Hemp is one of the oldest and diverse crops in the world. However, hemp benefits are not expressed only in human health, but also on nature’s health. Although, hemp was and still is forbidden in many countries, hemp growth legislation is starting to advance in some of them. Maybe hemp will return as the savior, at just about right time to save our planet.
Many people know cannabis as a means to relax, as food, supplement, and in cosmetics. However, not many people are aware of hemp benefits on the environment and things that can be produced from it. In this article we will list the ways in which cannabis can help our environment. The terms hemp and cannabis will be used interchangeably as it is only one plant Cannabis Sativa, with subspecies (and naming is only for legislative-political and way of use purposes).
1. DEFORESTATION PREVENTION: Hemp Can Replace Wood
Hemp could replace wood in wide range of uses. It is one of the strongest fibers in the world. For example, a growing number of companies uses hempcrete in their construction projects. It is made of water, lime, and hemp, and has a negative carbon footprint. This means that hemp absorbs more CO2 during cultivation, compared to the release of it during construction process. Consequently, the walls made of hempcrete continue to absorb carbon dioxide throughout its lifetime. Furthermore, hemp is an exceptional insulator and has great anti-fire properties. Below you can view a video of the fire effect on hempcrete.
The benefits of hemp in construction do not end here. Construction workers are finding that hemp holds the nails much better and hemp particleboards are usually twice as strong as wood. Moreover, 1 acre of hemp produces a similar amount of cellulose fiber than 4 acres of trees.
Did you know that the term canvas originates from a Dutch word, which means cannabis? In principle, the true canvas is made of hemp, as it was produced for textiles, ropes, canvas, and paper for millennia.
Furthermore, paper is especially important. Hemp paper has many advantages over wood pulp paper. It is capable of going through more than a double of number of recycling processes. Also, there is no need to use toxic chemicals to whiten it and it is much more durable.
Hemp could be used for deforestation prevention, sustainability promotion, and for saving the lives of people and animals. In only 4 months of growth, hemp is ready for harvest. On contrary, with trees this process takes from 20 to 50 years.
Global deforestation is accelerating rapidly. Researchers estimate that in 100 years the rain forest will disappear. This is one more reason, why the use of hemp is so important – it can replace trees as a paper and wood material source.
2. HEMP BENEFITS AS PLASTIC
In 1907, Leo Baekeland invented synthetic plastic called Bakelite. Just imagine if plastic bottles existed already back then. You would dispose of it and it would still exist today. Actually, it would exist for centuries to come.
It takes more than 500 years for plastic to decompose. For plastic bottles the estimate is 450 years and for fishing nets 600 years. All these products can end up in the oceans and harm ocean life and people as well. Sahera Kaplan stated that by 2050, there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish.
However, there is still hope. Instead of using products made of plastic, which are destroying our planet, we can use hemp plastic. Hemp is the greatest cellulose producer in the world and is fully biodegradable.
We can make bio composite plastic from hemp, where it can be a part of organic mix, or combined with synthetic polymer. Studies have found that hemp plastic is 2.5 times stronger and 5 times stiffer than traditional plastic made of polypropylene.
From the time when Henry Ford invented a prototype of a hemp car, almost a century has passed. These should have been an outstanding industry disruption. Instead, in 1937, the Marihuana Tax Act made cannabis and hemp illegal. You can read more about Henry Ford’s hemp car in an article here. In the modern age there are only a few automobile companies that follow Ford’s idea. There are hemp cars, which are lighter than steel and can withstand 10 times the impact without dents.
Other hemp plastic products include sunglasses, dog toys, plastic bags, and much more.
3. GROWING CANNABIS PREVENTS PESTICIDE POLLUTION
Contrary to flax and cotton, which present up to 50% of all pesticide used, cannabis is naturally very resistant to pests. This means it does not require herbicides and pesticide to grow.
