Ever since legalization made waves on the elections last year, there’s been a lot of 4/20-friendly topics cranking out for MakeSandcastlesNotWar. It has only been 2 months and the cannabis community has already seen some major progress with their social/cultural issues. Just a few days ago, the DEA erased some false information regarding some ‘health facts’ about cannabis. Social media helped peddle the positive cultural influences into the mainstream media, raising awareness of its numerous medicinal benefits. It was one of many PR miracles that the cannabis community needed to broaden its identity within the social culture.
With cannabis stealing the spotlight, there hasn’t been much light shed on hemp. Hemp is basically cannabis’ shy, introverted cousin that doesn’t a lot of coverage in the media. This tall, sturdy plant is a member of the cannabis sativa species that contains no flowering buds during its life cycle. Unlike cannabis, hemp is a non-psychoactive plant with a high CBD content and contains very little THC. While consuming hemp won’t get you high, it’s still considered an important product here in America.
Hemp is considered a schedule 1 drug (like cannabis!), yet it’s still grown in over 30 countries. Ironically enough, it is legal to import hemp into the United States. Its versatile use made hemp an essential commercial and industrial product for thousands of years. Some key uses for hemp include food, textiles, fiber, plastics, and other important materials. One of the most important functions of hemp is utilizing it for a building material known as hempcrete.
Hempcrete is a bio-composite material made from a mixture of hemp hurds and lime. Hurds are the inner woody core of the hemp stalk in a mineral matrix utilized to form a material that is non-toxic, carbon-negative, and energy-efficient for building. The mixture of hemp hurds and lime is used during the construction and insulation process of home building. Like most plants, hempcrete absorbs the carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere as it grows. Being that hemp hurds is an energy-efficient material, hempcrete is great a great tool for sustainable housing. It’s also naturally fire and pest resistant, so you won’t have to worry about uninvited guests spoiling your dinner (Waiter, there’s a fly in my soup!).
The first use of hempcrete material was when Italian mater brick mason and builder Charles Rasetti renovated the Maison de la Turque (aka House of Turkey) in Nogent-sur-Seine, France in 1986. Originally built around 1550 A.D., the Maison de la Turque is a timber-framed building that utilized hemp for numerous products in new construction or renovation. Such projects including work for the insulation of floors, coatings, walls, roofs, and other major projects for construction. Hemp may have been illegal to grow in the United States at the time, but countries like France were already paving the way for sustainable homes.
With climate change being one of the most prominent environmental issues of the 21st century, it’s HIGH time we start searching for more renewable materials (no pun intended!). Other countries have already been growing hemp for decades, thus advancing further in the fight against climate change. When it comes to sustainable housing, hempcrete should take center stage as a renewable building material. We need to take advantage of the ever-growing cannabis culture by discussing more about hemp as a building material. Hemp needs to be pushed into the spotlight more in order to raise awareness of its versatile use.
Our founding fathers utilized hemp when America was gaining its national identity. George Washington grew hemp in his backyard while Benjamin Franklin established the first hemp paper mill. These men would be rolling in their graves if they discovered that we’ve criminalized this versatile plant. Climate change has been problematic for our natural environment for decades. With this ever-changing climate, maybe the secret to reversing the damages is going to pot…literally! Maybe the key has been hidden within cannabis and hemp all along and the PR nightmare caused by the ‘Reefer Madness’ mindset has caused dramatic effects within our environment.
Social media may have shed the light on cannabis, but now we have to shed more of that light towards hemp as building material. Hemp is something we need to take seriously if we want to win our battle against climate change. Mother Nature provides so many useful tools on this earth and one of those special tools could shape the way we construct sustainable houses in the near future.