Hemp, the environment and sustainability: Part 2
In the previous part we discussed the various uses of hemp, and how hemp can be turned into a wide variety of different materials that are light, durable, biodegradable and non-toxic. We saw that hemp has the ability to replace their less desirable current counterparts, thus having the potential for humans to create a sustainable and environmentally friendly footprint on this blue planet.
In part 2, we are going to discuss how hemp has the potential to save the planet (and future generations along with it) by discussing the benefits of growing this crop over other standard crops, as well as the implications of this on the environment and future sustainability.
Why hemp is better
1. It fixes soil
Industrial hemp is a hardy, fast growing plant, that is ready to harvest in as little as 100 to 120 days after sowing. It also performs best when used as a rotation crop, returning as much as 60% to 70% of the nutrients it takes from the soil, back into the soil, giving it the ability to regenerate and restore worn-out, eroded and over-farmed soils.
2. It can clean toxic and radioactive waste
Industrial hemp is unique in that it is a bio-accumulator, meaning it can extract heavy metals and other toxins from the soil via a process called phytoremediation. It is so good at this that scientists even used it to remove the lead, uranium, cesium-137, and strontium-90 contamination in and around the site of the Chernobyl disaster. Similarly, people are now also thinking of planting hemp around the site of the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan, in an attempt to clean up the area and make it habitable for humans and animals again.
3. It grows without pesticides or herbicides
Because hemp is tall, reaching heights of up to 4,5 metres in addition to having large, broad leaves, it has a natural ability to illuminate other weeds by blocking out the sunlight. Without sunlight, weeds can’t grow, making the need for herbicides virtually zero. In addition, hemp also naturally repels insects and other unwanted pests making it ideal to grow as an organic crop. In fact, most hemp crops today are grown organically, with many farmers reaping the phytoremediation and restorative benefits of rotating hemp with other commercial crops.
4. It is CO2 negative
It might sound dramatic, but hemp literally has the ability to stop global warming through its ability to remove CO2 from the air and deposit it back into the ground. Hemp begins to sequester (the scientific term for removing) CO2 the moment it is seeded, yielding a ratio of about 1,5 unit of sequestration per unit produced. This means that for every ton of harvested hemp fibre, 1,62 tons of CO2 is eliminated.
Compared to other fibre crops such as wood and cotton, hemp has a shorter growing period, needs less water, space and soil, has a higher fibre content and is a much less labour intensive to harvest. This means less machinery, equipment and energy, an elimination of the need for land clearing, and cleaner growing methods while simultaneously having a wider range of paper and textile applications.
Add into the mix that hemp is also capable of replacing many of the materials that currently rely on petroleum, fossil fuels and toxic chemicals for its manufacture. Moreover, hemp itself is also capable of cleaning up the pollution caused by these current processes, making it clear that hemp is the way of the future.
In the end, demand creates supply. And if more people start supporting hemp-based products, governments and industry will have to move their focus from their current destructive practices onto more sustainable and environmentally friendly hemp-based technologies and products.
Why not start making a difference by supporting sustainable hemp-based companies and vote with your euros by buying products made from sustainable hemp sources?