10 Of the best ways that we've used hemp plants

Published Nov 9, 2020 02:00 p.m. ET
iStock / Handatko

Hemp is rather undervalued compared to its cannabis counterpart, but that’s only because most people don’t realize how useful it can be. Hemp fibers and nutrients can do incredible things, and they are so versatile that some experts believe its widespread use could be the answer to our waste problems, which could mean incredible things for the environment.

Unfortunately, in many regions, hemp has only recently been approved for use, so we have yet to witness a massive switch, which is keeping the secrets that we’ve discovered largely undiscussed, but that doesn’t mean we haven't done mind-blowing things with this plant. In fact, when it comes to hemp fiber and the things that we can make with it, the options are nearly limitless.

1. Hemp vehicles

Right now, most of the vehicles that are on the market are made with heavy-duty plastics or metals, materials that aren’t sustainable, and are terrible for the environment, but all of that can change with the introduction of the hemp car. The very first version was revealed by none other than Henry Ford himself in 1941, and since then, we’ve seen hemp scooters and bicycles make headlines worldwide, suggesting that the hemp fiber might soon be viewed as a perfect alternative to metal.

2. Plastic

We live in a disposable society where much of what we use is made of either paper or plastic so that they’re cheap and easy to toss away, but the problem is that all of the garbage we’ve produced doing this is adding up. Luckily, there is a new option on the horizon, and as corporate giants such as LEGO continue to rise to the occasion, by promising a full switch to hemp plastic in the near future.

3. Clothing

Much of our clothing these days are thin and made of cotton or some other synthetic material, and though they are cheap to make, they don’t last very long, adding to our growing landfill crisis. This is, however, an issue that can be easily solved with biodegradable hemp clothing because the built materials will last longer and hold up to use while breaking down faster once you’re done with them, and they make it into the trash.

4. Concrete

If you look around any residential area, you’re going to notice tonnes upon tonnes of cement and pavement no matter where you look. It’s the roads, sidewalks, and the buildings that we live in and shop at, and it’s a terribly wasteful product that requires frequent repairs. It also doesn’t break down, which means that when it’s no longer useful, it’s contributing to our overflowing landfills. Luckily, there’s a hot new option called hempcrete, that lasts 10 times longer than traditional cement. How amazing is that?

5. Biofuel

We pump oil out of the ground at incredible rates, and this action has far too many repercussions, from the immediate implications of things like leaks that contaminate water and soil, and the emissions that are released into the atmosphere contributing to greenhouse emissions and poor air quality. You might not think that there’s any other reasonable solution, but hemp fuel has shown to be comparable as far as efficiency while much being better for the environment. So, it may not be today or tomorrow that we see it, but eventually, all of our engines could one day run on hemp.

6. Hemp food

We require a fair amount of protein in our diet to be healthy, and right now, most people get it from unsustainable resources that are bad for the environment, like commercial meat farmers. As our population grows, it’s become essential that we rethink the cost of the way that we do things, and one of the things that many have opted to do is to find a new source for those precious nutrients. Hemp food might not entirely replace hamburgers, but it’s an incredible addition to any diet that can be made into a variety of ingredients like flour or cereal.

7. Medicine

The media tends to focus on the benefits of cannabis to the medicinal community, but that’s only because the effects of CBD alone are less valuable on the market. Hemp plants are just as powerful as a medicine when taken in a variety of ways, including vaping, smoking, eating, or topical application. Though they might just look like a regular old weed, we can make powerful life-changing medicine from the CBD and other natural elements within these plants.

8. Diapers

Back on the issue of being a disposable society, and one of the largest contributors to the problem is children's diapers. For a number of years, families used cloth that could be washed and reused, but nowadays, it’s much more typical for parents to grab a pack of disposables as they’re needed. Because of this, in North America alone, over 30 billion diapers make it to landfills every year. Though they might cost a little bit more, hemp diapers can provide all of the same benefits, while breaking down in a fraction of the time required by their traditionally used counterparts.

9. Insulation

If you think of insulation and it brings to mind the old itchy stuff that was filled with loose fiberglass pieces, then you’ll be disappointed to know that while we’ve managed to make it less scratchy, it’s still just as bad for the environment. Some companies have tried to curb this problem by opting for recyclable solutions that can sort of make up for the bad, but the best solution today is hemp insulation. It can last longer, it’s better at keeping the elements out, and it’s biodegradable, which means that it isn’t going to stick around for several years after you toss it.

10. Paper

We cut down millions of trees every single year to keep up with the demand for materials like paper, and even though we live in an age where technology has replaced much of our need for the white stuff, we still use billions of sheets in places like schools or offices. Unfortunately, this mass cutting of trees is unsustainable as it takes decades to grow them back, but hemp paper is a fantastic solution. Just like wood pulp hemp fibers can be combined with other ingredients to give us clean, crisp sheets and since we can grow a new crop every season, it’s much better for the environment.

Despite knowing about all of these incredible products, we see very few of them for sale to the general public, as it will take a significant investment from businesses to make the switch over this more sustainable option. We’re talking new recipes, new ingredients, new machinery, new training, plus learning how it all stacks up to the products that we already know and love. It’s a process that takes time, but with a little luck, we can see all of these hemp fiber products and more make an emergence within the manufacturing industry.

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