Whatever your stance on the environment, the fact is the Amazon – the world’s largest producer of oxygen – is burning and once it’s gone, it’s gone. That fact has its consequences. It’s easy to fall into despair, but there’s a plant that’s recently been legalized in an effort to boost the farming economy that’s also a major advantage for nature.
In late 2018, Congress passed a Farming bill that takes hemp off of being a Schedule 1 drug so that farmers can grow and sell its yield. This is a huge boost to the farmer’s economy as hemp is perhaps one of the most eco-friendly crops – especially important in this age of decreasing water supplies – that has a gargantuan market, a multitude of uses; health and beauty products, food, auto parts, clothing, medicinal, and even building. What’s better is that these products are not only good replacements for other materials, but they’re effective as can be.
Hempcrete is a natural building material that can be used to make whole houses. Follow along as we reveal the magic that is hemp for both consumers and the planet.
As A Crop
Hemp is amazing and it’s a darn shame that farmers haven’t been able to take advantage of its benefits for so long. The reason being that it’s such a close cousin to the common drug, Marijuana. However, this type of cannabis does not contain the psychoactive ingredient THC; it’s more fiber than it is leaf. It couldn’t produce “weed” if it wanted.
It can, however, produce a massive yield in a condensed amount of time with minimal resources all while leaving a positive mark on its soil. Hemp grows to tall stalks between 6 and 15 feet on average. An acre of it will produce 700 pounds of grain, on average. That grain can then be made into 22 gallons of oil and 530 pounds of meal. Also (as if that wasn’t enough), that very same acre yield will produce an average of 5,300 pounds of straw that is later turned into 1,300 pounds of fiber. That fiber is used to make hempcrete.
The growth period for that one acre yield varies between farms and their conditions. The average shocking, though. A typical growth cycle for hemp is between 70 and 140 days. Meaning you could feasibly grow – if conditions were consistent – anywhere from 3 to 6 crops in one year. That one acre crop will sell for about $30,000. An acre of soy will only rake in $5,000 – and that market is taking a hit from the recent trade wars with China. Not only does it grow quickly and produce a large share, but it needs less space than most crops and less water than cotton – by half; it naturally keeps pests at bay (so no need for pesticides!); its complex root system naturally detoxifies the soil as it grows, meaning it’s a valuable crop for rotation and could benefit future harvests of other plants. The best bonus of all – tying back to the Amazon – it is an excellent carbon sequester system.
But How Does It Stack Up?
As a building material? Wonderfully. Hempcrete is a mixture of lime and hemp fibers. It’s completely natural needing no toxic chemicals to be produced. It can be formed into blocks or poured on-site (a cost reducer). Hempcrete fills in the frame and acts not only as the walls, but also the insulation of your building. The R-value and U-value of hempcrete as an insulator is a hair higher than the traditional fiberglass variety. It absorbs moisture helping keep the integrity of your structure sound and free of mold and humidity. It will help lower your energy bills and is not appealing to rodents or pests. It’s a solid material that has a lifetime lifespan.
In short, if you find yourself in the process of building a house and you want to do all you can to leave a small carbon footprint on our poor planet, hempcrete is the way to go. In a chain effect, you’ll be helping more than just yourself in your new adventure. The benefits are so wide-reaching you’ll wonder why we hadn’t thought of this sooner.