Jun 12, 2020

The Sustainability of Hemp

You might remember the variety of products we talked about that can be made with hemp, but did you know it’s just as sustainable as it is versatile? With environmental concerns growing amongst consumers, sustainability is becoming larger in practice and is being preached all over social media. In fact, sustainability products have become so popular that the U.S. sustainability market is projected to reach $150 billion by 2021, according to Nielsen. So how can the hemp plant play its role in sustainability? 

Hemp in Textiles

Familiar with the saying, “cotton is king”? Well, what if it isn’t? The hemp plant has proven to be a much more sustainable crop, producing 1500 pounds of fiber per acre, while cotton can only produce 500 pounds per acre. This hemp plant can also mature in as little as 11 weeks, softens as it gets older, and unlike cotton, holds its strength when wet, and contains antibacterial properties. 

So, you may be wondering, why haven’t we been using hemp all along if it has all these pros over cotton? Simply put, because of federal cannabis prohibition. Hemp was used widely in all aspects, because of its ability to produce durable textiles. It was used so widely that the word “canvas” comes from the word “cannabis.” Hemp made canvas was utilized for many different items, such as the sails on ships and the covers on wagons. The famous Levi Strauss of Levi Jeans had even made his jeans from hemp textiles at one point.

Hemp in Synthetic Plastic

Did you know out of over 300 million tons of plastic produced every year only 10% of that plastic is recycled? Plastic items take up to 1,000 years to decompose in landfills, which is where the 90% that isn’t recycled ends up and is in no way a sustainable way to consume. Enter hemp-based plastics. Under the right circumstances, it takes hemp plastic about 3-6 months to decompose. This is a total game-changer. This isn’t all though! Hemp-based plastics are known to be biodegradable and recyclable and are much stronger than carbon-based plastics. 

Hemp-based plastics are also beneficial in that they don’t contain any dangerous toxins that carbon-based plastics do, making it healthier not only for us but also for the environment. Aside from its environmental impacts, it’s estimated that hemp fiberglass costs only 50 to 70 cents per pound, while carbon-based fiberglass costs about 5 dollars per pound. Additionally, hemp products have continually shown to be more durable and have always been much lighter than their metal counterparts.

Hemp Fuels

Another benefit of the hemp plant is that it can be used as an alternate form of fuel, known as biofuels. In fact, Henry Ford first designed his cars to run on alcohol from biofuels, but as the cotton, lumber, and fuel industries felt threatened by the almighty hemp plant, these industries became a driver for the criminalization. This led to a century of prohibition for the hemp plant, but now it’s fuel benefits are starting to be used once again. 

Broken down into two different categories, bioethanol, and biodiesel, hemp-based biofuels are a more sustainable option since hemp plants can be grown and harvested to make biofuel at a sustainable rate. Since hemp plants are used more for creating products for humans to use, like fuels, textiles, paper products, and more, there is also no competition for food production like there are with sugarcane and corn crops that are also used for biofuels. 

A biofuel-based infrastructure would create a completely decentralized power grid, eliminating the giant monopolistic power companies. Communities could provide their own energy using easily renewable plants.”

Now you know the few ways the hemp plant can create more sustainable practices among such demanding industries. The more the hemp plant is accepted among farmers and the more it is grown, the more we will be able to use it for all of these purposes. Of course, hemp can have its setbacks, just like anything, but it’s by far one of the most sustainable crops we have available. Now would be a great time to try incorporating more hemp products into your life, and see the difference these products make in your day-to-day life!

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