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The Hemp Revolution

May 15, 2014
tags:#agriculture, #industrial, #USA
by:Itai Lahat
There is a plant out there that can be a billion dollar industry but suffer from a very bad public image. Although it can literally be one of the greenest solutions for an array of challenges Industrial Hemp production in the US as in many other countries, is illegal.

Consider this: Industrial hemp has a lot going for it, both for the grower and the consumer, because not only does growing hemp use much less water than similar crops, and doesn't need herbicides, pesticides, or heavy fertilizer applications, but the entire plant can be used to benefit a variety of industries. Hemp seeds can be an important food and oil crop, the plant yields a great eco-friendly textile fiber, the inner fibers (hurds or shives) can be used for construction materials such as hempcrete (as well as used in automobiles), and can even be a feedstock for biomass gasification that could form the basis of sustainable community energy production. And as a big bonus, growing hemp can also be used as a rotation crop to help revive and restore depleted soils, which is a pressing issue in much of America's farmland.

Take for example the hempcrete. This generic name that is varying from place to place, offers the use of hemp as a building bloc material. It usually uses the woody inner fibers of the hemp plant (also called hemp hurds or shives), in a matrix of lime, to create a non-toxic, carbon-negative, and energy-efficient building material that just might be “the most sustainable building material on the planet”, according to some manufacturers.

Hempitecture , a company from the USA that want to legalize industrial hemp and to use it as a building bloc, writes:

“We need architecture for a new generation, a generation where issues of climate change and the environment have mattered like never before. We simply cannot afford building as usual. Buildings in the US are responsible for 44.6% of CO2 emissions into our atmosphere and 90% of that energy comes from non-renewable sources. Our solution to this building epidemic is to use the rapidly renewable industrial hemp fiber as a building material. Because this material is highly insulating, it can reduce the overall energy consumption of the building. Additionally, because hemp has the ability to take an incredible amount of CO2 out of our atmosphere during its growth, it can lend to carbon negative and carbon neutral materials. This means that the material itself sequesters more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere then the production of the material displaces.”

Lately, even the Congressional Research Service of the USA declared Hemp as economically viable. In the July 2013 report, entitled "Hemp as an Agricultural Commodity," the CRS acknowledged that the hemp plant is “genetically different” from cultivated cannabis and boasts that its components may be utilized in the production of thousands of products, including paper, carpeting, home furnishing, construction and insulation materials, auto parts, animal bedding, body care products and nutritional supplements.

All this debate got a push forward last march with a new book by Doug Fine, a journalist and a self-described solar-powered goat herder. In his new book, Fine claims we are on a verge of a revolution in hemp economy. After all, the first flag of the USA was woven from hemp.

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Itai Lahat