Posted on October 7, 2016 by Alanna Hinds
Gold is gone. America’s new obsession with hemp has brought us to the era of the Green Rush. But why?
This “Miracle Crop” is sweeping the nation – from its leaves down to its roots, hemp is a more sustainable and environmentally-friendly alternative to popular options in nutrition, clothing, body-care, building products, fuel, and chemical soil cleanup and it will prove to be a major ingredient in combatting climate change and global warming.
Although hemp has been known to have over 25,000 applications, allow me to provide you with a brief overview of hemp’s utilization channels:
As food, hemp seed provides nearly complete nutrition containing all 10 essential amino acids, all 4 essential fatty acids, and over 30% protein in its most easily digestible forms. It’s a good source of calcium and iron, and has more omega-3 than walnuts making it a great dietary supplement. Ideal food for human consumption.
As feed, hemp meal provides all the essential protein that livestock require, yet doesn’t require any antibiotics to digest. When an animal eats food it cannot digest, it needs antibiotics to keep it from being sick, which makes the antibiotics less effective on the humans that later consume the animal. Hemp provides a healthy protein for pets from dogs and cats to cows and horses to all varieties of birds and chickens.
Additionally, hemp can be utilized in drinks. Hemp milk has a creamy consistency that tends to be a bit thicker than skim milk and other milk alternatives; it’s got a slightly nutty flavor similar to almond milk and is a great alternative if you have milk or soy allergies or lactose intolerance. Hemp can be put to use in iced tea, brewed into beer, fermented into wine, as well as distilled into other alcoholic beverages.
Hemp’s been used in textiles for thousands of years; samples of hemp fabric in China date back to 8,000 BC. It is among the longest, strongest, most elastic, and most durable fibers in nature. When blended with materials such as cotton, linen, and silk, hemp provides a sturdier, longer lasting product while maintaining quality and softness.
Additionally, hemp is more absorbent, more mildew-resistant, more insulative and more effective at blocking the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays than cotton. The nature of hemp fibers being more absorbent to dyes coupled with its ability to better screen out ultraviolet rays allows hemp to also be less prone to fading.
Although its durability is used to its best advantage when providing material for shoes, jeans, and other tough athletic wear, hemp can also be made into high quality linen.
Hemp’s antimicrobial properties make it useful for cosmetics and body care products such as shampoos and hair conditioners, lotions, serums, oils, soaps, sunscreen, and lip balm. The oil from hemp seeds has been known to cure dermatitis and other serious skin diseases as hemp helps cells to communicate in rebuilding cell membranes keeping the skin from getting dry by enabling skin cells to hold onto moisture in their natural lipid layers.
Hemp has been used for paper for at least 1,500 years and is a far more quickly renewable and sustainable source for paper. Hemp fiber paper doesn’t require toxic bleaching chemicals (does not yellow with age when an acid-free process is used), resists decomposition and lasts hundreds of years longer than paper made from trees. It can also be recycled many more times than tree-based paper. An acre of hemp can produce as much pulp as an acre of trees over a 20 year growing cycle.
Research is being conducted into the use of hemp for the production of biodegradable plastic products as hemp hurds and fiber are rich in cellulose, the building blocks of plastics. Biodegradable hemp plastics could reduce landfill waste and display unique strength characteristics.
In the early 1940s, Ford famously produced a prototype car made out of hemp and soy plastic (although, with undue influence from chemical giant DuPont, it never went into production). More recently hemp has been made into shower curtain liners, CD and DVD cases, and is increasingly being used as a substitute for fiberglass. The advantage of replacing fiberglass with hemp is that hemp is lighter, as strong or stronger, is biodegradable and is cheaper.
Hemp can be made into insulation, fiberboard, and pressboard. It can also be transformed into ‘hempcrete‘ – a stronger, lighter, and more environmentally friendly version of concrete.
Hempcrete homes are fire, water, and rodent proof, with excellent elasticity, strength and breathability, which adds the extra benefit of cutting energy costs.
Additionally, hemp oil can be made into non-toxic paints, varnishes, lubricants, and sealants. These paints last longer, and the sealants are better absorbed by wood.
Hemp produces more biomass per acre than most other crops. Hemp biomass can produce electricity from sulfur-free charcoal and is a great producer of biodiesel and ethanol. These hydrocarbons in hemp could be used as a renewable, low polluting alternative to fossil fuels.
It can be processed into fuel pellets, liquid fuels, and gas, reducing our consumption of fossil fuels and nuclear power.
Hemp grows well without herbicides, fungicides, or pesticides and also stabilizes and enriches soil leaving fields weed-free without crop toxins:
Hemp requires no herbicides because it is grown so densely that it smothers out other plants. Its quick growth (germination to maturity takes between 80-120 days) and its dense foliage makes it a natural weed suppressor.
As it is naturally pest resistant, hemp requires no pesticides to aid in its growth and has been known to reduce pests in future crops when grown in rotation. Hemp also requires little or no fertilizer and it returns 60-70% of the nutrients it takes from the soil.
Due to this resiliency, it’s a natural way to clean up soil pollution giving it farm value even if no part of the plant is sold.