How Hemp Benefits The Environment
You’ve probably heard people talking about how versatile a plant hemp is It can be used for a mind-boggling array of different things, ranging from making buildings and clothing to providing medicine for the people.
Hemp is also a fantastic plant for the planet. Hemp is a highly sustainable plant that can be easily grown in a variety of climates, and it provides valuable resources and nutrients for both people and other plants.
In this article, we’re going to talk about how hemp can be considered one of the most environmentally sustainable plants on the planet.
Industrial Hemp & The Environment
Industrial hemp used to be one of the most prominent crops in America.
Prior to this, hemp was popular all around the world. It was one of the first domesticated plants, due in part to the ease in which it can be grown, the speed at which it grows, and the huge number of uses for the plant.
In the States, the first hemp plantations were in Virginia – Jamestown, to be specific. In Jamestown, growing hemp wasn’t just a good idea – it was mandatory. As the farming of hemp expanded, Americans began to use it for everything from covering wagons to producing sails for ships.
Unfortunately, after the Marihuana Tax Act was passed in 1937, hemp became less and less popular due to its close association to marijuana.
When the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 was passed after the massive usage of recreational substances during the 1960s, the entire cannabis genus was made illegal without any distinction between non-intoxicating and intoxicating varieties.
After this, the hemp plant became extinct in America.
How the Hemp Ban Impacted the Environment
Just because it wasn’t grown anymore doesn’t mean that hemp was any less useful for Americans. Companies like Ford, Patagonia, and the Body Shop still used hemp in their products – unfortunately, though, now they had to import it from areas in which it was legal.
Hemp was imported to the USA from places like Europe, Canada, and China. The hemp industry, which was still valued at half a billion dollars in 2012, had to rely on the use of fossil fuels to help ensure that their hemp would reach the United States.
Needless to say, this resulted in a significant increase in carbon emissions, whereas hemp could actually be counteracting these emissions if it was allowed to be grown in the United States.
The Current State of Hemp Law
Hemp was a hugely significant industrial and commercial product for many years in America, and people weren’t going to just forget it. The effects were obvious – hemp had been a cheap, quick-growing, and sustainable plant that had affected the economy and the environment in a number of positive ways.
As people began to respect marijuana more as a medicine, and also to recognize the difference between hemp and marijuana, they began to push for the legalization of hemp again.
In 2009, the Industrial Hemp Farming Act was introduced, which made hemp legal to be grown for industrial purposes. Growers could now produce the low-THC, oil-seed and fiber varieties of the cannabis sativa plant.
This had a positive impact on the amount of hemp that was being imported to the country, reducing carbon emissions for the industry as a whole.
It wasn’t until the 2018 Farm Bill was passed that hemp became entirely legal. This was due in large part to the huge popularity of CBD, a medicinal compound that can be extracted from the leaves of the hemp plant.
However, the implications of this go beyond simply producing medicine. Now that people are able to grow hemp in smaller-scale operations, it’s likely that people will begin to utilize hemp in order to create more sustainable personal and commercial products: building materials, clothing, rope, and many other things.
How Hemp Can Benefit the Environment
There are plenty of ways that hemp can be considered useful for helping the environment. Here are some of the most apparent ways.
1. Hemp absorbs carbon dioxide
We live in a society where carbon emissions are a massive problem. While people tend to focus on what they can do to reduce carbon emissions, an equally valid theory for helping to reduce the overall impact of CO2 on the planet is increasing the number of plants grown.
Plants, like hemp, can absorb CO2, converting into delicious, breathable oxygen. Hemp actually consumes more carbon dioxide than its own weight, breathing in 1.63 tonnes of CO2 from the air for every tonne of hemp grown.
This means that hemp actually absorbs more CO2 than trees do. In addition to this, hemp grows much, much faster than trees do, meaning that hemp could be grown as a crop specifically to help absorb CO2 from the environment.
2. Hemp keeps soil healthy
Hemp can help keep soil healthy in a number of ways.
- The hemp plant is rich in vitamins and minerals, making it a particularly ideal crop for nourishing the soil for future crops. As the hemp plant dies, its leaves, flowers, and stems will fold into the earth, where they will decompose to provide nutrients for whatever’s going to be grown next year.
- Hemp has very deep taproots, which can help to bring water and nutrients up from deep in the ground. These nutrients may otherwise remain locked in the soil, inaccessible to other plants or even farmers.
This is very useful because it means that hemp can help to restore health to soil that has had its nutrients leached by over-farming.
- Hemp is also able to help prevent soil erosion. Because of these long tap roots (which can grow up to 9 feet underground!) the hemp plant is able to help stabilize the soil beneath it. When soil is unstable, it can start to erode, which can lead to huge difficulties for farmers.
Planting hemp in rotation with other plants can help to ensure that the soil reaches its maximum potency.
3. Hemp Fabrics are Eco-Friendly
Hemp is one of the most eco-friendly fabrics that you can find on the market today. It’s also more comfortable than some other fabrics – it’s more resistant than cotton, it’s hypoallergenic, and it’s not irritating.
