The Sober Cousin of Cannabis
When we think of Cannabis sativa, we’re quick to prioritize its medicinal or recreational value. But this plant is so much more. Hemp is marijuana’s “sober cousin”, and its remarkable uses date back thousands of years and span the entire globe. In 1938, Popular Mechanics magazine highlighted the value of hemp, stating that more than 30,000 products could be made from the plant! No one has time to hear about the 30,000 ways hemp could be used—but here are 4 ways hemp sustainability is contributing to the future.
Hemp Sustainability Explained
Hemp is technically a weed (so that’s where the nickname comes from). The plant’s growth is prolific. It doesn’t require pesticides, uses little water, doesn’t take up a lot of space, and is biodegradable. It produces pulp at rates higher per acre than trees. It removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and returns nutrients to the soil. If you thought cannabis was a miracle plant when you were first introduced to it, it turns out, it totally is.
No Waste with Hemp
Every single part of the hemp plant can be used. It can be a sustainable and regenerative replacement for things currently made with soy, cotton, or corn—which would be much better for the earth. Right now, there are just less than a million acres of hemp growing worldwide. That number is expected to skyrocket over the next few decades. Here are four reasons why.
Petroleum-based plastics are polluting the entire planet. Plastic is in literally everything and it normally ends up in landfills (or polluting waterways) after just one use. While we might not see 100% hemp-based plastics anytime soon, hemp is starting to be used instead of petroleum in “composite bioplastics.” Hemp cellulose is durable and can be composted instead of sent to landfill.
Hempcrete is a natural building material that is made from a waste product of hemp fiber production. When hemp is grown to produce paper or textiles, its woody stem is normally discarded. Using it for construction purposes means nothing is wasted. Hempcrete is increasingly being used around the world as a low-impact building material. It regulates humidity, reduces mold growth, is fire-resistant, and provides insulation. Even better, it absorbs more carbon than it produces during its production and manufacture—giving it negative net carbon emissions.
Hailed as a “superfood” hemp seeds are a complete protein that is high in omega-3 fatty acids. The seeds have been used in oil, bars, milk, and hemp seeds butter. For someone adopting a climate-friendly diet that means less meat and dairy, hemp seeds can be a valuable (and sustainable) source of nutrition.
Hemp can not only be used for bioremediation (where it acts like a sponge to absorb toxic pollution), but it can also be used to replace fossil fuels completely. Hemp biodiesel can be used in any conventional diesel engine. Better than other bio-fuels, hemp is a renewable resource that is far more sustainable than crops like corn or sugarcane.
Hemp sustainability and versatility makes it one of the most magnificent plants on the planet. Meeting nearly all of our needs, hemp can provide food, fuel, and shelter. It can be a much-needed replacement for plastics and even if we decided not to use it for anything, just its growth would help reduce CO2 in our atmosphere. It’s rare to find a plant that can “save the world” but it looks like hemp may do just that.