Tuesday May 29, 2018

By Nicholas Demski

The Benefits of Hemp and Its Environmental Sustainability Growing

Before hemp was outlawed by the DEA, it was a staple crop for Americans. Early settlers were mandated to grow hemp so it could be shipped back to England to be turned into fabrics and textiles. It was a money-making crop that helped build the robust culture and economy that the United States enjoys today.



The abundant prosperity of hemp continued until the early 1900s when Reefer Madness sent the country into a cannabis hysteria. As a result, many people have forgotten our history with hemp and how it helped forged our nation.

The facts are simply undeniable. Hemp helped our country grow and flourish in the past and it may be a way to help maintain the future of the United States, too.

There are plenty of reasons to reinvest ourselves in the production of hemp. From a wide variety of applications to sustainable growing practices, hemp may be one of the most useful plants to help save our earth from environmental issues and replace harmful substances like plastic.

Incorporating Hemp into Our Everyday Lives

As mentioned above, hemp is an extremely versatile textile and can be used in a variety of different ways. In fact, hemp can be used as a replacement for almost any textile in existence and has a minimal impact on the environment. Check out a few of the most common ways hemp is used in modern America:

Clothing

When made into fabric, hemp is enormously versatile for apparel. For starters, it’s fire resistant. Unlike cotton clothing, linens, and cloths that would need chemicals added to them to resist fire, hemp does it all on its own. But what’s the point of wearing fire resistant clothing if it isn’t comfortable?

Hemp Shirts
Did you know that fabrics made from hemp get softer with every wash? photo credit

Hemp gets a bit softer every time you wash it and more enjoyable to wear as time goes on. It doesn’t matter the weather; hemp keeps you warm in cold weather and allows your skin to breathe in the heat. Without even naming the environmental advantages to wear hemp over cotton, hemp’s versatility as apparel is reason enough to be our clothing’s top fabric.

Food

Everything these days is a health craze. First, eggs are good for you, then they’re bad for you, then they’re both – it’s becoming difficult to keep up. One thing that isn’t difficult to keep up with? The fact that hemp seeds are incredibly healthy and always will be.

Hemp Seeds
Hemp seeds are both delicious and nutritious! photo credit

Hemp seeds are high in protein, omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, dietary fibers, potassium, magnesium, and virtually every mineral and vitamin humans need in their diet. Whether sprinkled onto salads, blended into shakes, or made into a butter, for example, hemp seeds could easily become a new staple in the American diet once hemp is declassified on the federal level.

Fenders and Auto Parts

Have you seen the amazing video of a man pounding on a car with a hammer and not even leaving a dent? You might not have, only because it’s quite old. In the video, you can see that Henry Ford built a prototype car with its body made from hemp. The video claims that the material is lighter than steel, but can survive ten times the impact. That means using hemp to build our cars instead of other materials could make them lighter and more durable.

Lighter cars have better fuel economy and durable cars last longer with less need for maintenance. Combined, making cars from hemp would be another stepping stone in the move to a cleaner society. Likewise, using hemp instead of synthetics would cut down on industrial waste. Check out a modern car made from hemp with a more modern design than Henry Ford’s original blueprints.

Fuel

To power our cars, hemp can be used as a fuel in several ways. First, hemp seeds can be pressed down. The result is the creation of biodiesel that can be used in almost any vehicle today without any modifications.

Hemp Stalk
Example of a hemp stem being prepared for processing. photo credit

Another way to create fuel from hemp is by fermenting the stalks. When the stalks ferment, they can be made into ethanol and methanol. Admittedly, it isn’t the cleanest form of energy available to us, but it could be a useful, intermittent step towards the future of clean energy.

Paper

It takes trees several decades to grow large enough where are they worth the effort to cut down and process into paper. Hemp, on the other hand, grows rapidly. It takes hemp just a few months to completely replenish itself. What’s more, hemp requires little care. It doesn’t use too much water and needs very few pesticides to survive as a monocrop.

With the devastating rate that forests around the world are falling, hemp paper might be the most immediately useful implementation of hemp into our daily lives.

With so many applications for use, it’s obvious that hemp can help us in our everyday lives. But what impact overall does it have on the environment? We’ve touched on this concept a bit, but let’s explore a little further.

How Using Hemp is Good for the Environment

The US Farm Bill that passed in 2014 allows states to grow hemp for industrial purposes, research and development. States like Oregon and Colorado, among others, already have hemp pilot programs underway. While select states experiment with industrial hemp and investigate how it impacts their economy, many people wonder what effect hemp has on environmental sustainability.

Hemp Field
Hemp's sustainability and positive environmental impact are great reasons why the US should be growing it on a large scale.

Since growing hemp requires so few noxious chemicals, it’s an environmentally sound option to many of our everyday items. For example, for every two to three acres of land that are necessary for growing cotton, hemp can grow the same amount of viable product on just one acre. Moreover, if the availability of land is a problem, we should also be looking at where our waste ends up.

The world is suffering from a plastic pollution problem. Millions of pounds of plastic are floating in the ocean, slowly breaking up into micro-plastics that poison the food chain and pollute the water. Hemp can be used as a biodegradable alternative to plastic. This would have a massive impact on the world we know and should be a top priority for anyone who has seen the recent videos of garbage floating in the Caribbean.

Should the United States Start Growing Hemp Again?

These aren’t even the only ways that hemp can help the environment by being used in our everyday items. If you only consider clothing and plastic, moving over to hemp is the environmentally correct thing to do.

Adding in the idea of replacing paper with hemp, bridging the gap to green energy, using hempseeds as nutritious food, and realizing the full economic benefits of a healthy industry, it becomes evident that the United States should once again be producing hemp on a large scale.


Do you use hemp products? How do they compare to less green alternatives?

Photo Credit: Bogdan (license)


Nicholas Demski Nicholas Demski

Nicholas is a freelance writer and featured contributor for Plurality Press, Content Pros, INC., and has been featured in Reader's Digest. His poetry has been printed in The Broad River Review, Whiskey Island, and Artifact Nouveau. He encourages you to follow him on Instagram @TheSingleDadNomad, Twitter @NicholasDemski, and blogs about his life on www.TheSingleDadNomad.com.


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