Hemp is one of the most diverse plants on earth. Not only are CBD flowers great for health and wellness, but industrial hemp has near-endless applications with building materials, plastic composites, biofuels, and bioremediation. Many of these primary uses for industrial hemp are also beneficial for the environment.
Since hemp was nationally legalized in 2018, people have made major strides incorporating the plant into new environmental initiatives. Moreover, there are countless new hemp businesses born every day which are dedicated to promoting this renewable resource. These new advocates fully embrace the benefits of industrial hemp.
What is Industrial Hemp?
Today, the term “hemp” is used to denote any species of cannabis sativa plant that contains less than 0.03% THC. Within the subcategory of hemp, crops generally fall into two categories: CBD-producing plants and industrial hemp plants.
Hemp that is grown for CBD features delicate flowers which are prized for their cannabinoid content and terpene profiles. These crops are carefully grown to produce quality flowers for human consumption. Within this market segment, High Grade Hemp Seed specializes in quality CBD genetics.
Rather than being grown for prized flowers, industrial hemp is grown for its fibrous stalks and nutritious seeds. Manufacturers and scientists have discovered thousands of ways to use the industrial hemp plant, many of them being extremely beneficial for the environment.
What can Industrial Hemp be Used For?
The applicability of industrial hemp for construction is nothing short of spectacular, especially compared to traditional materials. Not only are hemp-derived building materials highly durable, but they also come from a renewable resource. To this end, hemp stalks mature in just four months, while most trees take 20-80 years before they are ready to harvest.
Lumber is a noteworthy product that is from industrial hemp. Hemp wood was engineered to meet and exceed the construction properties of hardwood trees, such as oak. With that said, hemp lumber can be used anywhere hardwoods are used in construction — such as cabinets, flooring, and home interiors.
Hempcrete is another amazing material that is made from the stalks of industrial hemp. According to Mother Earth News, hempcrete “is created by wet-mixing the chopped woody stem of the hemp plant (hemp shiv) with a lime-based binder to create a material that can be cast into molds.” Builders enjoy hempcrete because it is breathable and features great insulating properties.
Contractors use hempcrete on the interior of buildings, including walls, ceiling, and insulation. While hempcrete is not considered “load-bearing” like regular concrete, it is gaining attention from eco-friendly builders because it comes from a renewable resource.
Industrial hemp can be made into biofuels, including diesel, ethanol, and methanol. Hemp biofuels have the potential to replace fossil fuels in several important applications, including diesel engines and home furnaces.
Looking at the environmental movement, hemp biofuels offer a clean, renewable alternative to fossil fuels. As most are aware, fossil fuels are limited on planet earth. To illustrate, a study by Stanford University reveals that our oil supplies will likely deplete within 30-50 years. On top of that, the burning of fossil fuels is the leading cause of global warming.
Due to logistical limits on mass cultivation, hemp biofuels cannot replace fossil fuels in their entirety. However, as we continue to search for ways to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels, hemp offers a unique green energy source. Hemp biofuels can be implemented to offer incremental relief from fossil fuels as we search for greater solutions.
Paper & Plastic Composites
As seen with construction materials, industrial hemp has a number of eco-friendly applications with paper and plastic. These highly sought-after materials offer some of the most promising applications of industrial hemp to date.
When compared to paper made from trees, industrial hemp shows incredible promise. As previously mentioned with lumber, hemp plants grow in just a fraction of the time it takes to grow trees. Even more impressive is the fact that one acre of hemp produces as much paper as four acres of trees. Manufacturers also report that hemp paper is stronger than paper made from trees. It is also easier to recycle. For both environmental benefits and practical use, hemp paper is set to revolutionize the paper industry.
Composite plastics are yet another amazing application of industrial hemp. You can make several types of plastics from hemp, including cellophane, celluloid, rayon, and many more. Hemp plastics show amazing promise as an eco-friendly replacement for plastics made from fossil fuels. Not only are hemp plastics biodegradable, but they are highly renewable. Due to the novelty of the process, hemp plastics are expensive to produce. However, it is likely that the process will become cheaper as the hemp industry continues to expand worldwide.
Carbon farming is another interesting example of industrial hemp uses. Carbon farmers utilize processes that reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. An example of a carbon farming technique is no-till cultivation. By not overturning the ground soil, carbon farmers keep CO2 in the ground, as opposed to releasing it into the atmosphere.
Beyond carbon farming practices, hemp farms also act as “carbon sinks.” In the natural world, carbon sinks are environments that soak in more carbon than they expel. Whether it be a forest preserve or hemp farm, carbon sinks lessen the amount of ambient CO2 in the atmosphere. By removing CO2, carbon sinks help reduce the effects of global warming.
Hemp plants themselves have very interesting characteristics when it comes to carbon sequestration. During photosynthesis, hemp plants pull carbon from the atmosphere, where it permanently bonds to plant fibers. The sequestered carbon remains forever bonded to the plant material unless it is burned or composted.
Bioremediation is a forward-looking practice where farmers, biologists, and ecologists work together to restore polluted tracts of land. According to the University of Hawaii website, “Bioremediation technologies utilize naturally occurring microorganisms, such as bacteria, fungi, and yeast, to degrade hazardous substances into non-toxic or less toxic substances.”
Hemp plants are powerful catalysts for bioremediation. When planted on polluted land, hemp crops naturally absorb harmful toxins from the soil. Studies show that hemp helps remove petroleum, metals, pesticides, and solvents from the earth. The environmental impacts of bioremediation and hemp are far-reaching, it will be fascinating to see how this practice develops in the future.
Summary: The Benefits of Industrial Hemp
Due to current environmental crises, scientists are constantly searching for solutions to our problems with global warming and resource management. On several fronts, the hemp plant shows amazing promise in curbing such monumental issues. Whether it be by replacing non-renewable resources, or helping clean up the biosphere, the environmental benefits of industrial hemp are plentiful.