Ever thought that marijuana of all things could help the environment?
We certainly didn’t.
While it’s not exactly the same plant, hemp (Cannabis sativa L.) comes from the same family as cannabis. However, unlike its cousin, hemp doesn’t make you go high. The herb only contains tiny amounts of THC, the chemical substance that gives marijuana its psychedelic kick.
This begs the question: what IS it good for?
The short answer is a lot of things. Hemp is a super crop with several uses and beneficial properties that make it valuable for a variety of things from being used for industrial building to organic beauty products. Down below we’ve compiled all of this herb’s uses as well as the ways it benefits the environment.
A Natural Building Block
Hemp won’t be going into your lungs, but it’ll definitely be going into other things you’ll find useful.
The fiber in the plant, extracted through retting, or in more recent times, using steam and machinery, is well-known for being a versatile and environmentally-friendly building material. It can be used to make rope, textiles and clothing, bioplastics, paper and even concrete. It’s strong and durable; the strongest, in fact, and is 100% biodegradable, meaning products made from it won’t pollute the environment.
The hemp seeds, which don’t contain any potentially intoxicating substances like cannabinoids, can be used to produce hemp oil. And while this oil plays an important role in your kitchen, it is also very popular as a component of organic skincare products.
Hemp oil has been touted as an effective moisturizer that helps reduce acne and wrinkles. Research claims that it provides a huge array of health benefits, including reducing anxiety and inflammation. And the best part? It's all natural.
Highly Nutritious Food
Hemp seeds are also full of healthy nutrients, namely proteins (they contain all 10 essential amino acids, magnesium and omega-3 fatty acids.
Most people consume hemp by eating the seeds whole or by adding the oil (culinary, not cosmetic) as a meal dressing. Hemp seeds can also be used to make plant-based milk and protein powder, making them an excellent choice for vegan diets in need of a reliable protein source.
However, this piece from Medical News Today also cautions against overconsumption of hemp, as it has been known to induce mild diarrhea in large and sudden doses, as well as disrupt blood-clotting. As always, consult with your doctor to make sure you’re not hurting yourself.
According to this article, industrial hemp seed oil can also help manufacture environmentally-friendly biodiesel. The stalks of the plant can also be used to create biofuel in the form of methanol and ethanol.
Unfortunately, while the plant does produce a very convenient and effective source of fuel and energy, fuel created with hemp still releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, as it’s still made with ethanol.
It may be one of the best alternatives to fossil fuels, but it won’t be the savior of the planet on its own.
An Easy to Grow and Sustainable Crop
Hemp can be grown anywhere, in cold temperatures and with minimal amounts of water. Add to that natural antibacterial properties that remove the need for pesticides and you have an incredibly easy to grow crop.
The plant also grows very quickly. Hemp reaches maturity after just 120 days, compared to trees which take decades or more or cotton which takes around 140. And this is excluding the heavy amount of artificial fertilizers, pesticides and soil nutrients used during their growth cycles. Hemp is mostly self-reliant, and most of the nutrients it absorbs is returned back to the soil, enriching it and creating a more ideal environment for other crops to grow.
It Sucks Up CO2 Like A Sponge
Most plants absorb carbon dioxide to grow. However, hemp takes in more CO2 per hectare than any other crop on Earth, making it one of the best solutions to global warming, especially when grown in large quantities, more effective than even trees.
Plants, and by extension hemp, do this through a process called sequestration. Atmospheric carbon dioxide is absorbed and is then stored for the rest of the plant’s life, only released into the air once it becomes compost or if it’s burned. After that, it is re-absorbed by other plants in its place. Isn’t that neat?
So Why Isn’t Hemp More Common?
Hemp is by no means a recent discovery. It has a long history that's spanned a whopping 10,000 years, with records of its cultivation and application dating back to ancient China. However, due to its association with the controversial marijuana, the growing of hemp was banned.
But now times are changing. With the industrial hemp now legal in the United States, we are beginning to see new innovations with this super plant that could create a massive positive impact on the environment.
Hemp has huge potential, and we can’t wait to see what else it has in store. In the meantime, you can feel free to look into hemp products as sustainable alternatives to incorporate into your life. And as always, spread the word to others in your community who may be interested. You never know what interesting discussions may come of it.
With love and compassion,