Why you should be using hemp
Industrial hemp has many environmental benefits - some are directly due the use of the various parts of the plant by industry or pet owners, others are due to the reduction in use of oil-derived products and some as a consequence of growing hemp. Hemp requires no pesticides in its growing and its deep rooting leaves a good soil structure for the following crop. The vigorous growth of hemp helps to control difficult weeds in wheat crops reducing their pesticide demand. Because hemp is a natural product as it grows it uses carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, when hemp is used in a building that carbon dioxide is locked up for the life of the building.
Hemp has been grown for thousands of years and has had many different uses from food to shelter of both man and his animals, sails and ropes for ships and paper. Hemp was first grown in Asia, and is one of the oldest culitvated fibre plants - in fact, the oldest piece of fabric fibre ever found is an 8,000 year old piece of hemp. Early chinese civilisations used hemp to make fishing nets, ropes, clothes and paper. Plants soon spread to Europe, and hemp and lime has traditionally been used as a building material in France.
Queen Elizabeth I decreed that all farms must grow hemp to supply fibre for the production of ropes and canvas sails to equip the Royal Navy. Hemp withstands the effects of sea water better than any other fibre. Until the late 1880s most paper was made from hemp, and even today bank notes contain some hemp fibre for strengh. Levi Strauss' first jeans were made from hemp sailcloth but were too tough and lasted too long to be commercially viable. Henry Ford built a prototype car with plastic body panels made from resin stiffened cellulose fibres which included hemp. Several countries including France and Japan have a history of using hemp shiv and lime as building material so this use is not a new idea.
Hemcore Limited pioneered hemp growing in the UK to supply fibre for use in Mercedes and VW car interiors.
One of the first people in England to recognise the benefits of hemp/lime construction was Ralph Carpenter of Modece Architects (www.modece.com). Ralph built a hempcrete extension to his own house in Suffolk. At present there is a huge amount of interest in developing hemp as a renewable building material. Many houses and commercial buildings have been built using hempcrete, and the techniques and methods are continually being developed.
Other uses of industrial hemp include:
- Seeds used in cereal bars
- Cooking and salad oil
- Hemp oil in cosmetics and medicines
- Industrial paints and printing ink
- Plastics made from the cellulose in hemp shiv
- Hemp beer
- Fishing bait
- Compressed shiv building grade fibreboard
- Briquettes of compressed shiv as fuel for log burners
- Fibre for ropes, clothing, mattress fillings, carpets, loft insulation and car components
- High grade papers, bank note, tissues, hand towels, tea bags etc - items where wet strength is critcal
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You'll find plenty of information on this website on the many uses and benefits of hemp