We asked our super knowledgable friends and suppliers at The CBD Place to tell us about some of the ways that hemp can help to make our planet healthier.
The UK and the USA have had a complicated relationship with hemp in recent years, with hemp farming both encouraged and criminalised during the past century.
But cast your eye back and you’ll discover that our ancestors had very different attitudes towards this incredible little plant. Did you know that King Henry VIII built his navy from hemp? Or that the first 4 presidents of the USA were hemp farmers? In fact, hemp was one of the earliest plants cultivated by humans thousands of years ago!
Thankfully we are once again appreciating what hemp can offer humanity, with new applications of this super-plant set to take us above and beyond what our ancestors ever dreamed possible. Here are just a few amazing modern uses of one of the most diverse plants in the world!
Hemp for homes
Hemp could prove invaluable in dealing with the worst housing crisis the UK has seen since the Second World War. As a building material it is cheaper, just a sixth of the weight and TEN TIMES stronger than concrete, while hemp buildings can last for a colossal 500 YEARS!
And that’s not all. Hempcrete is more insulating than concrete, storing heat and releasing it throughout the day, while the material is also great at dealing with humid conditions, with the plant fibers absorbing the moisture in the air.
Hemp bricks even breathe, with hemp continuing to remove carbon dioxide from the air even after it has been turned into hempcrete. It also cuts down on the greenhouse gases created when making concrete, which requires very high temperatures to be manufactured.
Perhaps the most exciting thing about hempcrete is its potential to revolutionise the housing crisis, providing an environmentally friendly, cheap alternative for social housing.
To be used as a building material, the woody core of the hemp plant is chopped into inch long pieces and mixed with a hydraulic lime binder, which together with a small amount of water creates hempcrete. Construction can use as little as hempcrete and the timber frame – it’s as simple as that!
For comparison, a more conventional low energy timber frame building would require a whole heap of components including lightweight insulation material, plastic membranes, a plasterboard interior lining and more.
Hemp as a CO2 super-sucker
Not only can hemp replace the causes of many carbon emissions, but it also has the potential to reduce existing levels of greenhouse gases.
Hemp consumes a massive FOUR TIMES as much CO2 as trees, and has such a high carbon-dioxide uptake that it creates a process called carbon sequestration, which captures emissions. This means that every ton of hemp eliminates approximately 1.63 tons of carbon!
And it’s not just our air that hemp can help to clean! This clever plant actually has the ability to extract toxins and heavy metals from the earth, making it more fertile. Hemp was even planted in Chernobyl following the nuclear disaster in the 1980s and actively helped remove radioactive material from the soil.
Hemp to save the forests
Did you know that just one acre of hemp can produce the same amount of paper per year as FOUR ACRES of trees? In fact, the world’s first paper was probably made from hemp more than 2,000 years ago in China, with hemp fabric smashed down into thin sheets along with other agricultural waste.
Not only does it produce a high yield, but hemp is also easier to grow – hemp stalks take between three and four months to grow, whereas a tree can take 20-80 years!
As a plant, hemp is more suitable for paper than trees as it has a higher cellulose and lower lignin content, while hemp paper is also more durable than trees. Hemp also produces better quality paper than trees, as hemp paper does not yellow, crack, or deteriorate like tree paper.
Hemp as a plastic
Once thought to be one of the most adaptable materials in the world, there are few industries that have caused more damage to our planet over the past 70 years than the plastic industry.
Since it was first mass-produced just six decades ago, over 9 billion metric tons of plastic have been produced across the world, with nearly 7 billion tons of that becoming waste. Of this, only just over half a billion tons have been recycled, and it takes some 400 years for plastics to biodegrade.
One potential solution to the problem created by plastic is – you guessed it – hemp! Though 100% hemp plastics are still a rarity due to the complex methods involved in its manufacturing process, several composite bioplastics (plastics made from a combination of hemp and other plant sources) are already in use by companies such as the Hemp Plastic Company in Denver.
Thanks to their high strength and rigidity, these plastics are currently used in the construction of cars, boats, and even musical instruments, with hemp plastic expected to make up around 5 per cent of the industry by the end of 2020. Companies like Coca-Cola have also began experimenting with 100% plant-based bottles, though currently most commercially available products are made from no more than 30% plant-based materials.
Hemp as a power source
A surprise to many, but this versatile plant can even be used as an extremely effective source of power. In fact, hemp batteries were found to perform EIGHT TIMES better than their lithium-based counterparts!
In 2014 experts also found that hemp even has the potential to power electric vehicles in the future. When scientists from Clarkson University in New York "cooked" cannabis bark into carbon nanosheets and built supercapacitors, they found that hemp may be even more effective than graphene, the industry’s benchmark.
And not only does the hemp version work better, but it’s also a THOUSAND TIMES less expensive to make!
Hemp for mind, body and soul
While the benefits of hemp extracts for overall wellbeing are now being discussed in the mainstream once again, hemp has actually been used in medicine for thousands of years.
The first recorded use of hemp for medicine was nearly 5000 years ago, when Emperor Shen-Nung developed topical hemp oils and teas to aid in pain relief in Ancient China in 2737 BCE. Since then, hemp has been recorded for use in medicine in Ancient Rome, Greece, Egypt and many Middle Eastern regions.
Throughout history scientists have studied the medicinal qualities of hemp, though the introduction of prohibition across the Western world in the early 1900s means there is certainly a gap in our knowledge of the plant. An understanding of the benefits of hemp derivatives such as CBD are now becoming widespread, though, with the Ministry of Hemp stating:
“CBD research has been going on for over two decades. It’s been shown to have incredible effects on seizures, pain, anxiety, inflammation, insomnia, fibromyalgia, cancer, Crohn’s disease, PTSD, and more. There are currently studies being done on CBD’s effects on Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, stroke, and MS, too.”
Hemp as fuel
It is impossible to avoid the devastating impact fossil fuels are having on our planet, and the world is crying out for renewable fuel sources. As recently as April 21st scientists announced that the loss of summer sea ice in the Arctic is now very likely before 2050, while it may disappear completely if carbon emissions are not curbed.
Enter hemp! Hemp can be used to make the biofuels bioethanol and biodiesel, and is the only alternative fuel that can run unmodified in any diesel engine. In fact, Henry Ford’s first Model-T was built to run on hemp gasoline and the car itself was constructed from hemp.
Hemp is just one of several crops with the ability to be turned into biofuel, with corn and sugarcane also popular in the industry. The main selling point for biofuel is that it is sustainable and can be regrown and re-used, so long as there is space to grow the crops and facilities to convert it into fuel.
Hemp does have an edge over these crops, though, as it can be grown in most climates and conditions, has an incredibly rapid growth (up to approximately 4 metres in 100 days) and leaves the ground in a better condition when it is harvested.
So whether hemp is extracting toxic substances from the air or the soil, building cheap, sustainable homes or powering the vehicles of tomorrow, this miracle crop really does have the potential to improve our lives and maybe even save the planet.
Do you think hemp can help save the planet? Let us know in the comments!
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