HOW HEMP CLEANS UP THIS MESS:
A HEMP ECONOMY REPAIRS OUR ENVIRONMENT
By Katarina Maloney, Contributing Writer
Seventy-seven years ago, Popular Mechanics called hemp “the new billion dollar crop”, claiming that it “can be used to produce more than 25,000 products, ranging from dynamite to Cellophane.”
No, the writer wasn’t stoned. Industrial hemp is one of the most versatile materials on the planet, but thanks to marijuana, its unruly cousin, legally growing hemp in the U.S. is almost impossible. Consequently, we’re all missing out on the environmental benefits of a hemp economy.
So while our national dialogue is mired on marijuana, the high-THC strain of cannabis that makes y
ou ‘high’, it’s time we shift the conversation.
Low-THC, high-cannabidiol (CBD) hemp not only has substantial health benefits, but can also have a huge impact on our environmental footprint. Here are four scientifically backed uses for hemp to improve our planet’s health.
Popular pesticides and herbicides are not only expensive, but also dangerous. The World Health Organization recently deemed glyphosate, the world’s most popular weed killer, a “probable carcinogen” linked to cancer. While genetically modified crops (GMOs) require pesticides, herbicides and synthetic fertilizers to grow, hemp can grow organically almost anywhere.
By substituting hemp for cotton, corn, soybean or other industrial GMOs, we can we reduce pollution and protect our health.
2. Clean Hempcrete and Hempoline
Industrial hemp has enormous potential to reduce carbons emissions. Already used to make “hempcrete”, a concrete alternative, industrial hemp can also replace plastic-like products, fiber glass and other energy-intensive construction materials.
For instance, one metric ton of steel emits a whopping 1.46 tons of carbon dioxide, but one square meter of timber-framed, hemp-lime wall stores 35.5 kilograms of CO2.
Hemp is also an outstanding renewable biofuel. As one professor found, hemp converts to biodiesel at a 97 percent efficiency rate and burns at lower temperatures than any other biofuel. Growing hemp for ‘hempoline’, hemp fuel, is a lot cleaner than making biofuels with GMO cash crops that require dangerous pesticides.
3. Hemp paper
Ninety-five percent of paper is made from wood pulp, but hemp makes more sustainable paper. According to one report, hemp can be recycled twice as many times as wood pulp, and it can produce three to four times as much fiber per hectare as typical forests.
Instead of cutting down old growth forests that harbor unique ecosystems and absorb CO2, we can make ‘weed’ paper instead.
4. Healthier soil
How do you increase wheat yields by 10 to 20 percent? Rotate in hemp.
It turns out that cannabis is good for soil structure because it stunts nematode and fungi growth, and its high shading capacity fends off weed growth. We can actually turn the most unhospitable soils, such as those laced with heavy metals, into productive hemp fields. Thus, hemp can help us reclaim lands lost to pollution while keeping precious farmland in peak condition.
Still a billion dollar crop
By building a hemp economy, we can use less agricultural pollutants, reduce carbon emissions, save forests and make better use of global farmland. That’s pretty impressive for a harmless plant that has been demonized in U.S. politics.
If hemp could make 25,000 different products 77 years ago, its repertoire has undoubtedly grown. Hemp is still the “new” billion dollar crop, and a great opportunity to preserve our environment.
Katarina Maloney is the co-founder of Hemp Health Inc.
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