From clothing, to food, to fuel, to a whole host of consumer and building products, not to mention helping in cleaning up soil pollution, it’s only slightly hyperbole to call hemp a wonder crop.
Industrial hemp has many uses, including paper, textiles, biodegradable plastics, construction, health food, and fuel. It is one of the fastest growing biomasses knownand one of the earliest domesticated plants known. It also runs parallel with the “Green Future” objectives that are becoming increasingly popular. Hemp requires little to no pesticides no herbicidescontrols erosion of the topsoil, and produces oxygen. Furthermore, hemp can be used to replace many potentially harmful products, such as tree paper (the processing of which uses chlorine bleach, which results in the waste product polychlorinated dibensodioxins, popularly known as dioxins, which are carcinogenic, and contribute to deforestation, cosmetics, and plastics, most of which are petroleum-based and do not decompose easily. The strongest chemical needed to whiten the already light hemp paper is non-toxic hydrogen peroxide.
Hemp produces 4 times the raw material than trees for paper making. Hemp can be planted between 1-3 times a season, depending on location and can be recycled up to 10 times, compared to 3 or 4 for wood pulp paper. The same fibre products that the hemp harvest produces also provides raw-materials for a host of other sustainable products.
If today is a typical day on planet Earth, we will lose 116 square miles of rainforest, or about an acre a second. We will lose another 72 square miles to encroaching deserts, as a result of human mismanagement and overpopulation. We will lose 40 to 100 species, and no one knows whether the number is 40 or 100. Today the human population will increase by 250,000. And today we will add 2,700 tons of chlorofluorocarbons to the atmosphere and 15 million tons of carbon. Tonight the Earth will be a little hotter, it’s waters more acidic, and the fabric of life more threadbare.
Hemp’s been used for textiles since time immemorial–samples of hemp fabric in China date back to 8,000 BC–though it has certainly had a renaissance of late. Shedding the slightly rough and tough image it once had hemp has broken into the realms of high fashion, has been mixed with silk for lingerie, as well as being applied to more obvious applications where it’s durability is used to best advantage: Providing material for shoes, jeans, and other tough sport clothing.
Of all the uses for hemp, even if you only have a cursory knowledge of the subject you’re probably away of hemp fabric, clothing and paper, but here’s one that’s an eye-opener: Hemp provides all sorts of good building materials. You can make it into insulation as companies in the Netherlands and Ireland are doing. It can be used to make engineered building products like fiberboard and pressboard, and even be used to make ‘hempcrete‘, a stronger, lighter, and more environmentally friendly version of concrete.
Also, making biofuel from hemp is very possible! Like pretty much any vegetable oil you can take hemp oil and process it into biodiesel. You still have all the concerns about conversion of land that could be used for food production into land used to fuel vehicles, but the biodiesel process is certainly solid. As cellulosic ethanol technology becomes more commercial viable – something seemingly just over the horizon for a couple of years now – there’s no reason why you couldn’t utilize hemp stalks or other leftovers as a feedstock. Considering all that, it stands to reason that hemp could also be utilized to make liquid fuels that are chemically identical to petroleum-based gasoline or diesel as well