The plastic in your laptop, your car, and anything else you’re currently looking at right now, could be made of hemp.  More not likely than so, but still possible.  Perhaps more common would be a t-shirt or some sort of “jewelry” you got at the Lilith Fair.  Did you know hemp could be a major player in the biofuel industry?  The fact is, hemp is an industrial powerhouse, but the potential for its greatness is diminished by its legal status across the globe.  While a few countries, such as China and Canada, allow cultivation for industrial purposes, the association of hemp with its fun-loving cousin, marijuana, has sullied chances for widespread production, processing, and distribution of raw hemp materials and products.  The hemp industry is good for veganism- and not just because it makes healthy vegan hemp foods.  Hemp production and processing for plastics, textiles, and fuel is better for the environment.  This means less animals, including humans, dying.

Traditional polymers are made from oil and other toxic additives.  Hemp plastics are generally made with a combination of hemp and polymers.  Hemp Plastics, Ltd., in the UK, uses a 50/50 mix to achieve strong, durable, and workable material, thereby greatly decreasing environmental detriment from petroleum and other hazardous compounds.  They even offer a 100% hemp plastic- although its not feasible for industries running current plastic molding machinery.  This could certainly change if hemp becomes more popular as a raw material for modern industry. We could see more cool furniture like this sleek chair from Hemp Plastics.

(Note to Hemp Plastics:  I’d be willing to “review” this chair for our readers.  I’m sure they’d like to know how comfortable it is and how nice it looks in my living room.)

Surely everyone has heard of hemp-based textiles by now.  Of course, hemp rope is commonly cited as one such material, but there are many textile uses of the plant.  Surf on over to Rawganique.com to get a plethora of ideas.  From personal care items such as soaps, shampoos, and moisturizers to more important items for living, such as hemp hammocks, the stuff you can make out of hemp seems limitless.  And again, hemp is renewable, toxin-free, and vegan.  It’s becoming apparent that, indeed, hemp rules.

But I’m not done with hemp yet.  I’m about to tell you that it’s also a biofuel.  Hemp fuel could be produced right here in the US- no need to import.  It is renewable and biodegradable, and does not produce greenhouse gases.  Want a detailed comparison to petroleum?  Check out hempcar.org, the website of hemp car that broke world records.  Hemp is unlike other biofuels (corn) in that it doesn’t require large amounts of pesticides or fertilizers (petroleum based) and doesn’t require as much land to produce the same level of fuel efficiency.  The infrastructure is simply not there for hemp fuels to compete.  Check out Hemp Biodiesel: When the Smoke Clears from Biodiesel Magazine for more info on hemp as fuel.

Don’t forget that contacting your government representatives on this matter is a good start on the path to change.  Perhaps more important are our efforts at conserving.  No matter what fuel we use, we need to use much less of it.  When we waste here in the US and other developed countries, we harm the rest of the global populace, the environment, and ourselves.

So, why should vegans care about hemp? Growing hemp for food, fuel, textiles, plastic, and other products improves the lives of animals (including us humans) through less habitat destruction, less pollution, better nutrition, and improved financial well-being through new markets. What’s standing in our way? The illegality of cannabis.

What’s a vegan to do? Lobby your government reps and speak with your dollars (or drachmas, pieces of eight- whatever you got) as well. There are hemp alternatives to many of the things you already buy, and they are legal. When shopping online, include the word “hemp” in your search. Support organizations researching the viability of hemp in industry.  Spread the word- hemp for a new (vegan) world.