When the soil is contaminated with pesticides, they can quickly run into water sources such as oceans, rivers, and ponds. They can harm fish and other water organisms. Even more worrying is the fact that pesticides are being linked to congenital disabilities, ADHD, Alzheimer’s, and other diseases. Therefore, pesticides are not only dangerous to the environment, but to people’s health as well.
With the use of hemp, we could avoid many of the problems mentioned above.
4. HEMP CLEANS THE SOIL
One of the most amazing properties of cannabis is that it combats pollution. While modern industry pollutes, cannabis effect is completely opposite. Cannabis can remove radioactive toxins and heavy metals from the polluted soil. It achieves this through phytoremediation, a process of toxin absorption through fast growing roots of cannabis. The plant can save or transform them into other non-toxic elements.
A 2003 Italian study published in Plant and Soil showed a fascinating result. They found cannabis can absorb nickel, chrome, and cadmium from the soil. Furthermore, high concentrations of heavy metals had minimum effect on plants morphology. Hemp was used for phytoremediation even in Chernobyl and its surroundings, to clean the soil after the nuclear disaster.
Cannabis can grow in diverse soil types and terrain. Its roots help in binding the soil to prevent soil erosion. It can also increase microbial content in the soil. Its leaves and stems are rich in nutrients. After harvesting, these parts can return to the earth, rejuvenating it for a richer yield the following year.
5. HEMP AS AN AMAZING BIOFUEL
Imagine that a harmless source of fuel existed, which could be produced by everyone and was completely renewable. Actually, it already exists on our planet for millennia and in the past, people recognized hemp benefits in many areas.
Hemp transforms into biodiesel with a 97% efficiency rate. It also burns at a lower temperature than any other biofuel. When used in diesel engines, it eradicates the exhaust odor and replaces it with a pleasant smell of hemp.
With many miles driven in our cars, transition to hemp biodiesel would help heal our planet one mile at a time.
6. HEMP FABRICS DO NOT CONTAIN CHEMICAL RESIDUE
Most synthetic fibers used today are produced on polymer petrochemical material basis (very toxic materials). It takes a highly energy intensive process to produce them, where large amounts of gas, coal, and oil are being burned. Furthermore, this kind of production process releases toxic emissions in the air and leaves toxic residue in the fibers. Not a very pleasant reality.
Microplastics are a part of any type of plastic, smaller than 5 mm. 35% of all ocean plastics come from textiles/clothes. Primarily, this occurs due to the wear of polyester, acryl, and nylon clothes. Often during the washing process. Moreover, the plastic accumulates in the air and ecosystems of the Earth. As plastic decomposition is a long-lasting process, there is high probability it is ingested by many organisms. This has a very negative effect on land, sea, river, lake, and air organisms.
Hemp benefits can also be found in this area. Hemp fiber are easily removed from the plant and can create clothes with zero chemical levels. Hemp as a fabric is also very durable and UV light resistant.
7. HEMP SAVES WATER
To produce 1 kg of cotton, approximately 20,000 litres of water is used (for about 1 T-Shirt and jeans). Actually, cotton is one of the most water dependent crops, which is depleting our freshwater sources very quickly. On the other hand, cannabis requires minimum irrigation compared to cotton. A study from UK compared cotton to hemp and concluded that hemp requires only approximately 2,500 litres of water for 1 kg of hemp.
Due to the fact that cannabis is very much suitable for fiber production, the better choice seems very clear.
WITH AWARENESS TO THE FUTURE
Our Earth is a very special part of the Solar System. Diversity of plant and animal world is amazing. Nature provides us with everything we require to survive. Let’s think of the fact, that we need nature, but nature does not need us. Every day we have to remember what it means to us and strive towards actions, that will protect and conserve our environment. It is time that cannabis regains its well-deserved place of the most sustainable and diverse plant on Earth. It is time that cannabis revolution begins, and we notice the real benefits of cannabis. For conclusion the words from an author Mr. Herer:
I am not sure that hemp will save the planet…but I know it is the only thing that can.”
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