Hemp & Sustainability
Updated: Apr 23, 2019
Today is Earth Day, the day where we celebrate our planet Earth and evaluate what we can do to take best care of her. Guest author Robert Railis from Ministry of Hemp shares some of the many great ways hemp can have a positive impact on our environment and the planet as a whole!
Hemp and the Earth
Each year on April 22 marks the anniversary of the environmental movement started in 1970 by founder, Gaylord Nelson. The idea came to him after witnessing the 1969 oil spill in Santa Barbara, CA.
What started as a vision quickly rose to a global event celebrated by over 1 billion people in 192 countries every year! What’s more, this Earth Day offers even more to celebrate with the legalization of industrial hemp.
Why is this important? Well, the purpose of Earth Day is to celebrate our environment and to take positive steps towards a greener future. This means recycling goods, replacing plastics with something more sustainable, saving our natural resources, and being aware of our carbon and environmental footprint. Industrial hemp may the answer to a brighter and greener future for everyone.
Nicknamed the plant of 25,000 uses, industrial hemp is strong, durable, naturally resistant to mold, and very sustainable. Although hemp has been used for thousands of years, it’s been banned, unbanned, and banned again by the government since the 30’s.
Recently, hemp has steadily been making a comeback. So much so that industrial hemp was officially removed from schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA 1970) and been made legal again. This time it seems everybody’s taking note. From how we look at medicine and our carbon footprint to creating new jobs and business opportunities, hemp seems to be the answer. People are now realizing it’s time to start putting these 25,000 uses into practice.
So read on while we uncover the many lives of hemp and open your eyes to the wonder of this versatile, durable and sustainable plant!
History and Key Timelines
Hemp is one of the oldest crops and industries in the world. Dating back more than 10,000 years (some experts say more than 12,000 years), and was one of the first agricultural crops used for food (seed and oil) and pottery.
Over time hemp gradually made its way through the continents and arrived in North America around the 1600’s. For the next two centuries hemp was a staple crop used for a variety of products including paper, lamp, fuels and ropes. Both President Washington and Jefferson grew hemp, and Benjamin Franklin owned a mill that made hemp paper.
However, in 1937 Congress passed the Marihuana Tax Act, which effectively began the era of hemp prohibition. The tax and licensing regulations of the act made hemp cultivation difficult for American farmers. Even with hemp being declared “The Most Profitable and Desirable Crop That Can Be Grown” by Mechanical Engineering, February 26, 1937 and “New Billion Dollar Crop” by Popular Mechanics in February 1938, there was effectively no hemp farming in the United States.
In the early 40’s hemp began a resurgence when, despite the Marijuana Tax Act and the official federal government’s stance on hemp and marijuana, the U.S. Army and Department of Agriculture joined forces and produces the 1942 film titles “Hemp for Victory”, which encouraged farmers to grow hemp for the country’s effort in World War II – particularly for textiles and rope, since imports of these products were cut off by the war. Over 100, 000 acres of hemp were growing in the U.S., but all permits were cancelled when the WW II ended in 1945.
From 1937 through the 1960’s it was understood and acknowledged by the government that hemp and marijuana were different varieties of the cannabis plant. However, after the passage of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA of 1970) hemp was no longer recognized as a distinct variety, but rather lumped in the same classification as marijuana, even though a specific exemption-for-hemp was included in the CSA under the definition of marijuana.
As of December 2018 under the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp was removed from the list of controlled substances and legalized the production of hemp as an agricultural commodity.
To learn more about the history of hemp and the world timeline of hemp, there are two great reads: Ministry of Hemp and Hemp Industries Association.
Let’s look at the sustainability of hemp.
Nothing Goes to Waste
The first thing to note about hemp’s sustainability is that all parts of the plant are utilized, nothing goes to waste, and each of the plants parts have multiple uses. For example, the whole plant can be used at one time for boiler fuel, pyrolysis feedstock and CBD oils. At the same time, the bast fibers from the hemp stalk are used in textile, paper, and building material products and the seeds going to use for food and personal hygiene products. This is the reason it’s found in over 25,000 products!
Hemp is fairly low maintenance to farm. It doesn’t require a lot of sunlight to grow. It’s durable like a weed, so pesticides and herbicides are needed.
Great for the Environment and Ecosystems
What might be more important is the positive impact hemp has on the environment and our carbon footprint. Following are seven ways hemp can contribute to saving the planet!
