- Using hemp for a change

(c) Captain Acid 1995

At first, it might seem impossible to find anything in common between a paper company, a clothing company and a 'natural food' company. But in the case of Tree Free EcoPaper, WiseUp! Reactionwear and Hungry Bear Hemp Foods the similarity is obvious. In all three companies their environmental performance is based not on some minor cosmetic improvements in existing environmentally harmful technologies, but on using raw materials and technologies that are truly environmentally friendly. All of them are actively using one of the oldest and most useful agricultural plants in the world: hemp.

Tree Free EcoPaper

Fifty per cent of the American forests have been cut down since the 1930's - mainly for making paper. Tree Free EcoPaper is dedicated to offering the world a choice from wood paper products and their pollution-intensive production and deforestation of our planet. It produces paper that contains no tree fiber whatsoever. The paper is made of hemp pulp(50%) and cereal straw(50%). At the moment, Tree Free EcoPaper is the only company in the world that supplies wholesale quantities of hemp paper.

Hemp pulp is actually a waste product from hemp bast fiber production (cereal straw is a by-product of grain production). According to US Dept. of Agriculture bulletin 404, hemp can be used to produce 4.1 times more paper per acre than trees. The paper is not bleached with clorine (as most wood paper is) which produces deadly Dioxins (all the wood fiber paper factories can't even clean all the poisonous dioxin from their wastewater). Instead Tree Free EcoPaper is whitened with Hydrogen Peroxide, and the process gives off no toxic substances. It also contains no corrosive acids which break down other wood paper prematurely. Since Tree Free EcoPaper has no acid it has a drastically longer shelf life - 1500 years. The shelf life of ordinary wood fiber paper is only 75 years! Hemp paper is the highest quality paper in the world. Before the Prohibition it was used for paper money, finest books etc. For example the Gutenberg Bible and the old dollar bills were made of hemp paper.

Although prohibition of hemp has made it quite a scarce resource and its price has skyrocketed, Tree Free EcoPaper's products are significantly (25%) less expensive than any other brand of acid-free paper or cotton-fiber paper. They have also many environmental benefits in comparison to wood fiber paper. Tree Free EcoPaper uses 90% less chemicals in production than any other brand of paper.

WiseUp! Reactionwear

WiseUp! is a clothing company that specializes in selling clothes made of hemp: trousers, shorts, t-shirts, dresses, hats etc. Because American farmers cannot grow hemp legally, they have to buy their raw materials abroad at inflated prices due to additional transportation and import fees. WiseUp!'s products are made with Cannabis Sativa grown and milled in China. They are actively searching for other sources of fabrics from around the world with the hope of one day purchasing cannabis hemp grown by American farmers milled in American factories. Now that hemp cultivation has recently been relegalized in some of the more ecologically conscious EC countries like Britain, France and Germany, their hopes have a slightly greater possibility to come true. In Finland the cultivation of hemp for fiber has never been outlawed, but it was silently stopped in the 1950's and but for a few small experiments it hasn't been in official cultivation since that. No wonder - the Finnish not-so-environmentally friendly forest companies surely wouldn't like the idea of environmentally friendly hemp cultivation any more than American forest companies liked it in the 1930's.

In clothing, hemp can be seen as an environmentally friendly alternative to the dominant cotton. The cultivation of cotton uses half of all the fertilizers and pesticides of the world. On the other hand, cultivation of hemp requires very little fertilizing and since hemp produces its own natural pesticide(THC), it doesn't necessarily require any pesticides at all.

While clothes made of hemp may seem like a novelty, there's truly nothing novel about them. Hemp has been used for milleniums for high quality clothes all over the world. For example, the original Levi's jeans were made of 100% hemp - mainly because hemp was the only fiber that was strong enough for the goldminers of the West. Finns were true hemp-enthusiasts until the 20th century - it was known and used extensively long before linen. According to historical evidence, the Finns used more hemp than linen for clothes up until the 19th century.

