Anthony Lee - Jan 01 2020
Hemp and Its Environmental Impact
MAs essential as farming is for human existence, it is a colossal cause of concern for the environment as the practices used for it are not sustainable. From deforestation and water contamination to reduced soil fertility and an abundance of CO2 in the air, prevalent agricultural methods are pretty harmful to Mother Nature.
However, there are sustainable alternatives to the degrading farming protocols, and on top of that list is growing hemp and using it for industrial purposes. While there are countless hemp agriculture benefits, a few of them require in-depth discussion as they demonstrate how hemp can save the planet. But before we go over the notable hemp farming facts, let’s take a look at its history.
Where Did Hemp Originate?
Hemp is one of the oldest crops ever harvested; in fact, some experts believe it was the first one.
However archaeological finds show evidence that hemp fibre usage dates back to around 8000 BCE. Later, it gained popularity and traveled to many parts of Europe, especially the Mediterranean regions and became a regularly-planted crop.
In 1619, the Virginia Assembly mandated farmers to grow hemp as it was being used to produce many products such as sails, fabrics, ropes etc.
But then, during the Great Depression, when unemployment was at an all-time high, violence took over the streets and became the norm, which many attributed to the use of recreational marijuana. Considering the seemingly uncontrollable crisis, the US government decided to outlaw possession and production of hemp, industrial or recreational.
As a result, a bill titled the Marijuana Tax Act was passed, banning all things hemp.
However, fast forward to 2018, Farm Bill was enforced, sanctioning the making, retailing and possession of hemp. The legalization of marijuana has led to many new and sustainably made commodities and edibles. This happened because hemp is an ecological crop that hardly impacts the atmosphere, unlike most of the other staples.
To help you understand why hemp is good for the environment, here is an in-depth rundown of all the ways hemp production benefits Earth.
Benefits of Hemp to the Environment
Hemp is arguably the most eco-friendly plant on the planet. Thanks to a natural process called phytoremediation, hemp can purify soil and water bodies around by removing the contaminants. It will also help the soil or waterbody it has just absorbed the dirt from to stabilize and transfer the pollution outside. The plant reduces deforestation and sequestering carbon as well. In short, hemp is a total game-changer for the agricultural and industrial sectors.
Growing Hemp Cleanses the Air
Trees suck in the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, cleansing the air. However, regular trees do not absorb CO2 as quickly as hemp yields.
Hemp takes up CO2 from the air at an unbelievably rapid pace - a phenomenon known as carbon sequestration. This means the more hemp is grown, the lesser carbon dioxide concentration in the environment.
Studies show that every ton of hemp takes away 1.63 tons of CO2 from the atmosphere. Looking at the hemp carbon dioxide absorption stats, it’s safe to say that growing hemp improves air quality.
What’s more interesting is that hemp crops offer similar CO2 absorption rates as forests, which take up 7.6 billion metric tonnes of CO2 per year. But it must be noted that forests take a lot more time to grow than hemp.
A forest takes around 600 to 1,000 years to grow naturally; whereas a hemp field takes only about 3-4 months to mature. This means that hemp’s rapid growth makes it a more convenient and effective solution to the increasing concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere.
Hemp Conserves Water
There are multiple immensely appealing environmental gains of producing hemp, but conserving water is especially beneficial on account of the increasing water shortage in the world. Planting and harvesting this amazing cannabis Sativa derivative takes a considerably small quantity of water compared to the huge bucketful of water other harvests consume.
The mentioned statement begs the question of how much water does it take to grow hemp? To answer this question, let’s compare hemp and cotton.
Hemp fields do not need as much water as most other crops, such as cotton or flaxseeds. According to research, growing 900 grams of cotton requires approximately 4 litres of water, whereas harvesting the same amount of hemp takes only about 2450-3365 litres of water.
The striking difference in water consumption between the two crops demonstrates why hemp is a better choice.
It Prevents Deforestation
Earth is losing its forests at an alarming speed as wood and paper industries continue to clear vast land fields of dense greenery to stay in business.
According to an estimation, forests cut down every minute equal 48 football fields. In simple terms, an enormous portion of the planet loses all of its trees every 60 seconds.
However, luckily, a much more sustainable alternative exists to tackle the said problem; using hemp for wood and paper.
Hemp can be an excellent source of wood and paper as it can produce much larger batches of these products. It is believed that one acre of hemp yields the same amount of paper as 4 acres of trees yearly.
Moreover, the final product made from hemp is more durable than the typical paper. And that’s not all.
Using hemp to make paper is the sustainable choice because growing these cannabis plants mature exponentially within 4-6 months, while other trees can take up to a decade to grow properly. This means farmers can seed a new batch of plants right after procuring the latest harvest, significantly speeding up the entire production process.
It Reduces Dioxin Pollution
Dioxin is a toxin compound derived from chlorine, which is part of the paper industry. Paper factories use chlorine for bleaching, resulting in harmful emissions.
