8 reasons hemp is an environmental saviour
Every day there is a new warning from a scientist of a species near extinction, a story of a country on fire, a video of a community expelled from their home by flooding. Environmental degradation is happening at an alarming pace. Global leaders met at COP26 in Glasgow to discuss how to halt the climate crisis. There is no time for delay.
In a world desperately searching for – and in need of – environmental solutions, hemp might just be one of the answers we so urgently need. Seen only in the light of carbon sequestration, hemp has been scientifically proven to be the world’s best carbon capturer, and more than this, it’s one of the world’s fastest growing crops. Rather than planting trees that take decades to grow, we could plant hemp – today, tomorrow – and begin to absorb planet warming CO2 right now.
Read on to discover the many ways that hemp benefits the environment – for both people and the planet.
1. Hemp actively heals the environment surrounding it.
As it grows, hemp cleans both the air and soil surrounding it. Following the nuclear fallout from Chernobyl, hemp was used – successfully – to rejuvenate thousands of acres of wasteland in Eastern Europe. Hemp not only restores toxic soil, but can grow in it with no harm to the plant. That land, badly damaged by radioactive toxins, is now fit for cultivating agriculture.
2. Hemp naturally fights off weeds and pests
Yep, that means no pesticides or other poisonous chemicals that are typically sprayed across fields in huge amounts. The fact hemp doesn’t require growing chemicals like other crops makes it better for the earth and better for the farmer (less expenses). Win win, wouldn’t you say?
Due to the fact that hemp plants grow very high, very fast, the shade they create efficiently eliminates weeds, leaving the soil in optimum condition and minimising the need for toxic weed-killing chemicals. Preliminary results from a Rodale Institute trial in the US found that the presence of hemp as a summer crop suppressed weeds all season-long and provided a wider window for farmers to establish the winter crop. As hemp is susceptible to few serious pests, insecticides can also be avoided. When pesticides are sprayed onto fields, they can easily make their way into water sources like rivers and oceans – harming creatures and those who drink it.
3. Hemp is one of the most environmentally-friendly forms of agriculture for the insect world
Alarming statistics point to a global insect apocalypse. Some studies have found over 40% of all insects are declining. Without them, entire ecosystems would shatter. According to the European Industrial Hemp Association, hemp is superior to most major crops in limiting damage to biodiversity. As hemp is grown with little or no synthetic products, hemp can help enhance biodiversity by becoming pollinator paradises and help bring back birds and bees to farms.
Moreover, hemp’s flowering cycle usually occurs between July and September, coinciding with a lack of pollen production from other farm crops. Being a wind pollinated, dioecious and staminate plant, cannabis produces large amounts of pollen, a vital source of nutrition for bees during periods of floral scarcity.
4. Hemp can be used to make biodegradable plastic
Every piece of plastic that’s ever been created still exists somewhere in the world today. Plastic typically takes between 500 and 1,000 years to decompose in a landfill. Water bottles, for example, take 450 years to disintegrate. Plastic bags about 20. Instead of using plastic that’s destroying the planet, there’s another option: hemp plastic.
The natural material, cellulose, commonly used for plastics, is found in large quantities in the hemp plant. But plastic made from hemp doesn’t require all the other materials that the standard type does, and it naturally biodegrades. It’s not just the environmental answer to our plastic waste crisis, but even the production process is cleaner and less toxic. Studies have found hemp plastics to be 2.5 times stronger than traditional plastic. What’s more, the resulting plastic is much better for our health!
5. Hemp breathes in 4 times the CO2 of trees
Hemp has been proven to be one of the ultimate carbon capturers – better than any other crop or forest. According to some figures, one hectare of industrial hemp can absorb 15 tonnes of CO2 per hectare. Plus, hemp’s rapid growth makes it one of the fastest CO2-to-biomass conversion tools available, much more efficient than agro-forestry.
6. Hemp clothing for the environment
Hemp is one of the world’s most sustainable fabrics. And in many environmental respects, it is superior to cotton. Cotton needs 70% more water than hemp to grow. A single hemp plant yields 220% more fiber than a cotton plant. That’s three times more hemp per acre than cotton. Cotton requires vast amounts of herbicides and pesticides – bad for people and the planet! Hemp requires no pesticides, no herbicides, and small amounts of fertilisers.
And when you wear it, hemp makes for more durable, breathable, hypoallergenic fabric.
7. Hemp can be transformed into an alternative to concrete - and concrete is the world’s third largest emitter of C02
Hemp can be turned into hempcrete, an environmentally-friendly alternative to concrete. Cement is the world’s third largest emitter of CO2. At some estimates, it contributes 8% of global carbon emissions – that’s significant.
Hemp-based construction materials have an exceptional thermal performance which reduces energy consumption, while sequestering carbon. They include hempcrete, hemp wool and fibre-board insulation. If the plant is turned into a building material like hempcrete, that equates to permanent carbon storage. Even more incredibly, the house made of hempcrete will continue to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere, even after the plant is dead and the straw has been chopped up and turned into materials.
8. Hemp produces 4 x the amount of paper as trees
Hemp vs trees as a paper source is a bit of a no-brainer if you ask us. Hemp uses a quarter of the amount of land to produce the same amount of paper as trees. More than that, hemp plants mature in just 3-4 months, compared to 10-100 years for forests. Producing paper from hemp rather than trees would end our problems with deforestation, eliminate erosion due to logging and consequently reduce topsoil loss and water pollution caused by soil-run off.
The natural material – Cellulose – that is used to make plastic and paper, is found in 30% quantities in trees compared to 85% in hemp! With hemp pulp being naturally much stronger than wood pulp, the paper also is stronger and better quality. And as hemp regenerates the soil as it grows, as soon as it’s harvested, it can be planted again – using trees takes the soil years to replenish all of the vitamins needed for a new harvest.