There is a lot of buzz around Hemp at the moment in Australia due to the legalisation of consumable Hemp products as of November last year (2017). However, what a lot of people don’t realise is that Hemp has been used for centuries! Not only as consumable products (Hemp seeds or Hemp seed oil) but also to manufacture textiles, rope, building materials, fuel, paper, and so much more.
DID YOU KNOW
The word “canvas” is derived from the 13th century Anglo-French ‘canevaz’ and the Old French ‘canevas’ which are believed to both be derivatives of the Vulgar Latin ‘cannapaceus’ which translates to “made of Hemp”.
Hemp pulp has been used to create paper for at least 2,000 years, many people may be surprised to find that they already own literature printed on hemp paper. Family heirlooms, such as Bibles would most likely be made from hemp, as between 75 to 90% of all paper in the world was made from hemp fibre until 1883, including a draft of the American Declaration of Independence. Hemp pulp could conceivably replace wood pulp, creating a more durable, sustainable, and recyclable paper. Moreover, Hemp’s low lignin content and naturally light colour mean that fewer chemicals and less bleach would be needed to pulp and colour Hemp paper. The potential of Hemp for paper production is enormous, agriculture reports state that one acre of Hemp can produce 4 times more paper than one acre of trees! All types of paper products can be produced from Hemp including; newsprint, computer paper, stationery, cardboard, envelopes, toilet paper, even tampons.
Due to the Omega fatty acids present within Hemp, which are building blocks for healthy cell membranes, it has been used in natural skin care products for centuries, Hemp seed oil soothes and nourishes sensitive skin as well as being a natural emollient and moisturiser for dry, tired and dehydrated skin and hair.
The same high cellulose level that makes Hemp ideal for paper also makes it perfect for ethanol fuel production. Ethanol is the cleanest-burning liquid bio-alternative to gasoline. A 2009 study found that Hemp seed oil was a viable and even attractive feedstock for producing ethanol as it proved to be highly efficient (97% of the Hemp oil was converted to ethanol) and could even be used at lower temperatures than other ethanol’s. When Hemp ethanol combusts, it releases water vapour and CO2 which is absorbed by plants making it non-toxic and it can be used in existing transportation vehicles
Until the 20th century, 80% of all the world’s textiles and fabrics, including the finest quality linen were made from hemp. Hemp is softer, warmer, more water absorbent, three times stronger and more durable than cotton. Even Levi’s jeans, were oiginally made from hemp cloth. Hemp is also a great alternative to crops such as cotton and flax because it can produce 250% more fibre than cotton and 600% more fibre than flax using the same amount of land and using 50% less water. As a textile, Hemp is a natural antimicrobial, breaths well, resists mould and retains dyes and colours. During WWII Hemp textiles were used extensively for uniforms, bedding, sacks, and shoes.
Carbon-Neutral Building Materials
Hemp fibre can be mixed with lime to create carbon-neutral building supplies, including insulation, pressboard, flooring, and wall construction. It is energy-efficient, non-toxic, and resistant to mould, insects and fire. Moreover, it is easier to work with than concrete or wood and just as strong. Hemp as a substitute building material can also be manufactured cheaper than wood reducing building costs and saving trees.
Hemp plastic is non-toxic and biodegradable. It is also much stronger than conventional plastic.
Henry Ford famously built a car out of Hemp & soy plastic in the early 1940s, and Lotus did the same in 2008. The Lotus Eco Elise used Hemp in its composite body panels and spoiler, and many car manufacturers have since switched to Hemp composites for door panels, columns, seat backs, boot linings, floor consoles and instrument panels. Hemp composites are stronger, lighter, and cheaper than fibreglass and carbon fibre — plus, they’re recyclable!
Unlike virtually all Hemp substitutes, growing Hemp requires very little effort, fewer chemicals and very few resources. Most substitutes for Hemp (sisal, cotton, sugar cane) grow in limited geographical areas and none have the paper, fuel, textile, and consumable potential of Hemp.
Products derived from Hemp are non-toxic, biodegradable, and renewable.