Hemp and The Environment - 5 ways this plant can positively impact the world
Want to protect the environment? Choosing hemp as an alternative to plastics and a sustainable material for building, clothing, fuel and much, much more is one of the most positive steps we could take.
Choosing hemp as an alternative to plastics and a sustainable material for building, clothing, fuel and much, much more would be one of the most positive steps we could take.
Can hemp help clear air pollution?
Air pollution poses an extremely serious problem to both our environment and individual health. World Health Organisation (WHO) data has revealed that an estimated 7 million people die as a direct result of air pollution every year, while 9 out of 10 people breathe air that exceeds WHO guideline limits containing high levels of pollutants. Of course, having these contaminants in the air, largely caused by energy use and production, is also causing serious damage to our environment, raising the earth’s temperature at an alarming rate.
The hemp plant can not only help replace many of the causes of these harmful carbon emissions (which we’ll explore in our next point), but it can actually help to absorb and therefore remove what is already there.
Incredibly, the hemp plant has the ability to absorb four time as much carbon dioxide (C02) as trees, meaning that every tonne of hemp grown removes approximately 1.62 tonnes of carbon from the environment. Better still, hemp plants then covert the c02 into oxygen which is then released back into the air.
Can hemp replace plastics?
We should all know by now that the plastics industry is one of the major contributors to global pollution. We have produced the equivalent to the weight of more than 800,000 Eiffel Towers of plastic since the 1950s – and only 9% of it has been recycled. And much of what has been recycled ends up dumped countries such as China and Malaysia to be burned on the land - a practice which releases harmful dioxins, furans, methane, and black carbon into the atmosphere, only making matters much, much worse.
Most of us are keen to use sustainable plastic alternatives at every opportunity, and hemp plastics makes the perfect biodegradable solution.
Hemp plastics are 3.5 times stronger than petroleum-based plastic, polypropylene – as well as being lighter. This can be used perfectly for packaging, apparel, furniture and really anything else plastics are used for. Where regular plastics are believed to take up to 1,000 years to decompose, hemp plastics take 3-6 months and can be recycled indefinitely.
Hempcrete (a material made from hemp, similar to concrete) and other ‘bio-based’ materials can be used to construct ‘zero carbon’ buildings – a far cry from the 50m tonnes of carbon emissions currently embedded in the fabric of buildings, in the form of steel, timber and concrete. What’s more, hempcrete is naturally fire resistant, will actually continue to absorb carbon dioxide from the air (as the whole hemp plant does) and is far more effective at keeping walls well-insulated, negating the need for extra materials. In fact, the Science Museum built a the three-storey archival store in 2012 using a hemp-lime envelope and it proved to be so effective at retaining warmth that they switched off all heating, cooling, and humidity control for over a year – reducing further energy consumption.
Can hemp be used as an energy source?
You may have read in our news digest that a team of researchers have developed a battery than is eight times more effective than those made out of lithium-ion. You guessed it, it’s made out of hemp. This is huge news, as the extraction of lithium is extremely unsustainable and requires a lot of water. Worse still, the 66,000 tonnes of lithium mined every year is seriously contaminating groundwater with metals including antimony and arsenic, according to federal documents.
Beyond batteries, the hemp plant can also be used to make ethanol, biogas and biodiesel, has been shown to overall have a much lower environmental impact than fossil diesel.
Can hemp help save our trees?
If you read our article on the ancient history of cannabis, you’ll learn that hemp was used to make the first ever paper – and there’s no reason we shouldn’t still be doing that. Just one acre of hemp, which helps clear air pollution and is also favoured by bees and other essential pollinators, can make the same amount of paper as four acres of tress. And, of course, hemp grows considerably faster than trees do too! Not only is this a far more efficient and environmentally friendly was to produced paper, but we also end up with a higher quality more durable product too.