The use of industrial hemp has emerged as a sustainable alternative to everything from cotton, to fossil fuels to building materials. Some estimates claim that there are as many as 25,000 hemp products available on the market today. And it's no wonder; its ability to grow 13 feet in just 100 days makes it an environmentally friendly plant that can absorb more CO2 than any other commercially grown crop.
Biofuel - Hemp can be used to produce oil and replace fossil fuels, drastically reducing the carbon footprint on the planet. In 1941, after twelve years of strenuous research, Henry Ford introduced his ultimate vehicle, a fully green, environmentally friendly car. It was made entirely of hemp and could run on hemp fuel as well as vegetable oil. Sadly it never made it to market, but biofuel and biodiesel are safe to handle and transport. Hemp fuel is biodegradable and is less toxic than common table salt. It has a relatively high flashpoint of about 300 F compared to petroleum diesel fuel, which has a flashpoint of 125 F. Biodiesel can be made from domestically produced, renewable oilseed crops such as soybeans and hemp.
Hempcrete - Hempcrete is biocomposite material used in construction as an alternative to bricks or concrete. A mixture of hemp hurds, lime, sand, or pozzolans, hempcrete is environmentally friendly since it's both non-toxic and resistant to mold according to the National Hemp Association. It lacks the brittleness of concrete and doesn't require expansion joints. The result is a lightweight building material ideal for the majority of climates. It's also incredibly durable since the bricks eventually turn to petrified rock and last for hundreds of years.
Bioplastics - Because hemp grows quickly, it's a beneficial crop for sustainable plastics known as 'bioplastics.' Hemp bioplastics are an affordable, natural fiber composite that can be used to replace oil-based materials. Biodegradable, recyclable, and toxic-free, hemp made bioplastics can address many environmental concerns. They are lightweight, biodegradable and can replace many oil-based plastics used in wasteful product packaging. Hemp bioplastics can assist in reducing the greenhouse effect by 'locking in' carbon. The benefits of hemp plastics far outweigh their petroleum-based counterparts.
Insulation - Hemp insulation is a durable, low-carbon, environmentally friendly insulator. Hemp fiber is used to create the insulation, which is wildly resilient, breathable, and regulates temperatures while retaining its structural firmness. In addition to naturally absorbing moisture, reducing humidity and condensation in the surrounding air, hemp insulation is widely believed to inhibit the growth of mold [source: The Hemp Company]. Hemp insulation may lower homeowners’ monthly energy expenditures but its real advantage is that the plant is environmentally friendly and non-toxic.
Hemp Nanomaterials - One of the most exciting innovations in the last few years is the development of graphene-like nano-sheets used for supercapacitor electrodes created from industrial hemp bast fiber. This material exhibits excellent electrochemical performance at a significantly lower cost than industry-standard graphene materials.
Researchers in Canada have been producing favorable data that indicate hemp-based supercapacitors may one day replace existing nano-sheets. Hemp-based nano-sheets could become the industry standard and may one day be used in solar cells, and a host of other electronics that require energy storage.