4. Hemp Requires Minimal Water
This benefit speaks for itself. Because hemp doesn’t require a lot of water to grow, it can be grown in areas where water is more scarce. This also has much less of an impact on global water consumption.
One of the reasons for this is because hemp has the unique ability to irrigate itself. This is an improvement compared to many other plant products – hemp milk, for example, can be a more sustainable alternative to soy or almond milk, both of which require a great deal of water to be grown.
5. Hemp-Based Plastic
Hemp-based plastic is considered by some to be one of the materials of the future. In fact, some large-scale car manufacturers (namely BMW and Mercedes) are already using hemp to build the door panels of their vehicles.
Hemp works as a fantastic plastic alternative because the majority of the stalk is cellulose, meaning that it can be converted into a perfectly biodegradable source of plastic. Pretty much anything that can be made from plastic can be made out of hemp – the main barrier to this was the ban on industrial hemp growing.
Now that this ban has been lifted, more and more companies are beginning to use hemp as a sustainable material for producing plastic.
6. Hemp Helps Prevent Pesticide Use
Pesticides and herbicides are known to be a bane for the environment. They can contaminate water, kill off bugs, hurt animals, and damage the health of humans. Aside from helping to ensure a good crop, they’re quite dangerous.
Fortunately, hemp doesn’t need herbicides to be grown. Hemp is highly resistant to pests, who prefer to much on other plants.
7. Hemp Absorbs Toxins
Hemp isn’t just great for helping to purify the air and bring strength to soil. It can also help to eliminate toxic compounds from the soil, which makes hemp an invaluable crop to grow.
One of the most famous examples of this was after the nuclear meltdown that occurred in Chernobyl. The entire surrounding area was radiated for miles. Hemp plants were utilized to help draw some of these toxic substances out from the surrounding area, and are even now being considered for use in the area surrounding the Fukushima disaster.
8. Hemp Paper is Environmentally Friendly
You may have heard that the American Constitution was drafted on hemp paper. Hemp paper is a fantastic alternative to conventional paper, which is made from trees.
Hemp is grown faster, it’s more sustainable, and can produce more paper than a tree can. In fact, when compared to tree paper, hemp is the obvious better alternative.
- Hemp paper only takes 20 weeks to make, vs. 20 years if you were to grow the trees yourself
- Hemp paper yields 10 tons per acre as opposed to 2.5 tons per acre
- Hemp paper can be recycled up to 10 times, whereas tree paper can be recycled about 3
- Hemp absorbs 4x more CO2 than trees do during their growth phase, whereas trees require 8x more chemicals than hemp to be grown industrially
- Hemp creates about 10% as much pollution as tree-paper production
- Hemp paper is significantly cheaper to grow and produce than tree paper
9. Building with Hemp and Hempcrete
Hempcrete, as the name implies, is a form of concrete that is made using hemp. Hempcrete, which is made from hemp and lime, is made by using the woody core of the hemp plant. This fiber is chopped into pieces and mixed into a hydraulic lime binder with water. This creates a lightweight, durable, breathable form of concrete.
There are a huge number of benefits that you can experience from using hempcrete, and lots of reasons that it’s great for the environment.
- Hempcrete has great energy efficiency
- It’s good for both holding heat and keeping heat out
- Hempcrete doesn’t shrink, preventing cracks from developing
- It’s breathable and can provide a healthy environment
- It’s simple to make and use
- Hempcrete actually becomes stronger over time
- Hempcrete can be applied by spraying it or using plastering
- Hempcrete is hygroscopic and can absorb moisture from the building that you’re using it in
10. Hemp is Incredibly Useful
There are a huge number of products that can be made with hemp. Anything that’s made of plastic can be made, instead, with hemp. Clothes can be made with hemp. Buildings can be constructed out of hemp.
There are more than 25,000 different things that can be made with hemp alone, allowing for a huge amount of industrial versatility.
11. Hemp Supports Wildlife
Hemp plants grow quite tall, and if they are left undisturbed they can provide a pretty great home for various types of wildlife. Birds and bees have been known to make home in hemp plants, and the pollen produced from hemp flowers is great for bees.
12. Hemp Can Combat Deforestation
While a hemp forest may not be as diverse and beautiful as the dying Amazon rainforest, there’s little doubt that it can absorb a comparable amount of carbon. Now that we’re being faced, more than ever, with the reality of deforestation, it’s becoming more and more important to help fight back by growing plants like hemp.
As you can see, there are a massive number of reasons that hemp can be considered beneficial for the environment.
The plant has been used for centuries because of its ability to provide the raw materials for a huge number of different industrial and commercial products. The plant is easily grown and can help to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere – to name a few things.
Now that hemp has been legalized in the United States, it’s important that people recognize the importance of this powerful plant. Hemp can be considered one of the plants of the future, and if we all encourage the widespread use of hemp, the environment will thank us for it.
Aidan Lehane is an entrepreneur who has a lifelong passion for CBD, Hemp and allowing people to find an effective natural remedy to many of their pains and illnesses.
Aidan has been a constant advocate for cbd and hemp legalization for over 2 decades and is often found researching & creating blogs and videos about CBD, on the Great Hemp Youtube channel while testing and reviewing countless products for quality and effectiveness.