palm Wax candles. Palm oil and palm wax have gotten a very bad environmental rap due to the  deforestation and the destruction of orangutan habitats that most palm tree farming cause.  Fortunately, more sustainable ways of cultivating palm oil exist. Aloha Bay candles are made with Rainforest Alliance Certified Palm Wax.

Choose candles made from beeswax. Beeswax candles are another excellent Earth-friendly choice, especially from a local source and/or  sustainable beekeepers.

Stop purchasing candles made from paraffin. The majority of candles sold in the United States, unless purchased from a holistic market place and specifically labeled as made from beeswax, soy and/or palm wax,  are made from paraffin.  What is paraffin?  It’s a petroleum byproduct.  Burning it releases neurotoxins and carcinogens into the air such as toluene, benzene and hydrocarbons.  Yikes!  Burning paraffin candles also releases a superfine soot into the air which can cause irritation and damage in the lungs.  Beeswax, soy wax and palm wax candles, on the other hand, burn much more cleanly. Another downside to paraffin candles is that they are a byproduct of the very  polluting industry of fossil fuels.  Not only is serious damage done to air and waterways by oil refineries, but they also pose health risks, such as respiratory issues and cancer, to the people who live near them.

Choose eco-friendly packaging and other candle materials. Is the wick lead-free (it should be since lead wicks were outlawed in the U.S. in 2003) and made of cotton or hemp?  Is the candle naturally dyed or dye-free (you may have to contact the candle  company to find out)?  How is the candle packaged?  Does it come in a box made of post-consumer recycled content?  Does the candle sit in glass or is it a pillar candle? I like the idea of candles that come in jars (where the neck is narrower than the base) so they can be recycled or reused like you would a mason jar.  NYC Sanitation does not accept non-jar shaped glass for recycling.   I also love pillar candles and minimally packaged candles that use less resources.  I like to put my pillar candles in old candle votive containers. I’ve also seen candles nestled sweetly in glass that used to be a wine bottle.  I love creative repurposing! There are so many fun, creative green options out there to play with.  Enjoy the exploration!

Some eco-friendly, clean burning candles:

There are so many other sustainable candle makers.  I trust you will poke around on the following websites and do you own fun research:

Also, if you want to know more info about the risks of using fragrance in candles and cosmetics, read these articles:

 

Love, the Earth and the greenest candle options (Part 1)

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Today, on Valentine’s Day, I cannot help but reflect on love– the love of our planet and we the people that inhabit it. What a perfect time to resume this candle blog post that I started weeks ago.

When you light a candle, you ignite an intention: I want to create  a romantic ambiance, I want to create a peaceful atmosphere, I want to meditate, etc.   Digging more deeply, I cannot think of a better way to express intention and love than choosing products that are good for people and the Earth.  Products, such as candles, can effect us personally (self love).  They can effect our loved ones (friends and family love).  They can effect the people involved directly in their production  or  the people living near the site of where the raw materials are created or extracted (humanity love).  They can also effect the surrounding eco-systems and beyond (planet love).

So, in what ways can you create some interconnected love with your green, eco-friendly candle choices?

Choose candles scented with essential oils

When you smell a scented candle, its scent can effect you in many ways.  On one level, there is the pleasure of scent preferences enjoyed.  And then, there is the aromatherapy– this is the magic of pure plant essential oils.  What a gift mother nature has given us.  Just by smelling the bounty of her plants, your brain and nervous system are positively benefited through  feelings of  relaxation and upliftment.  What a great way to give yourself some love or share the with others!

But what happens when you have a candle scented with “fragrance” or “fragrance oils”.  The word fragrance includes a includes a whole host of chemicals you, your loved ones and the people involved in the production of these candles should not be breathing in, such as phthalates.  Phthalates are endocrine system disruptors, among other unsavory ill effects.

Even if you get a candle from the healthfood store, I would still check to see if they are made with essential oils or fragrances.  I have seen the term, “natural fragrance oil”.   Is there such thing as  natural, non-toxic fragrance that is not an essential oil?  Maybe. I have yet to do more research on this, but here is a preliminary teaser:    http://www.bathbodysupply.com/category-s/34.htm .

If you find a company that you feel may be wholesome and has the words “natural fragrance” listed as an ingredient,  ask them for the complete list of ingredients that make up their “fragrance” .  You can research those ingredients online to see if they are safe to use.

Choose organic and/or non-GMO soy candle wax and essential oils

I am holding a soy candle made by Sunbeam Candles.  It is a tall, white, unscented pillar candle with an 80 hour burn time.  Having purchased it a few weeks ago, my boyfriend and I have enjoyed its  glowing warm light many times as we meditate, share intimacy or wind down for bed.  The truly nifty thing about this lovely candle is that the soy it contains is non-GMO.

Why buy non-GMO and/or organic?  My heart tells me for the love of all life, to support agricultural practices in harmony with the intelligent, life-sustaining system of nature.  In nature there is biodiversity; each organism supports the whole of the ecosystem.  One organism’s waste is another’s food .  This flow and order that has evolved over millions of years to perpetuate the thriving of life.  Let’s be part of it.

To get, briefly, more technical (I will be writing more on this later), over 80% of GMO crops are modified to help them withstand heavy-duty sprayings of herbicides.  This creates herbicide-resistant “super weeds” and  “super bugs” that are very hard to kill.  These type of farming practices are not in harmony with nature.  These chemicals that kill weeds and pests are also harmful to humans and the eco system.  Not to mention, this type of farming also includes the use of  of artificial fertilizers.  Artificial fertilizers, create nitrogen run-off that flows into streams, rivers and ultimately coastal waters, causing excessive algae bloom and decomposition which depletes oxygen from the oceans and ends up killing the marine life.

Stayed tuned for Part Two of this article, arriving in the next day or so!  More valuable, important information regarding  people and earth- loving candle choices will be explored.   Happy Valentine’s day from my heart to yours!