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A Look At Hemp And Its Alternative Uses

Despite a history of illegality, Hemp has been used for a lot more than just smoking.

By: Jacob Greenberg

7/24/19

Hemp & Maku’s CBD Oil

The reason Maku is able to exist is because of this incredible Hemp plant. By taking plant material and cleaning it and pressurizing it, we can get an oily resin full of CBD, flavonoids, and terpenes. High quality, all-natural medicine straight from the plant to you!

But what about other uses for Hemp? 

Can Hemp only give us medicine? Or can we use Hemp in a variety of ways, to better the lives of people without them needing to consume CBD oil? Here are five alternate uses for hemp, completely outside of the realm of medicine.

1. Hempcrete

What is it?

Hempcrete is a construction material composed of the woody stems of hemp plants, called hemp shiv, mixed with a lime-based binding agent. The result is a strong, moldable building material. Hempcrete was developed in the 1980s as a way to repair timber-based buildings throughout France and the UK. Hempcrete is insulatory, sustainable, and breathable, making it ideal for wood-based buildings. 

Its popularity and uses

Though it became popular in the UK around the turn of the decade, hemp as a building material is well established throughout history. Archaeological dig sites around the world have found the remnants of structures, hundreds of years old, built with hemp. In Japan, a house made of hemp was built in 1698 and still stands TO THIS DAY. As modern-day infrastructure becomes eco-friendlier and more sustainable, hemp remains a time-tested construction material. 

2. Biofuel

Do you remember the ethanol fuel craze? 

Ethanol, or ethyl alcohol, is the type of alcohol that people consume to get drunk. Cars drink it too! Ethanol-powered cars represent the future! Cleaner than gas-powered cars and more stylish, what is there to hate about the concept?

The issue is the corn.

The concern with corn?

Corn can be damaging to grow, as it requires a lot of time, soil nutrition, water, and time. The returns are also not very high, which means you need a lot of corn in order to get not a lot of fuel (approximately 26.1 lbs or 11.84 kg) of corn per gallon of fuel. Ethanol made from corn also means that corn is being grown to make fuel instead of food, which can be extremely detrimental to people whose livelihood comes from eating corn foodstuffs. In the wintertime, ethanol fuel can also crystallize and clog engine filters. The tech to make cars run off of corn exists, but the tech to sustainably source corn does not.

Hemp Vs. Corn

Hemp has some very severe upsides against corn. Most notably, it takes approximately three months to go from hemp planting to harvest. Hemp grows in a wide variety of climates and can be grown in concurrence with other crops. Hemp can produce two different fuels: biodiesel made from hemp seed oil, and the rest of the plant which can be fermented to produce ethanol or methanol, different alcohols made from the pulp and stalk of the plant. Hemp seed oil has a 97% conversion rate into biodiesel, much higher than corn. Hemp also absorbs a lot of CO2 and pesticides from the soil, acting like an environmental sponge. 

3. Hemp Textiles

Cotton and polyester, or hemp?

Most of the clothes you own and wear on a daily basis are made of cotton and polyester. Hemp produces twice as much usable fiber as cotton, and the fiber is multiple times stronger than cotton fiber. Hemp requires less space to grow and can be repeatedly grown on the same land due to a very low level of soil depletion. 

Whereas hemp absorbs pesticides from the ground, cotton accounts for a quarter of global pesticide usage. Hemp can also be pivoted, so in times of famine, the hemp plant can be cultivated for its high-protein seeds. Hemp fabrics also breathe easier than cotton, which means more comfortable clothing at the end.

4. Hemp Paper

A substitute for wood pulp 

For many of the same reasons that hemp is a better alternative for clothing than cotton, hemp is also the best substitute for making paper. Hemp plants produce more fiber than the wood pulp commonly used to make paper. Hemp also grows much faster and can have many successful cultivations in the time of one cultivation from the commonly used wood pulp. Hemp is also much greener to grow since it acts like a sponge, absorbing bad pesticides in the soil and CO2 in the air.

5. Hemp Rope

The history of hemp fibers

Due to the strength of hemp fibers, in WW2 hemp was used to make rope and parachutes for paratroopers. It was also used as a substitute for clothing since cotton was used during WW2 in the manufacture of explosives. Centuries earlier, during the 1600s, it was a law for farmers in the Virginia colony to grow hemp. During this time, hemp rope on ships was the only rope available, since rope from other sources was more expensive to make and needed to be shipped to the colonies from England. Hemp was also one of the primary sources for sails, due to its strength yet lightweight and ease of use.

It is worth noting that these are not all the uses of hemp.

Hemp has a myriad of other uses, from being mixed with other building materials to being feed for livestock. Hemp is being tested as a replacement for plastics or glass fibers. Hemp fiber, when processed correctly, can form the base of everything from solar panels to batteries and can be used to store electricity efficiently. It shows that in almost every aspect of life, this once-stigmatized plant can revolutionize industry and make the world a better place.

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