Much of the buzz regarding hemp immediately after its federal legalization was for CBD production, but it's a very useful plant for many other purposes. In fact, hemp's most valuable contribution may one day become its use in sustainable construction and development. As an ingredient in building materials like hempcrete or just as a tree-free source for toilet paper, hemp has many benefits that should make it a part of any attempt at green living.
Stronger fiber alternative to cotton
Cotton is popular as a natural fiber that absorbs sweat, but it's far from the strongest material and it's tricky to spin. Hemp is not only slightly easier to process and spin thanks to longer fibers, it's also much stronger. That's why hemp was once the preferred material for rope-making, especially for ships where a strong rope could save lives. It also means that hemp fibers are useful as much more than just paper or fabric.
Higher recyclable rate than paper
Paper and cardboard are often labeled as recyclable when less than 10% of the pulp actually qualifies for reuse. Thanks to the durable and large fibers found in hemp, it's much easier to turn a hemp notecard or box into something useful with recycling. With landfills running out of space around the world, increasing the recycling value of products is a must.
Cotton and other plant fibers aren't just good at soaking up sweat, they're also thirsty when they're growing. Cotton uses up on average twice as much water as hemp before reaching the harvesting stage, or even more if it's being grown in a hot and windy climate. Since hemp is sown and grown tightly packed together, it resists moisture loss to wind in challenging environments.
Fewer pesticides going into water system/earth
Cotton and even sheep for wool production require a surprising amount of pesticides to reach full growth for harvest. Without constant chemical sprays, these plants and animals are simply too enticing to insects that want to eat them or ruin their wool. Hemp is naturally resistant to most pests and requires little to no pesticides, especially since it hasn't been grown in many areas for decades. Even as insects come to rely on it as a food source, it's not expected to need as much pesticide as cotton due to better innate defenses.
Quick grow rate & higher yields
Hemp doesn't just use less water. It's planted tightly together like corn or grain rather than spaced out like cotton. This means each acre of soil produces up to twice as much hemp than cotton. Pair that with a faster growth rate and you've got an obvious winner for any farmer trying to maximize their harvests. Even if hemp pays less per pound than cotton, the higher yields in shorter time frames give the farmer multiple chances to complete a crop in a challenging year and secure their payment.
Hempcrete vs concrete
Concrete has been popular since its invention in Ancient Rome, but it requires large volumes of gravel and other ingredients that require destructive mining. Swapping out stone aggregates for a certain percentage of chopping hemp stems creates hempcrete. This lightweight building material is strong, water-resistant, and much less energy-intensive to produce than standard concrete. It's a sustainable alternative that also expands opportunities for using concrete where aggregates are less available. Even when there's no stone to mine for gravel, there's likely somewhere to grow hemp for making hempcrete.
Hemp isn't just a great source of CBD. It's also a valuable resource for making our everyday lives less environmentally damaging. Expect to see this source of fiber and oil popping up in many surprising green living products over the next few years. We cannot wait to see what else it can do!