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Building With Bud: The Future of Hemp & Hempcrete

In the past couple of years, and with the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill which legalized hemp with less than .3 THC nationwide, hemp and CBD have become huge buzzwords… and not just for the cannabis community. Everybody is eating it, drinking it, wearing it (and not just in braided necklaces with crystals hanging from them), pet owners are giving it to their dogs, previously-judgey Karen’s are rubbing it into their skin to prevent eye wrinkles and premature aging, my mom is giving it to my grandpa to help with his memory loss. We even use hemp for some of our CBD-based classes around the country, because it will chill you out a bit, even if it doesn’t get you high. The potential for hemp is boundless, and if done correctly, incredibly clean and environmentally friendly, but it isn’t new. In fact, one of the most popular uses for hemp, as a building material, has been around for thousands of years… and some of those structures are still standing as a testament to the strength and durability of this incredible material.

The Ellora Caves in Maharashtra, India, which were built between 600 and 1100 AD, were originally carved out of stone, but recently archeologists have discovered that the Buddhist monks who prayed in the caves had another building technique: they used cannabis mixed with clay to plaster the walls, to assist in preserving the structures for over 1500 years. According to Milind M. Sardesai, a botanist at Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Marathwada University, “the cannabis fiber appears to have a better quality and durability than other fibers. Moreover, the cannabis’ gum and sticky properties might have helped clay and lime to form a firm binder.” He went on to say that hemp plaster has the ability to store heat, is resistant to fire, and absorbs a great deal of sound, which created a peaceful, quiet, and secure living environment for the monks at the caves. Thus was the invention of hempcrete, which seems to last anywhere between 600-800 years without reapplication.

Hemp isn’t just a strong, durable, and lasting material for building and production, but it’s an amazingly sustainable and environmentally-friendly option. It grows in a variety of climates and soil types, it can be planted densely which decreases land use, and it has a fast growing rate, which leads to high yields and quick turnover, unlike trees for wood and paper. It is also a natural way to clean up soil pollution. Hemp was actually used at Chernobyl to harmlessly extract chemicals and toxins from the soil and groundwater, and it absorbs CO2 while it grows through natural photosynthesis, which means it is completely carbon-negative.

Hemp can be used as an alternative to cotton and according to Patagonia, “has a wonderful drape, comparative to linen.” It also only needs half as much land and water as cotton does to thrive. It can be used to make sustainable paper, as a bio-diesel fuel, and as an alternative to plastic. In the 1940s, Henry Ford built a car out of hemp & soy plastic, and in 2008, the Lotus Eco Elise used hemp in its composite body panels and spoiler, with many car manufacturers quickly following suit for different auto body parts. Hemp composites are stronger, lighter and cheaper than fiberglass and carbon fiber, as well as being completely recyclable. As the Buddhist monks in Ellora discovered, it can be used to create durable carbon-neutral buildings, by mixing hemp fiber with lime to create insulation, pressboard, flooring and wall construction materials. Hempcrete is energy-efficient, non-toxic and resistant to mold, insects and fire, as well as being easy to work with, and just as strong as concrete and other well-known building materials.

With global warming and all of the changes that are happening on our planet, it’s up to us as individuals to make more conscious and sustainable choices, and companies to reduce waste output, pollution, and their carbon footprint. Using a sustainable, fast-growing, and easily recyclable plant like hemp could greatly reduce pollution and waste, as well as combating some of the damage we’ve already done to the earth.

Heidi Keyes is the Founder of Puff, Pass & Paint, and Co-Founder & President of Cannabis Tours. Heidi writes about her experiences, sharing her advice, travel tips, and wisdom in Puff, Pass Ponder.



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