Hemp is an incredibly versatile plant that can be used to make all sorts of products from clothing and shoes to rope. It can even be used for buildings. The beauty of using hemp as a replacement for a variety of different materials is that it is highly sustainable. Hemp can be grown without the need for pesticides or fertilisers making it a great alternative to cotton. Hemp is also really fast growing as it is a grass, this makes it easily renewable in contrast to timber and wood. The oil from hemp seeds contain amino acids and essential fatty acids making it a great food product but the oil is also used for a huge variety of other industrial products. The oil can even be used as an bio fuel which is a great alternative to non renewable fossil fuels.
The fibre of the hemp plant is also called bast and used to make textiles and paper. The plant typically produces 10% more fibre than either cotton or flax and is strong and quick growing. Textiles made from the hemp plant can be used to make shoes, clothing, sails and carpets. It was widely used for these purposes before the industrial revolution but its popularity then declined due to the availability of other textiles. Hemp clothing is now beginning to become popular again primarily because of sustainability of the plant.Ecological Shoes use hemp as an alternative to leather for manufacturing its ethical and vegan shoes.
It is hard to imagine but the strength from the hemp plant can be harnessed and used to strengthen buildings. Hempcrete, as it is known is made by mixing hemp hurds and lime. It is less brittle than concrete and therefore is more resistant to cracking reducing the need for expansion joints. Hemp has also been used in other composite materials for construction. The use of hemp in this way is really just in its infancy stage with it mostly being used for prototypes.
Hemp can also be used to make the composite panels for cars. The hemp bast fibre is mixed with fibreglass for a strong material. As well as it many other uses hemp oil, which is obtained from the fruit of the hemp plant, can be taken as a dietary supplement and has been shown to relieve the symptoms of eczema. It also has anti inflammatory properties and can be used for medical purposes.
The hemp plant is also very useful for ecological reasons. It can be used to clean waste water removing impurities like sewage. It can remove excess phosphorus from chicken effluent or other chemicals. It has even been used to clear contaminents after the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl. The density and height that the hemp plant can grow to make it ideal for weed control. It minimises the pool of weed seeds i n the soil and is particularly useful for controlling tough weeds, helping to reduce the use of herbicides.
With its sustainability and many different uses, hemp could well be one of the crops of the future providing a partial solution to a number of environmental issues. There are however some issues surrounding the scale of hemp production which is partially limited by it status as a controlled crop in the US. With time, hopefully the production of hemp will become scalable allowing it to be used more extensively to make these many products.