In my opinion, a big aspect of healing the planet is addressing the pollution our collective has allowed to run rampant with little thought or concern about it.
Our planet is being polluted every day in so many different ways, and while I can’t offer a concrete solution to solve the biggest pollution problems facing us, I can point out some of the things we can do in the Now to start creating a sustainable future.
It’s becoming increasingly clear that our current ways of sustaining ourselves hurt our planet, and as it turns out, we can embrace something that was once widely used and that provides stunning benefits for our society, but that’s been demonized and cast from most people’s perceptions.
We can utilize a quick-growing natural resource that was used for centuries without question until the late 1800s and early 1900s. Amidst researching this natural resource, I learned that various man-made problems that seem to have no solution or way out are easily solvable if we can see beyond our initial perceptions of it and see it for what it is.
As you may have guessed, I’m talking about the hemp plant.
I’m not talking about marijuana, which it’s commonly associated with, but the hemp plant itself and the various industrial uses it can provide for our society. Paper; plastic; food; the ability to fight deforestation in an incredibly sustainable way that can see us prosper; the hemp plant provides all of this and more for us.
For those who may not want to explore the subject of hemp because of marijuana, which has itself come to be known for some extraordinary medicinal benefits, be assured that this discussion is intended to delve into the uses hemp, a plant I think is underrated in our society, provides us instead of the marijuana subject.
Hemp-Guide.com is a great source to study up on hemp and the benefits it provides. To drive home the point I made above, I’ll post a snippet from that site about the difference between cannabis (marijuana) and hemp.
“[Cannabis and hemp] are related through the same genus of plant. While industrial-grade hemp is a rather helpful resource in the world, it lacks the stimulating power of the substance known as delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, or for short, THC. It is this active chemical of THC that brings about the ‘high’ associated with marijuana.
Hemp contains 1.5% of this substance, while marijuana possesses between 4 % and 20%. In Canada, the legal amount of THC used to create products cannot exceed 0.3%. Overall, the plants are rather close in details, but supply very different functions for many dissimilar reasons, which especially shows through in the physical makeup of the two plants.
Hemp is much stronger than the marijuana variety, meaning it holds the possibility to create a wealth of raw materials. Marijuana is actually quite delicate, eliminating it as a contender regarding serving a purpose to benefit mankind in a manner acceptable by law (with the exception of medicinal uses).
Farming practices also dictate the amount of THC produced by the plant.”(1)
So we see that industrial grade hemp, and really hemp in general, doesn’t contain the psychoactive substance cannabis is known for. It may contain it in incredibly small doses, and even those doses can be regulated by the person growing it. I’d imagine that if you wanted to, you could grow hemp with no THC in it whatsoever.
The two are related ‘through the same genus of plant’ as the referenced source said above, but other than the fact that uses for both of them that were unheard of three decades ago are coming to light today (industrial for hemp and medicinal for cannabis) they share very little in common.
Understanding this, we can now delve into what the hemp plant as an independent contender can do for our planet. Before getting into a discussion of each of them, I’m going to name just a few of the things hemp can be made into that’ll vastly improve the manner in which we keep ourselves sustained as a species.
Hemp can be:
Used as a biofuel source
Made into paper to drastically reduce deforestation
Made into plastic that’s healthier for the planet
A great source of strong, durable and long-lasting fibers
A source of healthy seeds, rich in important nutrients
First, we’re going to explore how hemp can play a role in developing a biofuel that’s more efficient than what we get from corn and obviously better for the planet than using natural resources. In doing so, we should probably understand what biofuel is in comparison to fuel made from natural resources.
Hemp-Guide, which will be our main resource throughout this report, tells us about biofuel.
“With the sustained high price of oil and the resurgence of ecological [awareness] a ‘trendy’ aspect of society, a lot of research has gone into current alternative fuel source.
An alternative fuel such as biofuel comes from biological sources; the most commonly used example of a biofuel is E85 gasoline, which is a mixture of gasoline cut with 85% methyl alcohol.
The other broad [category] of biofuel is biodiesel, which is shown as a blend of biodiesel and regular diesel fuel, generally with a B prefix. B20 is 20% biodiesel and 80% petro-diesel. B100 is completely biological.” (2)
We’re then told about biofuel’s carbon footprint, which is less than that of fossil fuels.
“The appeal of a biofuel is that it supports agricultural sectors and is carbon neutral. While burning a biofuel still releases carbon into the atmosphere, the biomass used to process the fuel recycles the carbon through photosynthesis.
However, fossil fuels add to the carbon cycle because they have been sequestered by geological processes for thousands of years. Biofuels also naturally produce lower emissions, barely contain any sulfur and burns far less carbon monoxide during the burning process.
Another key concept of biofuels is that it offers a double solution – by making fuel out of the inedible parts of agricultural products, you can take a lot of material that would’ve otherwise ended up burned or turned into low value silage, and render it down into oils that can be used to run machinery.” (2)
So where does hemp fit into producing biofuel? I recognize that we’re getting into some complex territory here, but to understand this we’ll have to understand biomass, the key biofuel ingredient. Hemp-Guide explains.
“In order to reduce plant matter, we must first look at biomass which is the key ingredient in any biofuel. Biomass is the part of the plant that can be reduced into a biofuel format. The 4 criterion for judging biomass as a fuel source are rate of growth, environment it grows in, labor needed to make it grow, and ease of processing into fuel.
The ideal biomass for making biofuel would be a fast growing plant that doesn’t require as much cultivation as a food crop and which is readily ‘cooked’ down into a liquid fuel.
The main drawback of corn-driven alcohol is that every bushel of corn turned into fuel is a bushel of corn that isn’t used to feed someone somewhere, so it’s competing directly with food crops.” (2)
So we see that corn isn’t the best resource to produce biofuel, and as we’ll see below, switchgrass, rapeseed and sugar cane aren’t much better. This is where hemp “saves the day” as it’s easily the best contender.
“Switchgrass and rapeseed are two candidates that are gaining a lot of publicity now because they grow on land that’s otherwise used for cattle grazing; however, the volume of the plant that needs to be harvested per gallon of fuel means that it’s economically less viable than planting corn for alcohol.
Sugar cane is one of the best sources for an alcohol fuel source, but requires an equatorial climate to thrive and many crops are doused with harmful chemicals.
The ideal biomass as a fuel source is hemp – originally grown as a fiber for rope, hemp will grow in places where you can’t grow food, it grows quickly, and it grows in high density plots, making it easy to harvest. It also absorbs 5 times more carbon per acre compared to forests.” (2)
In exploring hemp as a potential helpful biofuel source, we see that utilizing it instead of natural resources can help us significantly reduce our carbon footprint. We also see that it grows in various conditions and climates most others can’t, and the best part is that it grows quickly enough to be a sustainable natural resource, which we’ll get into a bit later on.
(1)- Hemp-Guide: “Difference between Cannabis and Hemp” at:
(2)- Hemp-Guide: “Current Alternative Fuel Sources” at:
Continued in part 2 next week.