How Hemp Can Help Us Tackle Climate Change - The Years Project

How Hemp Can Help Us Tackle Climate Change

By Priya Subberwal

There’s a lot of hype around hemp. It calms you down, you can eat it, wear it, chew it, use it as a yoga mat, or build with it but chances are you haven’t even heard of half the things hemp can do for you and for the planet.

So let’s break hemp down… 

Hemp has been used for thousands of years and was a major crop for most of US history, but it was banned in the 1970s with the rise of the war on drugs in the United States. These days, growing hemp in the US might just be a solution to cut back our fossil fuel emissions and a source of sustainable, eco-friendly materials. 

Hemp is different from marijuana, though they belong to the same plant family. Marijuana has high amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the chemical that is responsible for the high you get. Hemp describes the edible plant seeds and only contains a trace amount of THC.

The hemp industry is growing and there’s tons of money in it. Thanks to new legislative efforts, it’s now possible to grow hemp in all 50 states, and The Hemp Farming Act of 2018 legalized the processing and cultivation of hemp for industrial purposes. The USDA just created the US Domestic Hemp Production Program to stimulate the developing domestic hemp market and incentivize technological growth. 

It’s also good for your health! It provides you with vitamin C and proteins, and hemp seeds are a great addition to salads or smoothies for an added boost of fiber. In fact it’s so high in fiber, in fact, that tons of clothes are made from hemp, and it’s a great and eco-friendly alternative to cotton. 

Hemp is super easy to farm too–it requires little water, can grow in almost any climate, and is essentially pest-resistant. It’s also good for the climate as it absorbs carbon better than almost any other crop, as well as removes carbon from the atmosphere and sequesters it in the soil 

For our purposes, hemp serves a useful and essential service in not only our economy but also our ecosystem. One acre of hemp can remove 10 tons of carbon from the air–more than the average home emits in a year. Not only is growing hemp good for the planet, but it can be used in some of our most carbon-intensive industries like construction, where “hempcrete” can replace concrete as a carbon-negative solution.   

Hemp also requires half the land and a quarter the amount of water as it takes to produce cotton, which is a super carbon-intensive crop. It is also a great replacement for plastic, which is made from fossil fuel byproducts. Hemp-based plastic is a super versatile, non-toxic, biodegradable alternative with thousands of uses.

Header Image: Flickr user Eljay