There are more than 25,000 uses for hemp as it is one of the most versatile plant sources on the planet. Because it is the world's strongest fiber, it is also the oldest cultivated plant on Earth, and was used for making items like cloth and rope as far back as 10,000 years ago. For a civilization searching for an ecologically sound renewable resource, the virtues of this diverse plant are undeniable, though its reputation has remain largely tainted by its close association with marijuana. Hemp, however, is another plant altogether.
Unlike the finite resource of fossil fuels, hemp is a renewable resource that can be grown, and replenished, in large quantities in a short amount of time. Just 6 percent of continental United States' acreage could grow enough hemp to provide all of the country's energy needs. As the Earth's No. 1 biomass resource, hemp can reproduce 10 tons per acre in only four months, and burns 10 times more methanol than corn. Even more importantly, it burns clean, which means it will not contribute to global warming.
Hemp provides a complete vegetable protein as a source of food, second only to the soybean. Unlike soy, however, it doesn't have to be cooked to be digestible. It is also the only plant on Earth that provides all the essential fatty acids and amino acids needed by the human body. These essential acids benefit the body's metabolism and positively affects the heart, the brain and behavior. Hemp can also feed animals and livestock. Prior to the 1937 marijuana prohibition law, hemp seed was the No. 1 wild or domestic birdseed, as birds show a definite preference for it.
In 1455, the inventor of the printing press, Johannes Gutenberg, printed the first printed book in Europe on hemp paper. Hemp paper also has deep roots in American history as Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence on paper made of hemp. This durable paper product can be recycled up to seven times, whereas wood paper can only be recycled four times. Because of the biomass quality of hemp, it can be produced in mass quantities in a matter of months, rather than the decades it takes to grow a tree.
The strength of hemp correlates well to fabric, and has been historically used on Levi jeans and the American flag. Because it's stronger, it lasts longer, and is actually resistant to mildew. It is more insulating than cotton, so it naturally keeps you warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. It blocks harmful UV rays and as such is resistant to fading. Only one acre of hemp produces the same usable fiber as two acres of cotton, or four acres of trees. More than that, it doesn't generally need harmful chemical pesticides and can grow in almost any climate.
Hemp can also be used for a variety of industrial material, even a car. In 1941, Henry Ford constructed a car of resin-stiffened hemp fiber and designed it to run on ethanol made from hemp. He demonstrated the strength of this prototype by swinging an axe at it, showing it could absorb blows 10 times as great as steel without even a dent. It is also lighter and as strong, or stronger, than fiberglass, with the added benefit of being biodegradable and cheaper.
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