It’s no secret that this planet’s environment is in a spot of trouble. Between heightened CO2 levels and diminishing rain forests, there’s much to be done to make sure future generations have healthy places to live. And yeah, it can make your head spin, because so many people—mostly politicians—are blocking one of the resources that many progressives would vote in as “Most Likely to Save the Planet.”
That resource? Hemp, and the product that has been created from hemp, called Hempcrete. Yes, “concrete” made from hemp. The existence of this product is ironic in a way. While hemp’s been reviled in this century, it was raised long ago by none other than George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.
They would recoil in shock and likely do the Revolutionary War-era version of a “facepalm” if they knew our current government is ignorant enough to have banned the use of such a helpful plant. Whether they themselves actually smoked the buds is a question whose answer is likely lost to history, but they did know that the leaves and other fibrous parts of the plant are splendid for sailcloth, perfect for paper, and of course, hemp is a totally righteous source for making rope.
What Is Hempcrete, Anyway?
The new-millenium wonder that is hempcrete is made using the balsa-wood-like fibers on the inside of your ordinary, everyday Cannabis sativa plant. Mix these fibers with lime (no, not lime juice, but rather calcium hydroxide or calcium oxide) and water, and you have a substance that is perfect for using in modern construction methods.
Now, while hempcrete really doesn’t have the type of stability that its name suggests to the everyday person, it’s fantastic to use as insulation, as it’s lightweight, impervious to mold development (great for peeps with allergy issues) and is practically fireproof.
But Can You Smoke the Stuff?
The plant source for hempcrete is the actual Cannabis plant. However, the strain used for the construction revolution has very little THC—around .5 percent, as opposed to the 5-10% in the strands that promote healing and hallucinations. So that sort of answers the question about whether our two famous founders rolled roaches.
This said, our government is notorious for its own particular strain of straitlaced Puritanism with a double-hit from the bong of ignorance, and thus both hallucinogenic and industrial marijuana was banned, right alongside the moonshine.
Thankfully, intelligence and logic have begun to prevail, so industrial hemp is being called back into service to help reforge housing hit both by Hurricane Katrina as well as the earthquake in Haiti. People who don’t know of hemp’s durability often joke and scoff at the use of hempcrete, thinking that because it’s made of fibers, anything built with it would go, well, “up in smoke.”
Not necessarily. Hempcrete is durable and strong, and the insurance industry in England rewards people for its use by granting discounts.
More Hempcrete History
Believe it or not, France started developing hempcrete and its use in the 1980s, but the material was used by the old Merovingian kings of ancient Gaul (an old name for France) for the building of bridges, and was also used as far away as Japan.
Because Europe is a bit more free and forward-thinking, industrial hemp was never demonized the same way that regular Cannabis has been. Hempcrete’s been in wide use, especially in a French office building as well as a home built by Prince Charles.
Can We Try This At Home?
The funny thing about hempcrete is that while it is a truly revolutionary and sustainable material, getting it past health and safety inspectors, let alone the federal government’s continued myopic viewpoint concerning marijuana in general might prove a bit more difficult. American inspectors are accustomed to seeing things like fiberglass insulation, but hempcrete’s an anomaly, an unknown variable.
This doesn’t mean that no-one has tried this source of insulation, but very few have. It’s understandable.
After all, the US has gone for years and years with a ban on a mere plant in place, and suddenly people are suggesting that we switch to using the inner layers of a plant that everyone, courtesy of the establishment’s narrowmindedness, has long associated with getting high. And now certain peeps are spreading the ecological gospel concerning this one strain of the Cannabis sativa plant? The powers that be know people can’t get high with it, but they’re not sure they believe the hype. After all, it’s Cannabis, right? Right.
While hempcrete may be a tough sell to the powers that be, especially the ones who have connections to Big Construction, as it were, this beautifully insulating, mold-defying, ecology-healing and revolution-reviving material is going to truly burn itself into the collective consciousness just like its chilled-out recreational and medicinal cousins have done. And when we’ve chosen to save the planet and our wallets (hempcrete’s been shown to be such effective insulation that you don’t need your AC units), we’ll know we’ve truly won back our hemp history.