Celebrating Earth Day & Hemp Sustainability

In recent years, both out of trend and necessity, brands and manufacturers are racing to create sustainable alternatives using natural materials. Today, we’re seeing a surge of products that are made from bamboo, recycled cotton, seaweed fiber, and best of all, hemp.

The widespread usage of hemp could have a major impact on the environment, and it’s apparent now more than ever that this is the solution we need. Hemp has the ability to replace cotton, wood, fuel, and plastic to help us cultivate a more sustainable, and healthy environment for generations to come. The only thing standing between us and and these (literally) greener pastures is the stigma surrounding hemp, and the fact that it is intrinsically linked to cannabis. 

To celebrate Earth Day and the headway that hemp has made in the industry so far—and also to advocate for its continued use—we’ve compiled some research and broken it down into bite size pieces to help destigmatize the plant’s usage, and educate our readers on its many benefits.

Hemp vs Cotton

Cotton is a tale as old as time—for as long as we can remember, cotton has been a staple fiber used in the manufacturing of apparel. From an agricultural standpoint, cotton requires a great deal of water, pesticides, herbicides, time and land.

On average, cotton takes roughly 165-195 days to grow, whereas hemp requires anywhere from 70-110 days before it’s grown and can be harvested. Also, cotton requires almost 3 times the land that hemp does; hemp can produce 1500 lbs of fiber per acre, and comparatively, cotton can only produce only 500 lbs per acre.

Did you know that 50% of the world’s pesticides and herbicides are used in the production of cotton? In comparison, hemp requires no pesticides, no herbicides, only moderate amounts of fertilizer and requires 50% less water than cotton. Cotton can only grow in certain regions with moderate climates, whereas hemp is frost tolerant, requires far less water, and can be grown in all 50 states. Best of all, harvesting hemp can even give back by to the land by returning nutrients to the soil, and sequestering carbon dioxide.

When we examine the facts, it’s clear that hemp is a highly sustainable solution, is a more prosperous plant to harvest, and is far less taxing on our resources and environment. 

Hemp and CO2

We’ve heard that hemp can sequester CO2, but what exactly does that actually mean? 

When industry experts say that hemp is able to successfully sequester CO2, what they mean is the plant is able to capture, and store carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas largely contributing to climate change, so that it is not emitted into the atmosphere. The benefit of hemp sequestering CO2 is that it reduces the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere—by storing it underground—and in turn, helps mitigate the effects of climate change and slow the rate at which it’s taking place.

One hectare (aka 10,000 sq meters) of industrial hemp can absorb 15 tons of CO2 (aka 30,000 lbs, aka the weight of semi-truck, aka a f*ck ton) according to Catherine Wilson, Board Advisor of the European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA) and Founding Member of the British Hemp Association.

Hemp begins sequestering carbon the moment it is seeded, and roughly one ton of harvested hemp fiber sequesters 1.62 tons of CO2. Even after it’s been harvested, hemp also reintegrates CO2 back into the soil through a process called biosequestration—I know, you’re probably thinking WTF is biosequestration and why does that matter?

Biosequestration is the process of smoldering a harvested plant slowly. When slowly smoldered, harvested hemp produces charcoal-like biochar. When farmers mix this ~biochar~ with the soil, they are returning the carbon back into the soil, instead of releasing it into the atmosphere (!!!!).

Basically, harvesting hemp means less CO2 emissions, which means having a cleaner atmosphere, which means having cleaner air to breathe and an overall healthier environment, which we love. Love that for hemp. Love that for us.

Hemp and Its Many Forms

Hemp is extremely versatile—it can be harvested for its seeds or fiber.

Hemp seeds can be used to create milk, oil, and other food products. Hemp-based food products are a rich in fiber, protein, and especially omega-3s, making them a great source of nutrients for those who don’t consume animal-based products.

Brands are also increasingly turning to hemp in the manufacturing of apparel, and it turns out that there are a ton of benefits to using this fiber in garments. 

First of all, hemp fiber is almost three times as strong as cotton, which means that garments made with hemp are less likely to stretch as easily as those made with cotton or other synthetic fibers. Second, and unnervingly relevant to our current situation, hemp has anti-bacterial properties, which help reduce the risk of carrying and spreading infection. 

Next, hemp is recyclable and biodegradable, meaning that once you’re finished with the fabric, it can biodegrade in about 4 months, as opposed to polyester clothing which can take almost 100 years to decompose. Finally, it’s cost and eco-friendly! Because hemp is easier to harvest than

cotton and other synthetic fibers, the cost is driven down and there’s less water, land, and pesticides used in the production of the fiber.

Hemp and Cannabis

Many are reluctant to replace cotton, plastics and synthetics with hemp because of the plant’s lineage. Hemp is often referred to as the cousin of cannabis, which is not entirely false. 

Cannabis is a genus of flowering plants in the Cannabaceae family, which has three primary species: Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis.

Industrial hemp is a species of cannabis sativa, but is non-intoxicating and contains less than 0.3% THC. Hemp and marijuana come from the same cannabis species, but the two are genetically distinct and are further distinguished by use, chemical makeup, and cultivation methods. 

In short, the term ’hemp’ describes the non-intoxicating Cannabis plant that is harvested for the industrial use of food, clothing, energy, wood, herbal supplements, and so much more.

We hope this blog post shed some light on the many benefits that can be derived from using hemp, and hopefully hemp products will continue to turn up in coming years, replacing less sustainable products across the market. 

The earth is our shared home, and it’s our obligation to protect her. From all of us here at RB, Happy Earth Day!

Kat Frey is a Brooklyn based writer, who originally hails from The Wing. Kat has historically worked with women-lead brands, and her writing spans from culture and cannabis, to overall health and wellness. When she’s not busy writing for Rosebud CBD, she spends her time thumbing through The Cut, Man Repeller, and T Magazine, or listening to Las Culturistas. Her favorite form of self care is adding our 350mg tincture to homemade face and hair masks!

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