It started in the 1930’s. Hemp was painted as a dangerous product and ultimately banned by the US government, under heavy influence from industry tycoons who produced competing products such as nylon, plastic, cotton, and paper. How could something so useful be criminalized and banned when it has a strong history of usefulness and low environmental impact? Hemp farming can be dated all the way back to the 17th century, when it was used to make rope, fabric, and medicine. Hemp production was halted in the US for both political and racial reasons, but now it’s making a comeback.
The saying that there isn’t enough research to support hemp as a sustainable product is false. Competing industries in the US managed to keep hemp out of public reach for a long time, but countries such as Poland, India, China, and Chile have more experience in hemp production. Many other countries recently realized the harmlessness of hemp and are now researching its uses and allowing it to be produced industrially.
The video shown above explains the history of hemp very well. Although many countries decriminalize hemp and marijuana at the same time, hemp does not produce the intoxicating side effects that would come with the drug. Hemp is sustainable because it has myriad uses, including diapers, fuel, netting, shampoo, cardboard, oil and many more.
According to the Ecological Agriculture Projects website by McGill University in Canada, hemp has the following advantages over other products like corn and cotton:
- It has a taproot instead of a fibrous root system like corn, so there is better drought resistance and higher food storage.
- Hemp paper can be recycled up to 8 times, as opposed to wood pulp paper’s 3.
- Herbicide, fungicide, and insecticide are not needed to grow hemp in most parts of Canada, but in North America half of all agricultural pesticides are used to grow cotton.
- Unlike petroleum-based synthetic fibers, hemp fiber is both breathable and recyclable.
All this is not to say that hemp is the epitome of sustainable materials…although it has tons of benefits. It’s not a perfect plant – it can still fall prey to disease, it’s an annual plant, and you can only grow it in certain regions of the world. And although we need to massively cut down on its use, plastic isn’t evil either. Plastic still has applications in electronics, automotives, safety gear, building products, and is a cheap way to store food. Cob, bamboo, wood, and timbercrete are other neat sustainable materials to consider. I think the point of this post was to say, “Here’s this useful product that we overlooked for a SUPER long time. Here’s proof that it’s actually beneficial. Let’s set the record straight.” What do you think?
Happy *belated* Solstice, Jess 🙂