Hungry Bear Hemp Foods

While hemp fiber and pulp can be used for i.a. paper and clothing, hemp seeds can be pressed for their highly nutritious vegetable oil, which contains the highest amount of essential fatty acids in the plant kingdom (80% of total oil volume). These essential oils are responsible for our immune responses and clear the arteries of cholesterol and plaque. The byproduct of pressing the oil from seed is the highest quality protein seed cake. It can be sprouted (malted) or ground and baked into cakes, breads and casseroles. Hemp seed protein is one of mankind's finest, most complete and available-to-the-body vegetable proteins. Hemp seed is the most complete single food source for human nutrition. Only soybeans contain a higher percentage of protein, however, the composition of the hemp seed is unique in the vegetable kingdom. Hemp seeds were regularly used in foods all over the world up until this century. Since then their use has almost vanished.

Hungry Bear Hemp Foods is one of the first modern companies that are introducing the use of hemp seeds for various foods and sweets. It is currently manufacturing only one product in two varieties: Seedy Sweetie and Seedy Sweetie with nuts, but will certainly expand its product range in the near future. Both of the current product varieties are healthy alternatives for ordinary sweets and snacks.

Hungry Bear Hemp Foods uses Earth-Friendly materials and transportation whenever possible. Their local deliveries(Eugene, Oregon, USA) are done by bicycle. Packaging is made from 100% cellulose (a petrochemical-free plastic made from plant fiber). All the paper they use is either recycled or tree-free. They use organically-grown ingredients whenever available. Their visions for future include a fully solar/human powered operati- on.

By itself, widespread use of hemp seed food protein could save many of the world's children now dying of protein starvation. An estimated 60% of all children born in Third World countries (about 12-20 million a year) will die this way before reaching five years of age. Many times that number have their lives dramatically shortened and/or their brains decimated. Hemp is a hearty plant that grows even in adverse conditions. Australians survived two prolonged famines in the 19th century using almost nothing except hemp seeds for protein and hemp leaves for roughage.

Furthermore, recent studies indicate that depletion of the ozone layer threatens to reduce the world soya production by a substantial amount - up to 30% or even 50%, depending on the fluctuation of the density of the ozone shield. But hemp, on the other hand, resists the damage caused by increasing ultraviolet radiation and actually flourishes in it by producing more cannabinoids which provide protection from ultraviolet light.

What is hemp?

Actually, there are a number of plants in the world that are falsely called hemp: manilla, sisal etc. This is due to an intentional confusion of the names that was conducted in the 1930's when hemp cultivation was shortsightedly outlawed in the United States. When cultivation and possession of 'marijuana' (a Mexican slang term that originally meant the inferior grades of ordinary tobacco) was criminalized in USA in 1937, extremely few Americans understood that the word actually referred to the very plant they were growing for fiber in their backyards.

The only true hemp plant is cannabis hemp (Cannabis Sativa or Cannabis Indica) - the fiber plant with a psychoactive twist. In my opinion it is not exaggerating to call it a Miracle Plant. First, it grows more in a single season - and produces more biomass - than any other plant in the world. Since it is actually a kind of a weed, it is very hardy and grows virtually anywhere in the world requiring very little fertilizers or pesticides. The uses of hemp are endless; this article has just scratched the surface of the dozens of possibilities it offers. Even today hemp is used to produce building materials that are more durable, more fire-resistant and less expensive than wood-based products, extremely strong ropes, kitty litter, massage oils, shampoos etc. Through pyrolysis it is possible to produce methane, methanol and other fuels from hemp - if environmental costs are coun- ted in, these fuels would be cheaper to use than coal, oil or nuclear energy. Hemp seed oil can also be used for fuel: in fact, Rudolph Diesel didn't originally design his world famous motor to run on 'diesel' oil but on hemp oil.



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Hungry Bear Hemp Foods WWW-homepage

Tree Free EcoPaper brochure and information sheets

WiseUp! Reactionwear catalogs: - spring/summer 1993
- retail catalog spring/summer 1994