Why Hemp And CBD Are Good For The Planet
Hemp and CBD products have grown in popularity, but are they sustainable?
Here's what you need to know.
Hemp and CBD are everywhere. Today, you can find them in everything from beer to hand cream, chocolate, supplements and ingestible oils.
But what is the social and environmental impact of these trendy new products?
Róisín Delaney spoke to some of the UK's hemp producers and regenerative farmers about how they turned growing hemp and CBD into sustainable businesses.
Why hemp and CBD are good for the planet
In the UK, CBD is the most popular extract to come from hemp, thanks to its purported health benefits.
It’s non-psychoactive too, so there are no mind altering or intoxicating effects for the user and any side effects are minor and rare.
The rise of CBD in the UK in recent years is evident, with the British cannabidiol market thought to be worth £690 million in 2021, according to a report by the Association for the Cannabinoid Industry.
This has given the hemp plant a whole new leaf to turn over, helping the environment in the process.
Hemp grows big and fast, locking-in tons of carbon and creating a huge biomass per acre, which can be used for a multitude of things - not just as a source for CBD oil - but also for seed, cold-pressed hemp oil, fibres and even hemp-based concrete.
Hemp may be twice as effective as forests at sequestering carbon
According to Cambridge University researcher Dr Darshil Shah, its ability to tackle carbon dioxide is what makes this simple crop shine.
The senior researcher at the Centre for Natural Material Innovation at Cambridge says hemp may be twice as effective as forests at sequestering carbon.
A recent study showed hemp absorbs between 8 to 15 tonnes of CO2 per hectare of cultivation.
Dr Shah says: “In comparison, forests typically capture 2 to 6 tonnes of CO2 per hectare per year depending on the number of years of growth, the climatic region, the type of trees etc.”
Annie Rouse, Master in Environmental Policy and Fulbright Scholar, says hemp is one of the most versatile and synergistic tools available to tackle key environmental challenges, such as CO2 and land contamination.
She explains: “It remediates contaminated soil and improves soil structure and nutrient levels with its long roots, which go deep into the ground and bring up nutrients that are normally locked in down there that other plant roots are unable to reach.
"This leads to greater yields in follow-on crops, such as wheat and barley, due to the extra nutrients in the topsoil brought up by the hemp plants.”
What are British CBD brands doing to be more sustainable?
We spoke to Herbotany Health in Hertfordshire, producers of premium, organic and vegan-friendly CBD products.
Co-founder Danny Purton says most people think hemp is automatically sustainable, and explains why the eco-friendly mission doesn’t stop at the crop.
“Many people believe that hemp products are just automatically sustainable, but they’re not. Hemp will only be as sustainable as we make it.
"We have to monitor our impacts throughout the supply chain starting at the farm and ending at the disposal of the product.”
Danny and co-founder Paul Batchelor founded the brand when Danny’s brother-in-law took over a 500-acre farm and expressed an interest in changing things up.
“He wanted to be at the forefront of farming. We obtained our Home Office license for growing.
"It’s a fantastic crop for regenerating the farm, plus a sustainable plant used to make many consumer products.”
He says there are several ways a brand can reduce its impact on the environment.
“Our boxes are made from 80% recycled pulp, which is the highest achievable in sustainable packaging, whilst retaining functional strength.
"The remaining material is from approved sustainable sources. We also minimize our virgin plastic use by using glass.
“Agriculture emissions account for 25% of the global climate impact. Synthetic fertilizers are a big reason for this. We use organic fertilizers, which do not carry the same emission load.
“At a manufacturing level, we rely on geothermal energy and LED lighting to power the facility which also reduces our impact.”
And when it comes to transporting goods?
Danny says, “All of our primary ingredients are sourced within a hyper-localised distance to our facilities. This means transportation impacts like fuel, mileage and infrastructure load are minimised.”
Hemp farms are popping up across the UK
It’s no longer that unusual to stumble across a hemp farm in the English countryside thanks to the popularity of CBD, the growth of the plant-based foods market and a greater focus on sustainability.
Despite restrictions limiting farmers from extracting CBD on British soil, hemp is the crop du jour.
We spoke to Steve Barron, founder of Margent Hemp Farm in Cambridgeshire, about the potential for hemp and its many extracts, including CBD.
Steve says their main aim is to develop the full potential of hemp: “Most of the research is with the fibre but the income for the farm is largely from the seed for oils.”
Through organic and regenerative farming methods, the land is now certified organic.
There’s even a house made of hemp. The architectural joy that is the Margent farmhouse is built primarily of hemp from the very first harvest.
It remains off-grid and is powered by solar, wind and a biomass boiler.
Despite the excitement surrounding hemp and CBD, Steve says that before other industries can embrace the lessons learned on farms like his, British farmers need more rights.
“Before those industries [beauty, fashion and wellness] are able to fully embrace hemp at scale, there must be changes to legislation to de-classify it as a ‘drug’.
Farmers are not able to process the full plant right now even with strains that have no or minute THC content. Therefore, most of the CBD is imported.”
3 sustainable CBD products to try in 2022
Fancy giving hemp and CBD a go? Here are some of our top recommendations.
Ethos Balance Hemp Tea
Made in Ireland by Ethos CBD, this tea comes from organically grown hemp which has been combined with tulsi, lemongrass, apple and rosehip.
After drinking, these tea leaves can be returned to the earth as compost.
Try Balance Hemp Tea, from £10.99
Roll-on CBD Oil
Herbotany Health is high strength formulation for the skin which comes in a glass applicator and plastic free packaging.
Designed to be used on pressure points like the wrists and temples when it's time to unwind.
Try Roll-on CBD Oil, £70
Pretty Peaceful CBD Oil
Featuring geranium, lavender and sweet orange for a good night's sleep. Pretty Peaceful claims to be the only CBD oil brand in the UK to offer plastic free refills.
The women’s self-care range also uses non toxic vegetable ink on its packaging.
Try Pretty Peaceful CBD Oil, from £28.99
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