Did you know that in the 1700's the early American settlers were required by law to grow hemp? Hundreds of years ago, they knew the value of an amazing renewable resource like hemp!
In the early 1900’s the first Ford cars were designed to run on Hemp biofuel and included hemp bioplastics in the body construction. Unfortunately, the discovery of vast deposits of fossil fuels moved the entire world towards a petroleum based economy, and we are paying the price today.
The hemp plant has many valuable real world uses and after decades of prohibition, America is finally rediscovering the benefits of Hemp. We are facing unprecedented environmental issues like climate change, plastics and air pollution, food insecurity and a health crisis. Could hemp be a part of the solution?
Hemp is a fast-growing renewable resource that can replace the wood used to make everyday products like paper, rope, carpets and furniture. Hemp plants sequester carbon faster than trees, require less fertilizer and pesticides than traditional crops and grow like weeds! A hemp crop can be grown from seed to harvest in as little as 100 days.
We rely on plastics for almost everything in our modern civilization. When you think about it, it’s pretty near impossible to go a full day without using a product that contains some type of plastic. As useful as plastic is, we are becoming increasingly aware of plastic pollution with our landfills and oceans get filled with waste plastic that will take thousands of years to decompose. Plastics are produced from petroleum and the plastic production process involves the use of toxic chemicals as well.
Hemp plastics are finally here! This new generation of bioplastics is just getting started, but has the potential to revolutionize the global plastics industry. From plastic utensils to car parts to disposable cups and bottles, the uses for bioplastics are endless. Bioplastics also tend to be more durable than standard plastics. As recycling infrastructure and quality of bioplastics improve, we can expect to see more hemp based bioplastics produced in the future.
"Hemp for Victory"
- A USDA sponsored film made during WW2 to promote hemp production.
We have heard of biofuels like ethanol, produced from corn. Enter hemp biodiesel – a high quality, efficient hemp biodiesel can be produced from hemp seed oil and can be used in any conventional diesel engine. While the seeds oils are used to produce biodiesel, the woody stalks of the plant can be used to create ethanol and methanol as well. All this from a plant that removes toxins from the soil and leaves the soil in better condition than when it started!
Hempcrete is another amazing product created from the hemp plant. The inner stalks are rich in silica – this unique composition allows the hemp stalks to bind with lime, creating a lightweight biodegradable material known as hempcrete. This material is so light that it floats on water! Hempcrete was recently discovered inside a bridge built in France in the 6th century and the hemp boom means that this material is finding its way back into modern building projects.
While it cannot be used as a load bearing component, it is very useful as an insulator and has been used to insulate buildings 10 stories high. It is non-toxic and left over material can simply be tilled into the soil to decompose.
Hemp fibers have been used for thousands of years to make a wide variety of clothing. Hemp fabrics are making a big comeback as the fabrics appeal not just to those interested in sustainability. Hemp fabrics are much more durable than cotton, become softer with use and are hypo-allergenic and non-irritating to the skin. Many large companies today have started to introduce hemp fibers – since hemp on it’s own can wrinkle easily and tend to lose color quickly, the most common hemp fabrics are made with a blend of cotton, linen or silk.
Levi's has introduced a new fabric called "Cottonized Hemp."
Food and Cosmetics
Hemp seeds are known to be an excellent source of protein, omega 3 and 6 fatty acids and minerals. Used for thousands of years all over the globe as an important source of nutrition, the benefits of hemp seeds are just being rediscovered in the western world. Hemp seed oil is pressed from hemp seeds and offers similar nutritional benefits.
Natural skincare is a fast growing segment as consumers become increasingly aware of the dangers of chemical preservatives and petroleum based ingredients. Hemp seed oil is a valuable ingredient for skin health and is non comedogenic (won’t clog pores) oil. This versatile oil is widely used in the cosmetic industry today. In addition, CBD is one of the hottest ingredients in natural skincare at the moment. People are discovering that CBD is a natural plant extract that has excellent benefits for skin health.
In recent years, CBD and other hemp derived cannabinoids have surged in popularity. We have a whole new generation of potential therapeutics made from hemp compounds like terpenes and cannabinoids. While scientific research into the therapeutic value of cannabis is just beginning, anecdotal evidence points towards the efficacy of hemp based to hemp manage conditions like insomnia, anxiety and pain. There is new research ongoing to study the benefits of cannabinoids in treating more serious illnesses like epilepsy, cancer, IBS and much more.
With the passage of the 2018 farm bill in the USA, hemp is finally legal again. There is little doubt that hemp can alleviate some of the issues we face today. We expect to see a resurgence of innovation based on the hemp plant in coming years. In the meantime, we must all do our best to minimize our environmental impact and prioritize sustainability. To learn more about Welliva’s commitment to sustainability and reforesting the earth, please follow this link.