Earth Day: The Most Useful Plant on the Planet, Hemp

On this cloudy and overcast day, I am drawn to the idea of plunging past the superficial. I woke up with an old Anais Nin quote in my head that wouldn’t leave, no matter how many times I tried to gently cast it aside. “I must be a mermaid...I have no fear of depths and a great fear of shallow living.” 

The shallow living part stayed with me. I want to co-exist with the Earth in a way where I’m not just thinking of myself. Sustainability is important to me and so is conscious consumption.

A massive way that we consume as human beings is through the materials and fibers that make our clothing. We all like to look good. In a way, dressing and accessorizing are akin to storytelling because we are showing the world who we are through our corresponding costumes. But who says that buying clothing has to be bad for the planet? 

This Earth Day, I think we all can consider which plant allies contribute to the goal of sustainability in the fashion sector and beyond.

The history of hemp goes back a long way. It is arguably one of the most useful plants on the planet and was cultivated by early humans up to 12,000 years ago. Many scholars believe that hemp is native to Central Asia (specifically Mongolia and southern Siberia) with records as early as 2800 BCE detailing its widespread use. While you may think that hotboxing is a modern-day phenomenon, truthfully it was likely invented thousands of years ago by the Scythians, a group of ancient Siberian warriors. In mobile weed saunas, they would heat hemp seeds on extremely hot stones and breathe in the smoke. The Siberian Pazyryk tribes also consumed cannabis seeds for their nutritional content. 

In the European Middle Ages, hemp was the plant of choice for making rope strong enough to belong on sailboats. In ancient China, hemp was preferred as a paper source over papyrus and it was used to weave clothes. Ancient Egyptians used cannabis for medicinal purposes, using a mixture of celery and hemp as an eye rinse for glaucoma patients. (Studies today support that THC, the psychoactive compound in cannabis, can reduce eye pressure in adults.) And in regard to feminine health, Ancient Egyptians used a mixture of cannabis and honey as an anti-inflammatory vaginal suppository. 

Hemp is a plant that can feed us, heal us, and support our immune systems. It can also clothe us. In fact, it is believed to be the earliest plant grown for textile fiber. When we plunge into the depths of our history, we see that hemp fibers are a material used since the beginning of mankind. 

It also has deep ties to American culture. Did you know that hemp was reportedly used by Levi Strauss in pants for miners during the U.S. gold rush? Betsy Ross even made the first American flag out of hemp. Growing hemp is easier on the environment than growing cotton because it requires notably less water and yields 220% more fiber than a cotton plant. Hemp is advantageous to grow because it can absorb up to 10 tons of carbon emissions per acre, making many responsibly grown hemp products carbon-neutral or even carbon negative!

Well you might be thinking, hemp sounds great, it’s sustainable and durable. How can I do my part to help the planet with hemp? 

As you purchase new clothing, consider boosting the sustainability of your wardrobe with durable and breathable hemp fabrics. Additionally, support hemp farmers by patronizing companies with sustainably farmed hemp products from oils to tinctures. 

This Earth Day do your part to be one with the environment and to circumvent shallow living!

By Amiah Taylor for Poplar 

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