Hemp is nature’s very own own miracle crop - and extraordinarily versatile. As well as producing nourishing seeds and oil, hemp can be used for textiles, paper, building materials, bio fuel and plastics, often with superior performance.
Global warming is in part due to the industrialised farming of animals for protein. Hemp seed provides more protein per gram than beef, more omega 3 and 6 than salmon and it captures carbon while doing it. In fact, it captures more carbon than any other crop during its growth cycle.
So hemp nourishes you thoroughly, oxygenates our atmosphere and keeps British farmers in business. That alone is extraordinary, but there’s more. Hemp requires no pesticides or herbicides (that’s right, the non-organic version too), so nothing is destroyed or poisoned in its production. It can grow just about anywhere, and it needs far less water than wheat, rice or soy.
Hemp seeds are nature’s superfoods. Whether hulled or whole, they give you omegas 3, 6 and 9, protein, calcium, iron, phosphorous, magnesium, antioxidants, potassium and plenty of protein. They are also anti-inflammatory, high in digestible fibre, gluten free, lectin free and keto friendly. Hemp protein powder is the richest, natural source of plant-based protein available, containing all 9 essential amino acids, without any of the phytic acid in soya. This means all its nutrients are easily absorbed and explains its popularity amongst athletes.
Hemp seed oil is high in GLA fatty acids, otherwise knowns as omegas 3, 6 and 9, in exactly the right proportions for your body. These wonder elements reduce cholesterol, keep your brain healthy and your hormones balanced. Then there’s hemp flour, which is low GI, low sodium, high protein and high fibre, plus it contains omegas 3, 6 and 9. It’s easily digested and perfect for those who have nut, gluten or wheat allergies.
Most cotton is GM. Growing it uses 50% of the world’s agricultural water, 25% of all pesticides and herbicides which poison the soil.
It accounts for the vast majority of all fibre production and is only cultivable in subtropical climates. This limits the area of production and increases water requirements.
Hemp is a low maintenance crop, being a fast growing and much more hardy plant. It grows readily in most temperate or subtropical climates and is even capable of growing in climates ranging from Nepalese mountains to the equator. It typically requires no pesticides or herbicides. Productivity is over twice as high, with yields of up to 3 tonnes of dry fibre per hectare compared to 1.35 tonnes of cotton lint per hectare.
The high tensile strength of its individual fibres make hemp the strongest natural fibre apart from spiders’ silk. Hemp clothes are four times stronger than cotton and can make everything from light t-shirts to durable heavy canvas. Why aren’t we rethinking our textile industry? We could be growing our textiles in the UK instead of importing them thousands of miles from areas being poisoned by the cotton industry. If you don’t know already know about the Aral Sea, look it up.
The pulp and paper industry is the 3rd largest industrial polluter. This is due to many factors including transport, energy use (fifth largest industrial consumer of energy in Europe) and chlorine based bleaches (three million tonnes) which enter the water supply. Paper production uses more water to produce a ton of product than any other industry and it produces almost 32 million tonnes of CO2 in Europe and 120 billion tonnes worldwide every year. Today, 99.95% of paper and card comes from trees, but this was not always the case. Up until 1883, 75-90% of all paper in the world was made with hemp fibre. Deforestation is a global problem with approximately 80% of the world’s forests already destroyed, and paper production accounting for 35% of all felled trees.
The main advantage of hemp is its growth cycle. Hemp can grow up to 15 feet high within three to four months, whereas trees take at least 10 years to produce, per hectare, a comparative amount of pulp for paper. Cellulose is the principal ingredient in paper. Trees are only 30% cellulose, requiring the use of toxic chemicals to remove the other 70% of plant matter. Hemp contains up to 85% cellulose.
Hemp has a lower lignin content than wood at 5-24%. Wood has 20-35% lignin. Given lignin must be removed from the pulp before it can be processed into paper, using hemp means less power consumption and fewer chemicals. And chlorine bleaches can be replaced with non-toxic hydrogen peroxide when processing hemp. If we replace wood with hemp, we could grow our own packaging and paper industry in the UK – and save the trees.
Hemp is the most cost-efficient and valuable of all the fuel crops we could grow – and on a scale that could fuel the world. Hemp biodiesel can be made from domestically produced hemp oil and hemp ethanol can be made from fermented stalks. These fuels could be the answer to our increasing need for renewable fuel sources.
It’s nothing new. The concept of using vegetable oil as engine fuel dates back to 1895 when Dr. Rudolf Diesel developed the first diesel engine to run on vegetable oil.
Even Henry Ford built his first cars to run on bio-diesel. Imagine growing our own carbon zero fuel here in the UK instead of importing high carbon fossil fuels.
Hempcrete is a better-than-zero-carbon material. It’s carbon negative thanks to the amount of atmospheric carbon that is locked away for the lifetime of the building. And it’s not just hempcrete. A whole range of sustainable building materials are currently being made from the stalk of the hemp plant for use in restoration and new build projects:
Hemp fibre can also be made into recyclable loft insulation, with no contain harmful ingredients. Compressed hemp shiv (the woody inner portion of the hemp stalk) is used to make a fibre board and a hardwood replacement. Hemp can even be used as a replacement for plastics and fibre glass in the construction industry. Why wouldn’t we grow our construction materials instead of relying on toxic imports?
For thousands of years hemp has provided communities all over the world with food, clothes, shelter, medicine and fuel.
Originally from Asia, hemp became so popular in the UK that Henry VIII imposed a penalty on farmers who didn’t grow hemp. Later, Queen Elizabeth I famously declared that for every 60 acres of land, farmers must allocate one acre to hemp. In the 1930s, the emerging plastics and petrochemical industries persuaded the US government to ban the cultivation and processing of hemp.
And so entered the big polluters. And where the US went, the UK followed. Paper production was switched from hemp to wood pulp, textile production was switched from hemp to cotton, hemp bio-fuels were eclipsed by the oil industry, and so on.
So where are we now? A lot of damage has been done but there is hope. Seed by seed, farm by farm, we believe we can change our world with hemp. By switching to hemp, you can help us shift to a low carbon, eco-friendly source of food, fuel and more.