We use hemp because it’s a great alternative to plastic and it is a fabulous eco textile, not to mention it’s just damn cool.
Let’s get right to the point, hemp is a wonderful alternative to plastic because of these following reasons:
• Hemp grows naturally without pesticides
• Hemp is mold resistant
• Hemp is strong and durable
• Hemp is biodegradable
• Hemp reduces heat and remains cool
• Hemp protects against the sun’s harmful rays
• Hemp is straight up COOL
I. Hemp Basics
Production of hemp originated in Central Asia thousands of years ago. Hemp has a long history of being used as a food grain, and as a source of fiber, such as clothing, rope and netting as well as for spiritual, medical, nutritional and industrial purposes.
Hemp is one of the oldest and most versatile crops in the world. For thousands of years hemp seeds, stalks and flowers have been used for nutritious, medical, spiritual and industrial purposes. The seed oil is rich in essential fatty acids (including gamma linoleic acid (GLA), a very rare nutrient, also found in mother’s milk) and vitamin E.
The fibers from the stalks boast an unusually high tensile strength, leading to incredibly high-quality, durable and wearable clothing items. Hemp fiber is one of the softest and most durable fibers produced by any natural product and it perfect for surfboard bags and surf accessories.
Hemp was first cultivated by the Chinese in the 2nd century B.C. At that time, the fibers where used for paper and textile and the seeds for food and in medicines. The Chinese played a significant role improving the growth, harvesting and processing techniques of hemp. Besides its propagation in China, the cultivation and use of hemp has, since the beginnings of recorded history, also been documented by many other great civilizations, including: India, Sumeria, Babylonia, Persia, Egypt, and other nations of the Near East; and the Aztec and Mayan civilizations of South America; as well as by native cultures in North America and Europe. Indeed, it might be said that over these thousands of years, hemp has always followed humankind throughout the world.
In the 15th century hemp was introduced in the American colonies. After that time much of the paper and clothing in colonial America was made from hemp, with the textiles being recycled into “rag paper”, known to this day as one of the strongest and most long-lasting papers in the world. During colonial hemp shortages it was a punishable offense for landowners (sometimes by death) for refusing to grow hemp.
Most of the seagoing nations would never have been as successful without the strong fibers with which to craft 90% of sails, plus ropes, rigging, and even the ‘oakum’ that sealed cracks in the boats watertight. In basic terms, if it was not made of wood on a ship, it was made of hemp. Hemp rope and sails were incredibly strong and resisted the salt water damage and mold that were among the common wear and tear experienced in the nautical industry.
Even flags, uniforms and fishing nets were fashioned from the fiber, and all these were above decks. Below, ships’ logs, maps, charts and bibles were printed on hemp paper as it was up to 100 times stronger than traditional papyrus preparations, and many of the lamps that lighted the dark evenings were dependent on hemp oil fuel. In fact, prior to 1883 between 75% and 90% of everything made of or printed on paper was from hemp, and before petrochemical companies most paints, oils, varnishes, and even glues and adhesives were manufactured from hemp.
Use hemp and not plastic.
But most importantly, at the end of its life-cycle hemp would go back into the earth and decompose, it wouldn’t rot in some landfill for the next thousand years like plastic.
II. Digging Deeper Into Hemp
Ok, those are the basics, let’s dig a little deeper. Hemp is among the oldest industries on the planet, going back more than 10,000 years to the beginnings of pottery. The Columbia History of the World states that the oldest relic of human industry is a bit of hemp fabric dating back to approximately 8,000 BC—that’s cool!
The main uses of European hemp is in France for cigarette papers. In the ‘new’ hemp producing countries such as the UK, Germany and Netherlands, the main markets are insulation (about 40%) and bio-composites (40%). The main use of bio-composites are for the automotive industries. Other niche applications including the garden markets for non-woven mats. Most seed production happens in Canada. A new (European) decortication* machine located in Alberta is about to begin so they will be making fibers as well.
United States Presidents Washington and Jefferson both grew hemp. Americans were legally bound to grow hemp during the Colonial Era and Early Republic. The federal government subsidized hemp during the Second World War and U.S. farmers grew about a million acres of hemp as part of that program.
Hemp seed is nutritious and contains more essential fatty acids than any other source, is second only to soybeans in complete protein (but is more digestible by humans), is high in B-vitamins, and is a good source of dietary fiber.
Hemp seed is not psychoactive and cannot be used as a drug.
The bark of the hemp stalk contains bast fibers, which are among the Earth’s longest natural soft fibers and are also rich in cellulose. The cellulose and hemi-cellulose in its inner woody core are called hurds. Hemp stalk is not psychoactive.
Hemp fiber is longer, stronger, more absorbent and more insulative than cotton fiber.
According to the Department of Energy, hemp as a biomass fuel producer requires the least specialized growing and processing procedures of all hemp products. The hydrocarbons in hemp can be processed into a wide range of biomass energy sources, from fuel pellets to liquid fuels and gas. Development of bio-fuels could significantly reduce our consumption of fossil fuels and nuclear power.
Hemp can be grown organically. Only eight, out of about one hundred known pests, cause problems, and hemp is most often grown without herbicides, fungicides or pesticides.
Hemp is also a natural weed suppressor due to fast growth of the canopy.
Hemp produces more pulp per acre than timber on a sustainable basis, and can be used for every quality of paper. Hemp paper manufacturing can reduce wastewater contamination. Hemp’s low lignin content reduces the need for acids used in pulping, and its creamy color lends itself to environmentally-friendly bleaching instead of harsh chlorine compounds. Less bleaching results in less dioxin and fewer chemical by-products.
Hemp fiber paper resists decomposition, and does not yellow with age when an acid-free process is used. Hemp paper more than 1,500 years old has been found. Hemp paper can also be recycled more times than wood-based paper.
Hemp fiberboard produced by Washington State University was found to be twice as strong as wood-based fiberboard. No additional resins are required due to naturally-occurring lignins.
Eco-friendly hemp can replace most toxic petrochemical products. Research is being done to use hemp in manufacturing biodegradable plastic products: plant-based cellophane, recycled plastic mixed with hemp for injection-molded products, and resins made from the oil, to name a very few examples. Over two million cars on the road today have hemp composite parts for door panels, dashboards, luggage racks, and lots of Wave Tribe surf gear.
For more on hemp see this video . . .
V. Resources & More Information
- North American Industrial Hemp Council www.naihc.org
- Hemp Industries Association www.thehia.org
- Vote Hemp www.votehemp.com
- Kentucky Hemp Growers Cooperative Association www.hempgrowers.com
- The Industrial Hemp Information Network www.hemptech.com