Now that we have told you all exactly what hemp stands for, we are going to tell you a few reasons why this special plant can play an important role when we think of sustainability of out planet
That hemp is a plant of the same species as cannabis, and that it is very special, we already know. It has been used since ancient times to manufacture the most diverse things, like ropes, fabrics, fibers, paper… But what happened was, with prohibitionism, hemp ended up falling into the same category as “devil’s weed”, so that many countries ended up banning it along with marijuana. And so, much of the world fails to exploit all the sustainable potential it can offer!
Hemp is like cannabis without its psychoactive property, so it does not make us high. For it to be considered hemp, it must have less than 0.3% THC – while some cannabis strains even have more than 20% of the substance. However, it can be used to produce CBD oil, that can be used for countless therapeutic purposes.
We believe that hemp can be a stepping stone to change the world. Grown sustainably, it has the potential to contribute to regenerative agriculture, producing more fertile soil. Let’s dive into this subject!
What’s so amazing about hemp?
As we already mentioned in the text linked above, hemp is part of the sativa species, while marijuana can be sativa, indica or ruderalis. In antiquity, this special plant has become a sail for ships and even a Bible (yes, the first Bible was made of hemp, by the very famous Gutenberg, the father of the press). And it is a material much less harmful to the environment than others currently used, and can be used as a substitute for one of the most polluent material man has invented, the plastic.
If only cannabis was not so criminalized, we would be seeing more of the magical things this plant can do around the world.
Basically, there are four main points that impress us about this hemp:
1) The potential to regenerate soil
Hemp is the most ecological response to soil pollution that causes lots of headaches to farmers and to all of us who care about our land. Monoculture, like corn, soybeans, wheat or other vegetables, has caused considerable damage to our planet. We see the soil becoming drier and drier, and the erosion is incredibly common.
The hemp can be a great answer to these problems, as its wide climatic adaptation and the roots of a fast-growing foot allow it to thrive in drought conditions. It also helps to stabilize the soil, thanks to its long, fast-growing roots. Internationally, in countries like China, hemp has traditionally been used to control erosion. It can also be used to clean the soil and remove everything from poison residues and pesticides to heavy metals!
2) The possibility to focus on small farmers
Hemp can be a great way to take cultivation out of big companies and focus on small producers, boosting the family economy. For example, Canadian hemp farmers currently make about $ 250 per acre (the equivalent of 0.4 hectares) of hemp. Meanwhile, wheat averages $ 30 to $ 100 an acre.
For the introduction of hemp to our agriculture to be successful, we need government support. The European Union subsidizes $ 400 per acre for growing hemp. This type of incentive is fundamental to awaken the interest of small producers and to encourage the consolidation of a strong and sustainable industry.
But, unfortunately, here in Brazil, first of all, it is necessary to legalize it!
3) The advantage of the versatility of plant uses x cultivation time
According to the American organization Ministry of Hemp, since hemp was legalized in Colorado, there has been an exponential growth in its cultivation. Initially, in 2014, hemp was sown and harvested on 100 hectares of land. Since then, many farmers have adopted the harvest and hemp was harvested on more than 800 hectares in 2015. This is almost 1000% growth!
The demand for hemp continues to grow there, and the total area under hemp is set to increase to 8,000 hectares this year. With Colorado leading the way, many other states are watching and learning from their success. States like Hawaii and North Dakota, looking for a suitable crop to replace their traditional staple crops, are seeing hemp as the alternative solution.
Its growth phase is accelerated: up to 6 weeks. So you can have several harvests a year!
4) Possibility of returning to ancestral techniques
As we know, it is possible that cannabis was the first plant to be deliberately cultivated by humans, and that it was with it that the first agricultural practices were developed. Hemp was also used by some of the oldest civilizations of which we have records: Scythian people, from the Middle East, and even the Vikings, were some who used the plant as food, ritualistic herb, fiber for clothes and many other purposes.
Rescuing the cultivation of cannabis as an ancient practice can be a way to rescue non-Western cultivation; planting is more focused on being in harmony with the land and less focused on final profit. With closed-loop cultivation, an agricultural practice that recycles all nutrients and organic material back to the soil in which it grew, we can recover the soil from the damage caused by monoculture.
Every time we plant hemp, it will be sustainable?
No, just like any other agricultural product, the sustainability of the production of this plant will depend on the practices adopted not only for its cultivation, but for the three most important pillars of this concept. In this model, sustainability depends on areas that are equally important: social, economic and environmental.
The good news is, in the environmental aspect, HEMP is a choice with little impact and that can be converted into fabrics in a sustainable way. But like everything we buy, we have to look for the practices of these companies to make sure that they are not “greenwashing” their harvest.
Here is our tip: every purchase we make is a political act. Always try to know the origin and the history and practices of every company you support.
For a deeper understanding
Here, we will compare some of the products of “conventional” materials to their results if they are replaced by hemp:
Plastic: hemp plastic is non-toxic and biodegradable. It is also much stronger than conventional plastic!
Fabric: your cotton blouse can be expensive for Earth. That’s because it uses 50% more water than hemp to grow, and consumes 25% of the world’s pesticides.
Paper: one hectare of hemp produces as much paper as 4 hectares of trees in a growing season (about 100 days). That’s because hemp stems grow in 4 months, while trees take 20 to 80 years.
Fuel: hemp-based biofuel is 86% less polluting than gasoline and can be used in existing transport vehicles. And is a renewable resource!
Cooking oil: hemp seed oil is one of the richest in existence, and one of the only ones where there is an ideal balance of the essential fatty acids omega 6 and omega 3. Great source of vitamin A and E, it also includes minerals like calcium, magnesium, sulfur, potassium, phosphorus, iron and zinc.
Hemp can still become beverages like teas and beers, all kinds of clothing imaginable (even shoes and slippers), and even CONCRETE and batteries!
Carbon footprint and hemp
Hemp has been proven to absorb more CO2 per hectare than any other known commercial plant or crop. This makes it ideal for our reality, which urgently needs to decrease the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. It also helps to clean the air, just as it does with the soil, and can improve the quality of life of populations in large cities that suffer from the consequences of pollution.
For every ton of hemp produced, 63 tonnes of carbon are removed from the atmosphere!
The average carbon footprint of an average European Union citizen is about 10.5 tonnes of CO2. A ton of hemp can therefore neutralize an EU citizen’s carbon footprint for six years.
To absorb the 64 tonnes of CO2 equivalent of a ton of hemp, 2,860 fully grown trees would be needed.
So, I guess it is easy to understand why we have so much faith on this simple little plant. It can help us lessen our impact here on this planet, improving quality of life, the air, without having to give up things we love so much. And, let’s face it, Earth is (as far as we know) the only planet where ganja can be grown. So, we need to take good care of it and live in harmony with Mother Nature.
Till the next post!