What material can be used to make over 25,000 products, including clothing, cordage, fuel, plastic, jewelry, paper, building material, food, cosmetic products, and weed deterrent?
I’ll give you a hint; it’s a plant. It can be grown in many climates, requires little to no pesticides, has a short growing season and a fast turnout, is drought resistant, is resistant to UV rays, and has minimal impact on the soil.
Sounds too good to be true, right?Well, it's real. The plant is called hemp, and despite its many uses and soft impact on the environment, it has a bad reputation because of its close relation to marijuana. Hemp does have THC (the chemical that causes the high) in it, but at significantly smaller levels compared to marijuana. It is cultivated to have very low THC levels; to receive a high, a person would have to smoke ten to twelve hemp cigarettes in an extremely small amount of time, which would be very difficult to withstand. Despite this, it is still illegal to grow it in the United States, and therefore hemp must be imported, which is unfortunate because this increases the cost of hemp and the environmental impact from transporting it. Notably, hemp has the ability to replace many current industries, such as cotton, fossil fuels, and tree fibers, which is important to keep in mind when asking “why isn’t hemp more popular?”
Picture courtesy of: http://www.belowthelion.co.za/cape-town-gives-approval-for-hemp-farming/
Hemp is the strongest, most durable natural soft fiber on earth. It is warmer, more absorbent, stronger, and more durable than cotton. Unlike cotton, which employs 50% of the world’s pesticides, hemp requires virtually no pesticides to grow. Hemp paper can be recycled seven to eight times, as compared to three times for paper made of wood pulp. Until the late 1800’s, 75%–90% of all paper was made of hemp. An acre of hemp can yield between three and eight tons of dry fiber, which is four times as much as the average yield of a forest. Two tablespoons of hemp seeds provide eleven grams of protein, and is packed with omega-3 fats, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, and iron, making them extremely nutritional. Today is Meatless Monday; maybe you should consider having a healthy meal that includes hemp seeds!
Furthermore, hemp can be used as fuel. It is capable of providing for all of our gas, oil, and coal energy needs in the form of biomass fuel. Biomass fuels are a clean alternative to fossil fuels, adding no net gain of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. Rudolph Diesel, inventor of the diesel engine, originally designed his engine to use hemp oil.
Because hemp and marijuana plants look similar, there is concern that hemp fields will be used as hiding places for marijuana growth. However, this concern is scientifically and economically unfounded. To properly develop the leaves, marijuana plants must be grown at a greater distance from each other, while hemp growth, which focuses on the stem, calls for the plants to be grown in close proximity. Also, if a marijuana plant and a hemp plant were to mix, the result will always be a low THC marijuana plant, not a high THC hemp plant. This genetic outcome would actually deter pot-growers from growing near hemp fields.
Do you think hemp farming should be legalized in the United States? Sign this petition via Moveon.org.
Your dollars can also make a significant impact on the demand for hemp. Support the hemp industry by buying hemp products, and prove that the plant could provide an economical benefit for the United States.
To find some hemp products online, check out these websites:
http://www.hempshop.us/ (This site includes food, cosmetic, and baby products)
Also, here’s my local hemp store: http://www.ithacahemp.com/index.php/
Also, America’s first hemp house has recently been built! Read about it here.
Revealing October's Animal of the Month!
October’s Animal of the Month is the manatee, an endangered Florida native. Daniela Ouro, a friend and college peer, requested that the manatee be featured on the blog. Thank you Daniela! If there is an endangered animal you feel passionately about, don’t hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and request it to be an Animal of the Month.
Picture courtesy of: http://gardenofeaden.blogspot.com/2012/08/the-manatee.html
Manatees are large gray aquatic mammals, often referred to as “sea cows,” with a paddle-shaped tail and two front flippers. Their closest relatives are elephants! An average adult weighs between 800 and 1,200 pounds. They are migratory animals; in the winter they live mostly in Florida, but in summer they can be found as far north as Massachusetts and as far west as Texas.
In 2011, a study reported that the minimum population of manatees was 4,834. While they have no natural predators, they die of natural causes and most significantly, human-related causes. Human caused deaths often involve collisions with boats propellers, being crushed or drowned in canal locks, swallowing fishing hooks and other trash, and entanglement in crab-trap lines. Loss of habitat may be their most serious threat. Fortunately, manatees have protections under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, the Endangered Species Act of 1973, and the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act of 1978. It illegal to harass, hunt, capture, or kill any marine mammal, including manatees. Violations of these laws can result in monetary fines and/or imprisonment. The state of Florida has implemented lower boat speed limits and harsher enforcement of those limits to help reduce boat collisions and protect manatees.
Manatees are notorious for being gentle, curious, and peaceful creatures, which makes them a well-loved animal and their conservation status all the more unfortunate. The manatee has been Florida’s official state marine mammal since 1975.
Picture courtesy of: http://www.sott.net/article/220687-Cold-Spell-Endangers-Floridas-Manatees
Some organizations that work to conserve manatees include Save the Manatee Club, Manatee Conservation Trust, Dolphin ResearchCenter, and Sirenian International, Inc.
During September, I raised $1.95 for Panthera to support tiger conservation, just by using Goodsearch.com as my search engine instead of Google. This month, I will be supporting Save the Manatee Club using Goodsearch. Signing up is quick and free, and you can convert your online searches into easy money for an organization you care about.
Throughout the month of October, I will keep you updated on information about manatees and the organizations that support them! I hope you will consider volunteering or donating to the cause, which can be as simple as conducting your online searches on Goodsearch.com.