HEMP. The natural, legal, misunderstood super plant. Constantly arising in the news and media, hemp has the potential to create an enormous impact in the environmental industry today. So, what’s all the hype about?
First and foremost, hemp is all about health. Health for the planet, health for the people, and health for the animals.
What is Hemp?
For decades, this plant has been considered taboo in the eyes of the public. Its sister plant, marijuana, has made a major influence on the development of the legalization of hemp, especially in the United States. Canada has enjoyed legal hemp since 1998, but progress has been slower in the US. There are endless misconceptions about the relationship between hemp and marijuana. In the same family, they are both forms of cannabis. However, marijuana contains high amounts of THC, the molecule that makes you “high,” whereas hemp has extremely low amounts, not enough to not have any effect. Both plants contain CBD, the non-psychoactive molecule that reaps endless health benefits. Hemp actually contains higher amounts of CBD. So, to break it down. Marijuana is psychoactive with more THC than CBD. Hemp is non-psychoactive with more CBD and very little trace amounts of THC.
Hemp was initially demonized in the 1930’s when the Marijuana Tax Act came into place in the US in 1937. This corporate influence resulted in Canada to adopt the same policies, which put a halt on the development of hemp. Hemp was then legally banned in 1970 by President Nixon when he declared the Controlled Substances Act. Hemp was grown thousands of years ago, but has been suppressed up until the late 1990’s. Due to this misguided ban, it has taken decades for hemp to be considered accepted again, both by governments and society.
In Canada, the government gradually shifted its perspective and industrial hemp became legal again in 1998. The first historical industrial hemp harvest occurred that Fall. Still being classified as a narcotic up until ‘98, hemp was continually facing problems when being brought into Canada. Hemp has come a long way since then, and the potential is vast. The industrialization of hemp was a large kick start towards the Canadian cannabis industry that exists today.
Hemp is an extraordinary plant. It can be used for many different and unique purposes that are not showcased as they should be. With remarkable health benefits, it also helps to sustain the environment in many unique aspects. The potential when harvesting hemp is vast. It not only helps the surrounding earth, soil, and atmosphere while growing, but you can use each part of the plant in a variety of different ways.
The Soil Purifier
Hemp is easy to grow. It requires very little water and can be grown anywhere in the world in many different types of soil. Hemp is drought resistant and gentle on the earth. It improves and purifies the quality of the surrounding soil and crops where it’s grown. No chemicals or pesticides need to be used to assist in its growth. Hemp actually helps diminish carbon dioxide in the air as well, four times more than trees. Here in Canada, the growing season starts around mid to late May and progresses throughout the summer. Hemp has had major success being grown here in Canada. There are many more farmers looking into growing this amazing plant, which is hopeful for the future of the industry.
Hemp is also extremely versatile. It can be made into food products, body care products, clothing fabric materials, building items, and renewable alternatives to many resources such as plastic. “Hempcrete,” a biodegradable “hemp plastic,” bio-diesel, and steel alternatives are just some of the ways hemp can assist in changing industrialization.
There have been hemp crops used in Chernobyl and Fukushima following the nuclear explosions that have been proven to assist in cleaning and removing radiation from the soil. Hemp is able to extract the toxins from the soil to naturally restore and purify the ground. In Southern Italy, hemp is also currently being used to detoxify heavy metals out of the soil, created from harsh steel plant factories. It’s a persistent and hardy plant to be certain.
So what can you do?
In this current era and new decade, sustainability is a major topic and emphasis that many people are making the effort to incorporate into their lives. There are endless ways that you can take responsibility to help, create less waste, and increase your positive impact. Why not start with hemp?
First of all, consume it! Hemp has tremendous health benefits and can be consumed in a variety of different ways. The simplest and delicious way to get hemp into your diet is through hemp seeds. Hemp seeds are balanced around one third protein, one third fibre, and one third healthy fats. It’s undeniably a perfect superfood. They contain high amounts of omega fatty acids and essential amino acids – an amazing plant-based complete protein. You can add them to almost any meal you consume. Salads, smoothies, yogurt, oatmeal, roasted vegetables, baked goods, the list goes on!
Hemp seed oil is a phenomenal replacement to other products on the market that are heavily loaded with GMO’s, such as canola and soy oil. It’s regarded as nature’s most nutritious oil containing essential fatty acids and antioxidants. Hemp seed flour is also a great nutrient dense replacement to regular flours, containing high amounts of protein.
Switch your everyday beauty products to all-natural hemp-based ones. Hemp seed oil positively benefits the hair and skin. Not only can you apply it topically, but you can consume it for additional benefits. Hemp seed oil is a natural moisturizer, is packed with antioxidants, and has anti-inflammatory properties. It doesn’t clog your pores, it helps lock in moisture, prevents premature aging, and reduces skin conditions such as eczema, acne, psoriasis, and more.
Invest in sustainable clothing brands made of hemp. Companies such as Mollusk, Afends, and Patagonia all have hemp clothing lines that can be found at Surf the Greats. All three of these brands are working to change the ways of the fashion industry in terms of sustainability. It’s going to take time, but the best thing now is to shine light on hemp to increase its popularity. This will help make hemp clothing more accessible and affordable in the future, for more of the population to invest in it. There is also great opportunity within the fashion industry to blend hemp with other natural or recycled fibres, such as organic cotton, silk, and bamboo. The industry has exciting potential. These items are much more durable than regular clothing items, comfortable, and easier on the environment. Hemp fabric is also hypoallergenic, provides UV protection, resists bacteria growth, and is easily breathable.
Did you know that 10% of global carbon emissions come from the fashion industry alone? That is more than the shipping and aviation industries combined.
Hemp requires very little water to grow compared to cotton. Investing in sustainable clothing brands like hemp, help play a major part in assisting the fashion industry into changing their ways.
Cotton crops use a frightening amount of pesticides. Switching to hemp clothing has a tremendous impact on the environment. Choosing organic cotton is still beneficial, however these crops are still not as sustainable as hemp.
Discover your community
Support local. Choose brands who stand for something good. Think of what you can buy for longevity. Reusable items. Investing in items that will pay off in the end. Knowing your impact. Being aware. Slowly changing your ways, even in the smallest of ways. Anything helps. Also knowing that you can’t be perfect. Putting in effort is the best thing you can do. Educating yourself, others, and making an impact.
The positive potential of hemp for our planet is vast. Well beyond our imaginations. It’s an absolutely formidable crop from an environmental perspective. There’s more work to be done within the industry as endless opportunities are present.
Let’s help break down the barriers of hemp and showcase it’s true potential and power house that it undeniably is.
Words and Photographs by Allegra Smith-Herriott
A Toronto based student, Allegra is currently attending Ryerson University studying Sport Media. Growing up living between a hemp farm and the waters of Georgian Bay, her life is strongly centred around the outdoors and environment. Allegra is constantly immersed in sports, sailing, all things health and fitness, while trying to inspire the community. Ambitious in journalism, her dream is to travel the world following her passion for writing, sports, and the outdoors. Find her on Instagram.