When most Americans think about hemp, they tend to drift in two ways: the psychoactive cousin, cannabis, or the highly-touted CBD. However, there are a plethora of ways to use hemp. It’s a great nutritional product, versatile fabric, and a champion of sustainability when compared to our current industries.
The term “superfood” is certainly a buzzword, and will hopefully be used to describe hemp. As a dietary supplement, hemp is easy to digest, contains a daily serving of fiber, and is rich in antioxidants. It contains a recommended amount of unsaturated fats that promote heart health and is not genetically modified the way other supplements may be. For example, roughly 93% of American soy is genetically modified – making hemp more desirable in the age of anti-GMOs. While that’s the reason some make the switch, many use it as a replacement for soy-based products; hemp tofu, protein powder, and seeds all have comparable health benefits with soy, and are less processed, making them more natural and digestible.
It’s hard to imagine the world without the lumber and cotton industries as we know them. However, a surprising amount of products can be made with hemp, which makes it a big competitor. When it comes to items made from cotton, hemp products are more durable, flexible, and withstand wear and tear longer. Though the former can be softer, hemp is more absorbent, which is desirable for dyed fabrics. Rope, cordage, textiles, sails, and canvas can all be produced with hemp. As for lumber products, hemp’s star qualities apply as well. Paper made from hemp is tougher, resistant to yellowing, and can be recycled more times, while building material is lighter and better insulating. Hemp grows much faster, and less is needed to achieve the product.
Champion of Sustainability
The biggest and most apparent benefit of hemp is its status as a sustainable resource. As a crop, it can be grown in a variety of climates and temperatures both indoors and outdoors, which allows farmers anywhere to take advantage. Hemp uses significantly less water and pesticides than cotton; since more pesticides are used for cotton than any other crop, this would reduce that. Because of the plant’s strong, deep taproot, hemp also cuts down on soil erosion caused by farming landscapes. This goes hand in hand with the pesticide reduction – when the conditions are right, topsoil and pesticides can both run off into drinking water and public lands. Growing hemp would help to ease this concern.
As for lumber, hemp matures much faster than trees. The typical maturation period is four months, whereas trees can take 15 years for the fastest growing variety. According to this site, one acre of hemp can produce as much paper as four to ten acres of trees over a 20-year cycle. On top of that, hemp paper can be recycled more, allowing longer use and less waste.
As the globe’s population starts to become more eco-conscience, the need for hemp will only grow. Because the United States has a large lumber and cotton industry, as well as the push from consumers for sustainable products, hemp can and should be our future.