Sustainable Living

Zero Carbon Buildings

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Carbon-busting hemp could help transform Scottish agriculture to zero emissions: Hemp is one of the oldest traded plants in the world, and cultivation in Scotland started as far back as the 11th century. Historically, cannabis—the name of the plant from which hemp is derived—was used to produce rope, cloth, lighting oil and medicine from around the year 1000 until the late 1800s. These days hemp is big business in places like North America and France, but the UK has been much slower to embrace this market, with little production going on or infrastructure to support it. However, our new study makes clear the myriad benefits and opportunities this plant provides—including, crucially, the reduction of carbon emissions and its usefulness in helping to mitigate the effects of climate change. Aside from the environmental benefits as “nature’s purifier” in removing carbon dioxide from the air, the crop is an excellent source of plant protein for humans and animals. It also has huge potential for other uses such as organic insecticides/herbicides, an environmentally friendly concrete substitute known as “hempcrete”, building insulation, biofuel and phytoremediation—a process which cleans contaminated soils and water. Our report provides expert recommendations on the necessary steps to advance the Scottish hemp sector, based on trade research, HMRC trade data, interviews with farmers and Mintel’s Global New Products Database. Five benefits associated with hemp products include low or reduced allergens, it’s suitable for vegans, vegetarians, it’s gluten-free and can be grown organically. So it has the potential to be a cost-effective product bringing both health and environmental benefits. [Article includes a 9-minute video of interview with a hemp farmer. See also: A Building Material That Consumes CO2 Has Finally Come to the US.]

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