By now many of us have heard about some of hemp’s industrial uses. In the United States, hemp holds a special place in our history. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew it for industrial uses such as rope and sail making. But hemp-based paper is thought to have been in use since before the days of Christ. Hemp seeds are widely recognized for their nutrition and use in food. But there are many other uses for this wonder plant. Check out our list below:
Phytoremediation (Decontaminating Soil)
The cannabis plant has been tasked with fixing many modern problems. These include providing safer medicine without side effects, safer recreation, funding social programs, and lowering crime rates. But it can also help us reverse environmental damage caused by our modern industrial age. Farmers in Italy are using industrial hemp to decontaminate polluted soil. The is known as phytoremediation — a process where contaminants in soil are absorbed by the roots of the plant which stores and sometimes even transforms toxins into a benign substance. One farm, in particular, found that hemp was able to help eliminate contaminants found in soil from a nearby steel plant.
It is no secret that the burning of fossil fuels is causing all sorts of environmental problems. This has led to an increase in the popularity of biofuels that emit less carbon. In 2010, researchers at the University of Connecticut concluded that hemp could be a viable source of biodiesel. While hemp is not unique in this way it does offer an advantage over other potential biofuel sources. It can be grown in soil that otherwise would be infertile for other plants. This eliminates the debate of whether or not to grow for food or fuel on precious fertile lands. Ethanol, (which has yielded minimum benefits) for instance, comes from corn that is grown for fuel and not food. Hemp eliminates this tough choice.
Plastic is both a modern marvel and a modern travesty. There is no denying its convenience for product packaging, building materials, and more. But there is also a floating continent of discarded plastic in the Pacific ocean that is threatening coral and other ocean wildlife. There could be an alternative right under our noses. Hemp-based plastics are just as strong (possibly stronger) as traditional plastic but are comprised of biodegradable plant material… so no floating garbage continents.
Many of us own or have seen hemp necklaces, but that is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of how hemp can shape your wardrobe. While we may not think about the process of clothing manufacturing, traditional mass-produced clothing found in department stores are often made from cotton, a crop that is typically more difficult to grow than hemp and often requires the use of pesticides. Sounds itchy. But hemp is known for being a natural anti-microbial material and your skin may thank you. Hemp clothing is also known for better perspiration absorption and comfort.
So you may know about eating raw hemp seeds or liquifying it for milk, teas, and other beverages. But did you know that it may be used in animal feed? Colorado lawmakers voted to allow a study to move forward to examine the efficacy and safety of legalizing hemp for livestock feed. Traditional grains used in feed can be costly and entire crops can be lost or damaged if the weather does not cooperate. Hemp’s durability could make it an ideal source of food for farmers raising livestock in the future.