ELI looks to US-based industrial hemp fiber processing as the solution to many of the problems facing our environment, our health, and our economy today. In fact, it’s such a core tenet of our mission that it’s the reason we’ve chosen our name. In this article, we explore several of these problems and highlight some of the ways industrial hemp provides solutions. We explain why we believe the hemp revolution will usher in a better future, and why we’ve chosen to call our great company, Environmental Living Industries.
It’s a tragic fact that we have become so accustomed to using products that are bad for the environment, our health, and our economy. As a compelling example, petroleum-based plastics and many other commonly used products made from petrochemicals take a significantly hard toll on the environment by releasing a huge amount of carbon during production and transportation. Regularly shipped thousands of miles, a single bottle of water often has a carbon footprint of over 800 grams and can require almost 3x’s as much water to produce than what it can carry1. It’s all too common for these products to end up in our waterways and oceans where they can last as many as 500 years before fully decomposing2. Unfortunately, that’s not where the consequences of the use of these products end.
The harmful effects the use of these products has on our health are just as concerning. As petroleum-based plastics decompose, they break down into ever-smaller pieces that find their way into the food chain where they are ingested by animals and eventually humans. Even before we throw away our plastic products, they often leach toxic compounds such as Benzene, PEG, PTA, and PET into our food and water which ultimately end up in our bodies causing a whole host of health issues –many not yet fully understood3. Off-gassing occurs as petroleum-based materials used in furniture, toys, textiles, home decorations, and building materials release harmful chemicals into the air of our homes and offices only to be inhaled by their occupants. This phenomenon, covered in our blog titled, “Five Amazing Ways Hempcrete Can Eliminate Sick Building Syndrome“ is believed to be the cause of a multitude of ailments affecting millions of people.
Even our economy suffers as a result of our reliance on these products. As energy costs rise, inflation increases and geopolitical disruptions become more common, supply chains are interrupted and the prices for the products we use every day go up. Further burdens on our healthcare systems and rising medical and insurance costs as a result of the illness and diseases caused by pollution and contaminated food and water can be linked to the use of these products. Combined, these forces threaten economic stability around the products we currently use. Clearly, a new solution is needed to counter these worrisome trends.
Hemp is Environmental
Industrial hemp is an ideal commodity that doesn’t just limit negative impacts to the environment but can actually repair some of the past damage that has already been done. As the focus on atmospheric carbon levels becomes greater, governments, nonprofits, and corporations are desperately searching for carbon-zero solutions. Fortunately, industrial hemp provides thousands of industries a way to produce better products all while taking carbon out of the atmosphere and putting it back into the ground. Researchers at Cambridge have shown that a hectare of industrial hemp can sequester as much as 15 metric tons of carbon per grow, compared to 2 to 6 tons sequestered by a hectare of trees per year4. When considering industrial hemp as a substitute for wood in products such as paper and building materials, hemp is a clear choice. The carbon-capturing capabilities of hemp are far superior to trees, which often take over 20 years to regrow compared to as little as 90 days for the maturation of an industrial hemp crop. Hempcrete is an obvious ethical and sustainable alternative to concrete, which is responsible for as much as 5% of all global anthropogenic carbon emissions5.
With very high levels of cellulose, industrial hemp is a promising alternative for the production of bioplastics. ELI believes as more industrial hemp processors enter the US market and more farmers grow industrial hemp crops, the increased supply of industrial hemp material will spur research and development in a number of areas. Developments in bioplastics is one of the most hopeful of these to counter the wide array of environmental costs to using petroleum-based plastics. Estimates suggest that as much as 8 million tons of plastic end up in the ocean every year6. Because bioplastics made from hemp fiber cellulose biodegrade in as little as 90 days and are completely nontoxic, the concern of polluted waterways damaging fish, birds, and other wildlife is completely mitigated. Switching to hemp-derived bioplastics further reduces our dependence on fossil fuels which means less drilling, less fracking, fewer oil spills, and less carbon released into the atmosphere.
Hemp is Healthier Living
Industrial hemp isn’t just good for the environment, it also has tremendous benefits for the health of its consumers. Perhaps most apparent are the immediate health benefits of using it as a building material. Hempcrete, made from hemp hurd sold by ELI, is a far superior building material to traditional lumber and concrete. Capable of replacing all internal and external layers of building wall construction, hempcrete is naturally antibacterial and antifungal, making it an exceptionally mold-resistant natural construction material. Hempcrete also allows moisture, humidity, and air to pass through it, organically regulating the indoor environment. This characteristic of the material aids in the dispersion of common indoor pollutants, reducing allergies and creating healthier living conditions for the occupants of the home or office.
It should come as no surprise that when hemp is used to make bioplastics, the health concerns that arise out of the use of petroleum-based materials are eliminated. Switching to naturally made bioplastics means no more poisonous substances escaping into our food and water nor micro-particles of plastics being ingested by millions of people.
Simply growing industrial hemp can allow us to live healthier lives as well. Some estimates show cotton farming to be responsible for as much as 18% of the world’s pesticide use, and as much as 25% of the world’s insecticide use7. Due to the resilient nature of hemp, fewer herbicides and pesticides are needed to grow the crop making hemp fiber a logical substitute for cotton in textiles. Besides reducing runoff into water sources, these harmful chemicals are less likely to end up in hemp-based products used for consumption, making them a far healthier option to many of the commonly used materials today.
Hemp is Smarter Industries
Too often corporations are faced with a choice between environmentally sustainable practices and reduced profits. With hemp, that tradeoff is no longer necessary. Smarter industries mean the sustainable, efficient, and economic production of over 25,000 different products. With its extremely high per-acre yield, low cost of cultivation and processing, and superior versatility as a substitute for thousands of different materials, industrial hemp can bring remarkable economic benefits to countless corporations looking to produce more sustainable and healthier products.
As a superior building material, industrial hemp can dramatically reduce construction costs. With its exceptional insulating properties, it can increase energy efficiencies further reducing the cost for homeowners and businesses to maintain homes and offices. Likewise, as a crop requiring fewer inputs such as fertilizers, water, herbicides, and pesticides, industrial hemp can be an extremely economical option for farmers looking to add to their yearly crop rotation. And as the supply of the commodity becomes more readily available to US producers, the price of the material will decrease, quickly allowing for increased competitiveness across multiple industries.
One of the most promising developing prospects for the material lies in its ability to be an archetypal means for earning and transferring carbon credits. The US carbon credit market is expected to increase from $320 million in 2021 to as much as $700 million by 20278. As an ideal crop for capturing atmospheric carbon and returning it to the ground, industrial hemp serves as a very attractive prospect for a wide variety of US corporations, farmers, and even consumers to benefit from the exploding carbon credit market.
It is with the advantages in each of these critical areas that ELI enthusiastically looks to be the premier choice for quality processed hemp hurd, fiber, and dust. ELI is proud of our mission to provide solutions for a cleaner environment, healthier living, and smarter industries. And it is through this commitment that Environmental Living Industries is harnessing the power of industrial hemp to build a better future. After all, it’s in our name.
5 Worrell, Ernst & Price, Lynn & Martin, Nathan & Hendriks, Chris & Ozawa-Meida, Leticia. (2001). Carbon Dioxide Emission from the Global Cement Industry. Annu. Rev. Energy Environ. 26. 303-29. 10.1146/annurev.energy.26.1.303.