It’s no secret that I’m fiercely passionate when it comes to the environment and the things we should be doing to counteract the mess we’ve made over the years, so with the recent rise in hemp-based products, I can’t help but wonder how this is currently affecting the world around us, and how it might help or hinder our environment down the line. After all, it wouldn’t be the first time we as a species have found an incredible superfood and farmed it without thinking about the long-term consequences.
The mass cultivation of certain natural ingredients has had damaging effects on ecosystems and species throughout history, so why is hemp different? While it’s too early to tell the long-term effects of farming this plant, surprisingly, its immediate environmental benefits seem plentiful. Is it possible that this could be the plant-shaped saviour we’ve been missing? The one that’s been right under our noses the whole time.
Hemp through the ages
Despite its recent popularity for different reasons, the hemp plant has been an integral and useful material for many years. In fact, archaeological evidence has uncovered that it could have been in use since as early as 8,000 BC, which, if accurate, would make it the first plant ever cultivated. Its uses back then included everything from creating strong rope, to garments of clothing, and even paper, so its possibilities were (and remain) abundant.
Hemp and the UK agricultural industry
The boom in the hemp industry will undoubtedly create manufacturing jobs, as well as possibly providing a new source of tax revenue for the UK economy. What’s really exciting about the flourishing hemp industry is that it is thought to have the potential to contribute to the UK’s 2016 Paris Agreement CO2 emissions targets, which would be a huge win for climate change. Hemp could contribute to everything from food to fashion to medicine, and having this grown and available in the UK could create an exciting new source of revenue for our economy - for this to happen though, we need to regulate, and fast.
What else can hemp be used for?
Despite its questionable reputation over the years in relation to cannabis, hemp has long been known to hold the ability to produce many natural and biodegradable alternatives to some of our most used materials. Here are a few:
- Plastic: The fibre inside hemp can be used to create a plastic alternative; same uses as synthetic plastic, but fully biodegradable. I’m sure I don’t need to explain the incredible benefits that switching to hemp-based plastic would have for the planet.
- Hempcrete: Yes, concrete made from hemp. This can be used as an alternative for concrete, insulation and drywall, except it’s much lighter and easier to work with. It’s also thought to provide more efficient insulation and fire resistant properties.
- Steel: This might be difficult to get your head around at first, but hemp is thought to have high-strength qualities that make it a possible alternative to steel - amazing! The use of hemp steel could also help reduce harmful steel production emissions.
- Fuel: The National Hemp Association states that hemp could be used to produce Biodiesel (oil from pressed hemp seeds) and Ethanol/Methanol (fermented hemp stalk) which is undoubtedly a good move for emissions everywhere.
Sounds great! Why aren’t we using hemp more?
As I’ve mentioned, there is a distinct lack of regulation around the CBD industry in the UK, and without clear policies, data and knowledge for the manufacturing of hemp products to reach its potential, hemp and CBD-based brands continue to create products somewhat in the dark.
Evidence is beginning to shed a little light on the options for hemp as a sustainable alternative crop in the UK, and studies from New Frontier Data also predict that worldwide hemp industry sales will rise to around $5.7 billion by 2020, up by around $2 billion since 2018. We are at a crucial fork in the road; continue to deny the benefits and possibilities of hemp-based products, or begin to regulate and help this thriving industry reach new heights, not just for us, but for the environment.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Get in touch with me any time over on our Instagram @ohanacbd.