I wondered for a long time what we were called. You know… the folks who buy organic cage-free eggs from local farms which only use biodiesel in their tractors, while carrying around their home-birthed, cloth-diapered infant in a muslin wrap. Yep, that’s me: a crunchy mama. Well, mostly.
Okay, so I don’t always shop at the food co-op and co-sleeping was definitely not for me, but I do strive to act in a way that is friendly to the Earth. When building my business, I put a lot of research into alternative materials for everyday items. Recycling and using biodegradable resources were at the top of my to-do list. Here are some of the materials I was concerned about and the safer, more Earth-friendly alternative called Hemp.
In a given year, 190 million barrels of petroleum gasses are used to make 45 million tons of plastic in the United States. Besides the dangers of oil spills and controversial methods of fracking, natural gas is a non-renewable resource and when it’s gone… well, it’s gone. But it’s not only bad for our Earth, it’s bad for us as well. Plastics shed chemicals into our food, into our oceans, and into the food chain, all of which eventually lead poisons to our bodies.
Hemp plastic is made from the stalk of the cannabis plant. It is easily recyclable and fully compostable. Its manufacture does not rely on dwindling, non-renewable resources. Many product and packaging manufacturers can use the same injection machines to mold hemp plastic that they have used in the past. As an added bonus, hemp plastic is typically stronger and more durable.
Professional offices like mine use a whole lot of paper on a daily basis. Even with the introduction of electronic records, our paper consumption is much more than I’d like to admit. In the United States, there is 100 million tons of paper produced every year, with Michigan being in the top 10 states manufacturing paper. About 50% of the product that goes into wood paper is purposefully harvested from forests. But one of the worst problems with contemporary paper is the process of manufacturing it. About 15 million tons of waste byproduct is generated through the process of turning wood pulp into pretty, white copy paper.
Hemp is not only a less wasteful approach to creating paper, but it’s also a smarter one. Hemp fibers are longer and stronger and produce a higher quality paper. Hemp paper does not require any chemicals to be used in its manufacture and results in paper that is naturally acid-free and doesn’t jaundice or fall apart and will last for centuries. Hemp is quite literally the greener choice for paper, leaving thousands of acres of trees untouched.
Every year, 9 billion tons of rock and sand are used in the creation of concrete, along with 1 billion tons of water. The process of making the concrete produces 1.5 billion tons of CO2, about 5% of the total CO2 production in the world. That’s a giant carbon footprint.
Hempcrete is seven times stronger, half as light, and three times more elastic than concrete. It can withstand extreme conditions and otherwise devastating natural disasters. Hempcrete is a superior insulator, which in turn causes less usage of natural gas to heat or cool the building. If it wasn’t for the hefty importing costs from other countries, Hempcrete would be far less expensive than its traditional counterpart.
Hemp is extremely renewable and has more benefits than I can even list in one article. I’m certain that if the Earth could talk, she would tell us to use hemp in as many industrial applications as we could.
She’s probably a crunchy mama too.
Photo credit: Denis Roger