Environmental Benefits of Hemp
The industrial, medicinal and commercial properties of hemp have been known to mankind for a very long time, but its benefits to the environment have just been realized in recent years. Many industries looking for sustainable and eco-friendly processes are turning to hemp for the answer. Its cultivation does not need any particular climate or soil, and is thus found in all parts of the world. Hemp provides an alternative and more efficient source of energy mainly in 3 sectors:
The woody hemp plant is low in moisture; it dries quickly and is an efficient biomass source of methanol. The waste products produced by using hemp oil are a good source of ethanol. Both methanol and ethanol are produced from hemp through the efficient and economical process of thermo-chemical conversion. One acre of hemp yields 1,000 gallons or 3,785 liters of fuel. Hemp allows a lesser reliance on fossil fuels, which are non-renewable sources of energy and will not be able to meet the increasing global demands for long.
Paper can be manufactured from hemp. Since hemp has a low lignin content compared to wood, it can be turned to pulp faster and easier; this naturally bright pulp does not need chlorine bleaching, which is used in traditional paper mills and releases a toxic substance called dioxin into the environment. Hemp is also compatible with the new soy-based binders rather than the harsh binders that give off formaldehyde. This reduces air pollution and health hazards to human and animal life. The quality of paper obtained from hemp is more durable and does not lose its color even after many years. Much more can be got out of each hemp plant since its paper can be recycled 7 or 8 times, as compared to only 3 for tree-based paper.
The uses of hemp also extend into construction. Fiberboards made from a hemp-based composite are stronger yet lighter than those made from wood. The combination of hemp fiber and lime results in a sound-proofing and insulating material that is stronger and lighter than concrete. By replacing wood and concrete, the amount of waste matter at a construction site is reduced. Since homes built using hemp products have better thermal insulation, less fuel will be consumed for heating their interiors. Bio-based plastics can be made from the long hemp fibers, and these are almost as strong as fiberglass. Hemp is an economical construction material that is recyclable, cheaper than glass and safe for the workers.
Hemp is so Much Better for the Environment:
- It replaces trees as the source of raw material for wood and paper, thereby conserving forests. Trees take years to grow, while a crop of hemp can be grown in a few months. Only one acre of hemp can produce as much paper annually as 4 acres of trees.
- When burning hemp as a fuel, carbon dioxide is released into the air, but this is absorbed by the next crop, which can be harvested 120 days after planting. This quick growth avoids the build-up of carbon dioxide. Also, hemp is a very leafy plant and thus contributes a high level of oxygen to the atmosphere during its growth; between 20 and 40%. This makes up for the loss of oxygen when it is burnt as a fuel, which in turn, reduces unwanted effects of global warming, acid rain and the depletion in the ozone layer on the environment.
- Air pollution is reduced since hemp is naturally resistant to pests and does not need pesticides and herbicides to be sprayed. Very little fertilizers are required, since it’s abundant leaves fall into the soil and release the required nutrients and minerals, thereby creating better soil tilth. Cotton and flax are known to consume 50% of all pesticides; hemp replaces cotton as a raw material in the manufacturing of paper and cloth, and flax fiber or seed for animal feed, animal bedding and paper.
- Soil enrichment: The hemp crop grows dense and vigorously. Sunlight cannot penetrate the plants to reach the ground, and this means the crop is normally free of weeds. Its deep roots use ground water and reduce its salinity. Also, erosion of topsoil is limited, thereby reducing water pollution. The roots give nitrogen and other nutrients to the soil. After the harvest, this soil makes excellent compost amendments for other plants, and hemp cultivation can follow the rotation of agriculture with wheat or soybean. In fact, the same soil can be used to grow hemp for many years, without losing its high quality. The hemp plant absorbs toxic metals emitted by nuclear plants into the soil, such as copper, cadmium, lead and mercury.
- Fabrics made of hemp do not have any chemical residue, and is therefore safer for consumers. Even if the fabric contains only 50% hemp, it can keep the UV rays of the sun from harming the skin underneath.
Hemp products can be recycled, reused and are 100% biodegradable. The growth speed of the plant is fast enough to meet the increasing industrial and commercial demand for these products. Switching to hemp products will help save the environment, leaving a cleaner and greener planet for the next generation.
This is is a syndicated post. Read the original at hempbenefits.org