Why Is Hemp So Useful?

Support for cannabis legalization is stronger than ever before as the reasons for widespread endorsement continue to grow. The number of individuals who could potentially benefit continues to trend upwards as different ways of productively using the controversial plant sprout up. However, one of the greatest reasons for supporting cannabis has long existed in the form of its non-psychoactive counterpart: hemp.  

Hemp, as defined by governments around the world in moderately different ways, is differentiated from marijuana by its extremely low THC content. In the U.S., this limit is set at 0.3%, which is where the cutoff between the two exists. This is low enough that the plant will have no intoxicating effect. In other words, the uses for industrial hemp have nothing to do with recreation. 

Hemp was once an industrial heavyweight before the early 20th century and accounted for a large portion of quite a few industries. The fibers created from harvesting hemp, in particular, can be used for an overwhelming amount of everyday items that otherwise would typically be made of materials like cotton, wood, plastic, etc. Hemp’s oils from its seeds have several interesting uses, one of which we will go over. 

Hemp’s Uses

The uses for industrial hemp are both numerous and sustainable. Hemp presents a potential solution to several ecological issues that immediately affect the future of our planet. The overarching theme is that hemp is durable, renewable, and versatile. These fundamental traits make hemp a candidate for a variety of industries and uses. There are innumerable ways that hemp can help our planet, but our goal is to keep things concise and broad. We will go over a few of these potential solutions to show the versatility of industrial hemp.

Biodiesel

In 2010, researchers at the University of Connecticut concluded that hemp was a suitable material for biodiesel (diesel fuel derived from renewable resources). The implications of this are huge as other biodiesel derivatives like soybeans, olives, peanuts, and canola are food crops. Hemp is not a food crop and can grow in ways that food crops do not. For instance, hemp has the benefit of growing nearly anywhere. Fertile farmland can still be dedicated to important food crops, while hemp provides biodiesel on less desirable plots of land.  

Richard Parnas, the professor who led the study, noted that “If someone is already growing hemp . . . they might be able to produce enough fuel to power their whole farm with the oil from the seeds they produce”. According to Parnas, seeds are currently discarded more often than not; a valuable, sustainable resource is being tossed away. The study also noted a surprisingly high conversion rate: 97% of the hemp oil used was found to be converted to usable biodiesel that passed all required tests. This is an apparent reason to support hemp as an industrial crop. Hemp as biodiesel could have a significant environmental impact, and its presence as a crop does not displace essential food crops.  

Reusable Products

A more immediately obvious benefit of hemp is the usability of its fibers for hemp products. Hemp fibers are incredibly strong, absorbent, and durable. Hemp products even have the recyclability that people are so understandably passionate about. There are a variety of products that are ideal for using hemp as a material: clothes, bags, hats, coats, wallets, and even automobiles.  

The term “fibers” might make some see hemp as being similar in strength to other textiles, but that is not the case. Hemp fibers can be upwards of seven or eight times stronger than cotton, depending on the processing method used. In addition to this, the yield of usable fibers from hemp can be three times as high as identically sized cotton fields would yield. If that wasn’t enough: hemp requires dramatically less water than cotton does. 

 The uses for hemp products certainly do not end there, as we only covered items made from its fibers. The applications for hemp oil are already largely well known with CBD products being widely available. CBD products provide medical relief to numerous people around the world daily. 

 

Pesticides & Field Burning

One of the less well-known benefits of growing hemp is its actual physical presence in soil. Hemp grows like a “weed” and often displaces unwanted weeds in the land. The environmental impact works two-fold here. For one, fewer weeds mean less pesticide usage around the world. Also, industrial hemp often grows unbothered by pests in the first place. There are cases of hemp being targeted by pests, but this is usually mitigated by the right location and humidity of soil. This once again works for us, as hemp is especially sensitive to pesticides and requires other means to address pest issues.

Hemp provides a measurable benefit over crops like cotton in the area of field burning, as well. Industrial hemp transfers a significant portion of its carbon to its manufactured products via the fibers obtained from processing stalks. This means that only about 40% of its carbon will reside in the biomass that will eventually be burned. The resulting math shows that hemp as an industrial crop would provide slight relief to our carbon emissions problem. One should take the greater yield from hemp into consideration as well. It implicates less waste and carbon emissions from the relatively low amount of industrial hemp needed. 

Hemp’s Positive Impact

The potential environmental impact of embracing hemp cannot be overstated. The many uses available for both its stalk and seeds would surely positively affect our planet. Industrial hemp as a biofuel would change the landscape of our world’s energy usage. Hemp products are more durable than their counterparts and have the added benefit of being entirely recyclable and reusable. Hemp’s presence as a field crop alone is beneficial to the very soil it lives in. The list of reasons to support hemp and hemp products grows constantly, and it’s definitely time to push the issue on hemp as a means of helping save our environment.  

 

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