1. Fewer Raw Materials
It might come as a surprise, but hemp can actually be used in place of wood, paper and concrete!
Fiberboards made from a hemp-composite are stronger and lighter than those made from wood.
When hemp is combined with lime, hempcrete is formed. Hempcrete provides soundproofing and insulation superior to concrete; it’s also non-toxic and mold resistant unlike fiberglass or drywall.
One acre of hemp can produce as much paper annually as four acres of trees.
In addition, hemp paper is more durable than paper produced from trees and doesn’t require chlorine bleaching like paper made from trees. Hemp can also be grown rapidly, whereas trees need years to mature.
2. Replaces Plastic
In 1941 Henry Ford, founder of Ford Motor Company, created a car using hemp. It ran on hemp and other plant-based fuels and the fenders were made using hemp and other plant-materials.
Lotus used hemp in 2008 for the composite body panels and spoilers of exotic Lotus Eco Elise. And since, many other car manufacturers switched to hemp based materials for door panels, columns, seat backs, boot linings, floor consoles, and instrument panels because it’s stronger, lighter, and cheaper than fiberglass and carbon fiber, not to mention it’s recyclable!
3. Alternative to Fossil Fuels
The Huff Post published an article on hemp and cited a 2009 study from the University of Connecticut’s Biofuel Consortium, which found that hemp oil made a “viable and even attractive” feedstock for producing biodiesel. It was shown to be highly efficient with over 97% of the hemp oil converted to biodiesel and used at lower temperatures than other biodiesels.
4. Reduces Our Carbon Footprint
Co2 (carbon dioxide) and other atmospheric gases in the atmosphere are the cause of global warming. Industrial hemp uses the sun’s energy to convert atmospheric CO2 into hydrocarbons and water. Each ton of hemp removes 1.6 3 tons of CO2.
6. Saves Water
Hemp fibers are very durable and can compete with the durability of cotton, but at a fraction of the water needed. Cotton is highly sensitive and takes 20,000 liters of water to produce 1kg of cotton (one pair of jeans and a t-shirt).
Hemp needs less than half that amount to produce the same amount of hemp!
7. Reduces Land Use & Supports Soil Health
Hemp farmers will tell you that hemp uses less land than many other plants. Hemp plants are able to grow in a variety of climates and can grow close together utilizing as much land per acre as possible. On average, hemp can produce 250% more fiber than conventional cotton using the same amount of land.
A plant takes about 3 months until ready to harvest, which equates for more yields per acre. While it grows it replenishes the soil with nitrogen and other nutrients. This allows for replanting in the same soil year after year. It is also a bio accumulator. This means as hemp grows it takes in the toxins from the soil around it. Under most circumstances this is a good thing. But for CBD products, which require the clean plants and soil, accumulated toxins must be removed before they products can be ingested.
8. Brings Economic Opportunities
According to Forbes, “In 2012 the hemp industry was valued at an estimated $500 million in annual retail sales and growing”. In 2017 Hemp Biz Journal estimated $820 million in U.S. sales in 2017!
With this growth will come increased sales revenue, business opportunities and jobs! And with 25,000 uses these opportunities wouldn’t be isolated to a few industries, but rather most, it not all industries will benefit.
This is the time for hemp! With the legislation challenges being cleared and so many clear advantages this plant offers, it might finally be able to live up to its reputation as “The Most Profitable And Desirable Crop That Can Be Grown” as it was declared in 1937.
So this Earth Day, whether your cleaning up the neighborhood, planting trees, meeting with elected officials, or simply committing to using less plastic, talk to people you know about hemp and the tremendous benefits it offers our planet, so we can be assured or many more Earth Days to come.
Ministry of Hemp is America's leading hemp advocate. Every week, we publish news, information, product reviews, and videos about hemp, CBD oil, and everything else made from our favorite crop. Look for us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest. We've even got a podcast now! Look for the Ministry of Hemp podcast on iTunes, or your favorite podcast app.
Rob Railis is a small business entrepreneur, freelance writer and CBD enthusiast in West Melbourne, FL. He got involved with CBD after giving it to his father to help manage chronic pain from arthritis in both knees. When he isn’t writing or speaking on Cannabidiol, Rob runs 13 Pastures, a wholesale CBD company.