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Hemp May Be the World's Most Sustainable Crop

Hemp May Be the World's Most Sustainable Crop

Posted by Gary Upah, Founder, Soggy Bottom Hemp on 30th Nov 2022

Hemp is more than just the plant that produces CBD. It is one of the most useful and valuable plants that has ever existed on our planet. The seeds and fiber can be processed to make eco-friendly alternatives to modern necessities such as concrete, plastics, fuels, and textiles, all of which rank among the most polluting industries in history. Here is a partial list of current known uses and benefits of hemp.

Hemp Is a Super Food and Medicine
Hemp seeds are a nutrient-rich source of food, containing high-quality plant-based protein and essential omega-3 fatty acids. CBD oil — aka cannabidiol — the non-psychoactive component of the hemp plant can address a growing list of health concerns, from chronic pain to anxiety and insomnia.

Hemp Is Easy to Grow
One of the reasons that cannabis and hemp have been so successful in spreading across the planet is that it’s a relatively easy crop to grow. The crop can thrive in highly inhospitable soil environments, can be cultivated in practically every environment from New York to California, and because hemp can be grown locally, there’s less of a need to import it from far distances.

Hemp Doesn’t Require a Lot of Water
According to the World Bank, the agriculture industry uses approximately 70% of the world’s freshwater supply and demand is only expected to increase with population growth. Due to population growth, urbanization and climate change it’s estimated that agricultural production will need to expand by 70% by 2050 if current consumption trends are maintained.

By comparison, hemp crops require six times less water than traditional agricultural grain crops. If hemp can help transition away from water-intensive crops such as cotton it will relieve the pressure on freshwater systems globally. That can only be a good thing.

Hemp Can be Used as a Fuel
Hemp seeds, regularly discarded, contain essential plant oils which can be turned into biofuel. At the University of Connecticut, biodiesel produced by graduate students and researchers had a 97 percent conversion efficiency.

Biofuel is a more sustainable source of energy than fossil fuels and is much less destructive to the environment than oil extraction. Hemp has the potential to be one of the most sustainable sources of biofuel and is easier and less destructive to grow than competitor crops such as sugar beet, palm oil or corn.

Hemp Vs Cotton
Cotton is one of the world’s most common textiles accounting for an estimated 39.5% of the raw materials market in 2019. Having been used for over 7000 years, cotton is biodegradable, cheap to produce and plentiful. However, it’s remarkably water-intensive to cultivate and accounts for 11% of pesticides and 24% of insecticides. It takes around 2,700 liters of water to grow enough cotton to make a single t-shirt.

Hemp, on the other hand yields double the number of fibers than a cotton plant and its roots are beneficial for the soil, protecting it from toxins and erosion. It’s been nearly 30 years since experts managed to manufacture a hemp fabric soft enough to compete with cotton but brand leaders such as Levi’s© and Patagonia© are now helping bring hemp fabric back into the mainstream.

Hemp Vs Plastic
Plastic is made from non-renewable fossil fuels that contribute to waste and environmental destruction.

It takes 22 gallons of water to make a single pound of plastic. Less than 10% of plastic is recycled and 60% ends up in landfills. It takes at least 450 years to decompose a single plastic bottle. By 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish (by weight).

Hemp plastics provide a strong, sturdy, and biodegradable alternative to oil-based plastics due to its abundance of cellulose, which helps make hemp textiles so strong.

Manufacturers extract hemp cellulose to make cellophane, rayon, celluloid, and a variety of related plastics, all of which are biodegradable.

Hemp Regenerates Soil
Harmful agricultural practices can extract nutrients from the ground without allowing the soil to replenish itself, threatening our food crops’ productivity and overall health. Hemp sequesters CO2 in the soil, leaving it in better condition than before the hemp was planted.

It returns a significant amount of nutrients into the ground, resulting in healthier soil that can help slow erosion and sustain healthy farmland. This allows food crops to be grown right after hemp is harvested.

Hemp is an annual crop, meaning it grows for just four months, making it an ideal candidate for the rotation. This is an important aspect of sustainable farming as it allows for crop rotation, keeping up with the nutrients in the soil. This is good news for farmers as it means richer, cleaner soils, leading to quality and greater crop yields.

Hemp is Naturally Resistant to Disease and Pests
Chemicals, pesticides, and fungicides have a disastrous effect on the environment. From contaminating the soil, water, and air to reducing biodiversity, these harsh chemicals take a major toll on our environment. About 50% of all pesticides used in the United States are associated with cotton.

However, hemp is naturally resistant to fungi, insects, and diseases, allowing farmers not to use chemicals to grow their hemp crops. Transitioning to a more natural plant, like hemp, can benefit the future of agricultural development across the globe!

Hemp Slows Deforestation
Scientists across the world now believe that in 100 years, there will be no rainforests. Hemp is not only a viable answer to replace the production of paper from trees but a necessity!

Hemp can grow in many different types of soils and climates, it also thrives in small spaces. This allows farmers to use less land without sacrificing their profit. For example, hemp can produce four times as much pulp for paper as trees (faster too!). Hemp can be ready for fiber harvest in as little as 60 days! Trees can take anywhere from 10 to 20 years to be harvested!

Recyclability is an important credential for a sustainable crop. Any product made from plant material is easier to recycle or decompose at the end of its life.

Compared to other options, hemp is one of the most easily recycled. Hemp pulp can be recycled up to seven to eight times, where paper pulp can only be recycled up to three times.

Nothing Goes to Waste
Virtually every part of the hemp plant can be used. The stalks outer bast fiber can be used to make textiles, canvas, and rope, while its core can be used to make paper and construction. Even better, hemp seeds are high in protein, fiber, omega-3 fats, and other nutrients.

CBD oil uses the stalks, leaves, and flowers of the hemp plant - which contain a high CBD concentration (one of hemp’s more popular cannabinoids). Cannabinoids are the naturally occurring chemical compounds in hemp.