Once the emitted fumes get into the environment, they react with other elements to form dioxin. If paper mills start using hemp for manufacturing their commodity, they can reduce dioxin pollution noticeably.
Rapid Growth Rate
Unlike many crops, hemp tree growth is much faster. In other words, farmers don’t need to wait for different seasons to plant hemp. Additionally, it doesn’t require particularly elaborate environmental conditions, such as specific sod or fertilizers, to grow- meaning it can be produced more easily without limitations.
Hemp Prevents Soil Erosion and Improves Its Quality
Soil erosion is a serious issue affecting farmers nationwide. When crops are planted, only a few are able to penetrate past the topsoil, resulting in soil erosion. And the plants whose roots do run deep down under the Earth make the soil compact. As a result, many planting fields become less conducive for growing vegetation.
But not all hope is lost, thanks to hemp. Hemp effects on soil certainly make it the best-suited crop choice the world over. Its root network runs far down the topsoil (approximately 270 Meters under the Earth), preventing erosion and opening up compaction.
Moreover, hemp roots extract all the toxins left in the mud by factories, increasing the land’s fertility.
On top of it all, hemp gives back to Mother Nature as it returns most of the land's nutrients. In other words, it sucks all the harmful compounds and replaces those with essential elements and minerals.
The better part of the automotive sector relies on non-renewable resources for fuel, which is pricier to obtain and harms the environment. To counter the issue of unsustainable energy, hemp serves as the perfect substitute as it turns into biodiesel with 97% efficiency while also burning at a much lower temp.
In conclusion, if we want to save our planet, we need to start relying on biofuel.
Hemp Makes Sustainable Plastic
Plastic is undoubtedly the biggest enemy of the environment, polluting the atmosphere and aquatic regions tremendously. The material used to produce plastic, cellulose, is generally sourced from petroleum, which is immensely hazardous for the planet.
On the contrary, hemp is the greatest biodegradable option to obtain cellulose for plastic factories. That's right, hemp-based plastic decomposes much faster than its petroleum-based counterpart, which takes about 400-1000 years to decay completely.
The ocean will surely thank us if we switch to sustainable plastic!
No Pest Pollution
Plants are typically vulnerable to many diseases, warranting generous sprays of pesticides to keep shrubs safe and turn them into trees. While doing so benefits crops, it damages the soil more than most people realize. And naturally, damaged or poor quality sod will not yield healthy produce. This is where hemp comes to the rescue of the land.
Hemp is inherently an immunized species that is not affected by insects or other such critters. If, in some rare cases, farmers need to use a formula to eliminate microorganisms, the quantity remains negligible. Consequently, Earth stays healthy and in turn supports lush vegetation.
Products from Hemp
Now that we have covered topics such as what soil does hemp need (nothing specific) or does hemp use a lot of water (no, it doesn’t!), let’s quickly learn about some hemp-based products.
Hempcrete is concrete made from hemp. It is an eco-friendly substitution for regular concrete.
Concrete used in cement is reported to be the 2nd largest contributor of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. If we switch to hempcrete, CO2 emissions released by the construction sector can be controlled.
Hemp makes for incredibly sustainable, long-lasting and robust building blocks for construction purposes. Typically wood is used to do the said job, acquiring which robs the world of forests. Therefore, fibreboards made with hemp are safer for the planet while also offering higher stability.
Cotton is the most common textile crop, but it consumes a lot of water, diminishing the world's water reserve. Hemp, on the other hand, only needs a reasonable amount of water, not burdening the natural resources.
Aside from saving water, hemp-based textiles do not release toxic gasses, unlike the standard materials. Most fabric fibers are composed of polymer-based petrochemical materials that are ghastly hazardous for the environment because when those are burnt, toxins are released. Therefore, hemp-based fabrics are unquestionably the better, more eco-friendly option for the garment sector.
While hemp has become a major component in many products, nothing is considered magnificent as hemp-containing cosmetics. That’s not to say that other hemp items are in any way less useful or brilliant, but skincare and makeup formulas with hemp are evidently more beneficial for consumers.
Ask any cosmetologist what makes hemp cosmetics so incredible, and they’ll go on extolling cannabis cosmetics to no end and rightly so because those are rich in essential compounds excellent for the skin. Although the world of aesthetics and cosmetology is brimming with makeup products, the ones with hemp have proven to be remarkable for skin tissues. They are loaded with vital vitamins, including E, C and B3, along with healthy fatty acids, namely omega 6 and 9.
On top of that, hemp-based cosmetics are the only products in the market that do not clog pores; or are non-comedogenic.
In a nutshell, hemp face cream and cosmetics are excellent for the skin, perhaps more than any other skincare or makeup products out there.
In sum, hemp is a versatile, environmentally safe and inexpensive crop variety that can preserve Earth’s debilitating environment.