Hemp cloth with recycling icon sustainability

When the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (AKA “The Farm Bill”) was passed last December, hemp was removed from the Controlled Substances Act. While the 2014 Farm Bill allowed industrial farmers to start growing hemp if made legal at the state level, the 2018 Farm Bill meant it was no longer an illegal substance at the federal level. This paved the way for CBD products and the hoopla surrounding that kept hemp itself somewhere in the shadows. Sure, this versatile plant is important in CBD production, but it’s so much more. And it’s great for the planet!

Hemp: Something Old is New Again

Hemp is nothing new. Evidence of hemp rope was found via an imprint in broken Chinese pottery from about 10,000 B.C. A remnant of hemp cloth dating back to 8,000 B.C. was found by archaeologists in ancient Mesopotamia (now Iran and Iraq). Up until the cotton gin was invented, hemp was the most popular fiber for textiles. In fact, the first American Flag, sewn by Betsy Ross, was made of hemp, as were the covers of the Conestoga wagons that brought American West.

Hemp had many other uses as well. The Chinese used hemp to make durable bow strings and paper. In the Middle Ages, hemp was used to make sails for ships. In fact, the word “canvas” comes from “cannabis” and means “made from hemp.”

So hemp has a strong place in history, but the modern era stigmatized hemp because of its relation to marijuana (hemp and marijuana are both members of the cannabis family), ignoring its historical uses and its promise as a sustainable crop that can be made into fiber, building materials, plastic, rope, paper, jewelry and biofuels – there are some 25,000 products made with hemp. And in addition, hemp aids in water and soil purification.

The Sustainability of Hemp

Hemp shows great promise for a sustainable crop, a crop that is grown in an ecologically mindful way, with a focus on soil health and biodiversity rather than using chemicals.

According to Sana Packaging, which produces hemp-based plastic packaging for the cannabis industry, hemp has great promise. On the company’s website it says, “The domestic hemp industry is growing over 30% per year and has the potential to reinvigorate economically stifled agricultural communities all across the United States. With its rapid growth cycle, hardiness, and versatility, hemp provides maximum benefit with minimal impact on the environment.”

Hemp is also a great crop for producing durable textiles. When compared with cotton, for instance, hemp is a far more sustainable crop:

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Hemp v. cotton sustainability infographic

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Hemp can also be used to make paper. One acre of hemp can produce 4 times more paper than one acre of trees, and hemp is ready for harvest after just four months, vs. 20-50 years for trees. Hemp breathes in 4x the carbon dioxide (CO2) of trees during its growing cycle, requires no chlorine bleach and hemp paper can be recycled up to 7 to 8 times, compared with 3 times for wood pulp paper.

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Hemp v. wood sustainability infographic

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Hemp’s Great for the Planet

Hemp aids in water and soil purification. It was used in Chernobyl in the 1990s because of its ability to extract heavy metals from contaminated land. In Italy, farmers planted industrial hemp to leach heavy metals from the soil contaminated by a nearby steel plant.

The process is known as phytoremediation. In phytoremediation contaminants are absorbed by living plants, in this case hemp, which removes heavy metals, particularly copper, cadmium and nickel from contaminated soils.

Some other ways hemps is great for the planet:

Health benefits of Hemp

Of course, hemp isn’t just great for the planet: It has health benefits, too. Another product that comes from hemp is hemp seeds. Hemp seeds are considered a superfood because they are rich in protein, fiber, and healthful fatty acids. More than 25% of their total calories are from high-quality protein, so hemp seeds are a great protein source. They contain vitamin E, magnesium, phosphorous, and potassium, as well as iron, zinc and B vitamins.

Hemp oil is a seed oil that contains no CBD, which is also derived from the hemp plant.

CBD oil on the other hand, is also derived from the hemp plant. It is extracted from the entire hemp plant for a compound that is 99+% pure CBD. While derived from a plant from the same family as marijuana, CBD has zero THC, so it doesn’t have the psychoactive properties of pot.

What is does have is the cannabinoid that assist in providing relief for a number of ailments from acne to rheumatoid arthritis. It has been approved as a treatment for a rare type of epilepsy, but otherwise is not regulated by the FDA. However, CBD is safe, effective and non-habit forming, so it’s an excellent alternative to prescription medication. Check out “CBD 101” for everything you need to know about CBD.

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