Stacking Up The Facts
North America was introduced to hemp in 1606. Early settlers grew hemp for products, such as paper, lamp oil, and ropes. Farmers were required to grow hemp as a staple crop in the 1700s, and it was considered legal tender to pay taxes until the late 1800s. Hemp production was banned throughout the United States in 1937, with the passing of the Marihuana Tax Act. All of the environmentally friendly products made of hemp disappeared until the 2018 Farm Act legalized hemp farming. Now, let's compare paper made from hemp vs. paper made from wood pulp.
Hemp Paper - Sustainable, strong, durable
Hemp paper is much cleaner than its adversary; it doesn't require the use of toxic bleach or harmful chemicals as it can be whitened using hydrogen peroxide. It's estimated that one acre of hemp can produce as much paper as 4-10 acres of trees over a 20-year cycle. Hemp stalks grow in 4 months, whereas trees take 20-80 years, and hemp puts valuable nutrients back into the soil. Also, hemp has a higher concentration of cellulose than wood, the principal ingredient in paper.
Hemp paper is durable and holds its color and texture much longer than wood pulp paper. This quality helped make hemp paper popular pre-1900's (before being banned in the United States) when used for legal and other documents.
Wood Pulp Paper - Wasteful, toxic, destructive
Using wood for paper is destroying Earth's waterways with chlorine or dioxins from wood paper manufacturing.
An environmental impact report from The World Counts claims that "...the life cycle of paper is damaging to the environment from beginning to end. It starts off with a tree being cut down and ends its life by being burned – emitting carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. When paper rots, it emits methane, a greenhouse gas. When it is burned or composted, carbon dioxide."
According to studies done at the University of Southern Indiana, "the amount of wood and paper we throw away each year is enough to heat 50,000,000 homes for 20 years. Approximately 1 billion trees worth of paper is thrown away every year in the U.S. Americans use 85,000,000 tons of paper a year, about 680 pounds per person."
No matter how you look at it, paper made from wood pulp is damaging to the planet and unsustainable. As we become more conscientious, we can improve our planet's health by using hemp as a tool to accomplish the goal of living sustainably.