So what's the big deal about hemp? Why is it so good? Well read on and find out!
Hang on, I'm talking about an illegal drug right?
No actually. There are about 2000 different strains of the Cannabis plant, and industrial hemp is quite different from marijuana.
The psychoactive effects of marijuana are produced by a chemical known as tetrahydrocannabinol(THC) which is contained in the plant. Cannabis plants cultivated for marijuana contain high levels of THC - up to 20%. However, the vast majority of Cannabis varieties, including those used to produce industrial hemp, contain very little THC (less than 1.5%), and are not capable of producing the same psychological effects.
So what's it good for?
The answer is pretty much anything!
Hemp is a fast-growing, high-yielding sustainable resource. Just one acre of hemp can produce the same amount of usable fibre as 4 acres of trees, or up to 5 acres of cotton! While trees can take 10 years or much longer to be ready for use, hemp can be harvested in just 3 or 4 months! And unlike cotton, which is typically grown using vast quantities of pesticides and other nasties, hemp can be easily grown without toxic chemicals, and requires much less water than a cotton crop of similar size.
Paper made from hemp is stronger and longer-lasting than wood-pulp paper, and can be recycled almost twice as many times.
Hemp fabric is more durable than cotton, and is also more breathable.
Did you know that the very first pair of 501 jeans were made from hemp fabric?
Hemp also produces the world's strongest natural fibre rope.
During World War II, the US government encouraged all farmers to grow hemp in order to produce rope for the navy. Every farmer in the US was required to watch the "Hemp for Victory" film, and those who agreed to grow it were exempt from the draft.
Hemp can even be used as a fuel source in the form of fuel pellets, liquid fuel or gas. It burns clean, unlike pretroleum-based fuels which release toxic chemicals and can cause acid rain. And of course, the reality is that the Earth's oil reserves are a finite commodity, and will eventually be depleted altogether. Developing eco-friendly fuels based on renewable resources such as hemp just makes so much more sense.
The humble hemp plant has so much potential, it is a shame that it is so vilified and misunderstood in our society.
I'm certainly happy to be using the beautiful hemp twine to stitch my books. I also use it in my greeting cards and gift tags and it's part of my postage packaging too. I have even managed to get my hands on some beautiful hemp paper, so will have to get my thinking cap on for something to create with it that will really do it justice!