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Sustain Hemp to Sustain our Habitat
Diane Walsh Salem-News.com
Oh, fields of hemp, what a wonderful world it would be - by Diane Walsh. Courtesy: Cannabis Digest, Winter 2013 edition
(VICTORIA, B.C.) - Now for convincing the public!
Half of the world's forests have been cut to make paper from wood. Imaginably wrong. And sad, don’t you think? There’s something we can do about deforestation.
Seek out an alternative. Fibre sources derived from hemp that are fresh tree-free.
Albeit not widely publicized, the hemp paper market does exist. It is small but it can grow.
Market expansion is not without its pitfalls, say the naysayers.
On the other hand the enthusiasts say, more public-awareness and media attention on the merits of hemp for paper production is both a political and pragmatic imperative.
It is a farming and processing imperative, that, if acted upon on a broad-scale, could drastically reduce the need for deforestation and perhaps, in a more perfect world, old-growth cutting all-together could be arrested.
Fighting to save the old-growths is a battle in its own right. But for now…
Back to hemp paper: The ecological footprint to produce hemp paper is comparatively smaller than wood dependent methods employed for preparing paper.
For those of us who are *not* drinking the cool-aid (the cool-aid of curmudgeons’ nonsense. You know, annoying uninformed people who say *all hemp is evil and bad* no matter what science or economics you put in front of them) but are focusing on being politically poised to avail of a good thing…we’ll start with finding out why hemp-enthusiast authors don’t all publish their books on hemp!
This is a question that our very own Ted Smith asked from the mountain-top when he was exploring the publishing factor for his book: Hempology 101: The History and Uses of Cannabis Sativa, 4th edition.
The answer came back. At this ‘market stage’ in Hemp's Economic Development it's just too darn expensive to choose publishing on hemp paper. But it's expensive because it's a specialty item—and it need not be!
Quite plainly if more people were interested in publishing their books on hemp paper (like Ted) generating that *key* economic-impetus required, hemp processing plants would flourish and more would emerge. Doubtless—the price of hemp-paper products and publishing would come down.
Back in the day, the US Declaration of Independence was drafted on hemp paper. So were bank notes, archives and even some of the finest bibles. Until 1883, in the Unites States, 75 to 90% of paper in circulation was hemp. The root traces of hemp paper production dates back to the Chinese Western Han Dynasty, as far back as 221-206 B.C. and the standard papermaking process was invented by Cai Lun (50–121 CE).
Today, China is largest exporter of hemp paper and textiles, and the United States is the largest importer of products. One of the larger companies, Taicang Hanspaper Industry, in China, uses crude raw hemp fibre for producing acid-free specialty paper. Other countries; Australia, France, Spain, Chile, Russia and Great Britain are far behind China but they’re stepping up in recent years, seeing the potential.
Closer to home, notably right here in Victoria, there’s evidence of struggling leadership on the hemp-paper retail end. Trying to survive as a speciality store has challenges.
It’s been proven difficult for some to make a living with the large office-store chains dominating the city. Couple that with the lack of awareness around the dangers of buying non-recycled tree paper (even if it is cheaper), it’s no surprise that - Ecosource Paper Inc. - which used to be at 1841 Oak Bay Avenue and moved to 201-1333 Pandora Avenue - sold flippin’ awesome hemp paper but, like many speciality stores in Victoria, is longer in business.
In terms of pricing, a sample offer leaned in at $8.95 CAD and “this package contained 50 sheets of all tree-free paper products including ECO-21 paper, ECOHEMP paper, No.10 envelope, invitation envelopes, lined paper and info sheet” according to their website (which is still up by the way). On a happier note, sources tell us that Ecosource Paper Inc. has some association with the United States, and that [there] they used hemp, flax, corn and cereal fibre to produce tree free paper, specifically as one of their mission aims. So dedicated to sustainability they were!
Also, in Victoria, we see evidence of retailers willing to make hemp-paper products available on their shelves. Island Blue Print Co. Ltd. as an example sells (to this day) the Bee Paper Company Professional Series. Their 6in.x6in.Aqua Bee 20 sheet note pads are neutral PH (acid-free) tree-free paper, contain 29% industrial hemp and 79% recycled paper, and sell at $6.95 CAD.
Characteristics of hemp-paper end product are worth noting. Hemp paper does not turn yellow, disintegrate and decompose easily over time in the way of tree paper. Its recycle use is, 7 - 8 times over, with recycle use for tree paper at 3 times.
The plant science is fascinating. In investigating its farming feature, it’s been shown repeatedly that plants grow speedily and densely. Artificial fertilizers and herbicides can be avoided. Only average rainfall is needed for good growth and therefore, irrigation is minimal. Water saving. Harvest is generally in August/September. Fibre sources are cultivated for the fibre. Large quantities of bast fibre can be produced in a single season and processed into pulp of high quality. Plants that possess woody stems, or hurds, can processed into pulp of lower quality. Long fibres of hemp are useful for preparing highly durable material such as ropes, and this requires less processing. Blends of different fibres tend to make a paper that is stronger or finer (depending on preference) than say paper that is made with a single fibre.
Hence hemp papers of different varieties and texture can be prepared from hemp. Making paper from local weeds (sow thistle, yellow dock, and others), and from the stalks of hemp plants using both the bast fibre and the whole stalks, has proven to be successful. (Source: Church of the Living Tree, Earth Pulp and Paper)
In the heyday of the late 1990’s, it was the businesses of, The Alternative Fiber Pulp Mill and Evanescent Press, in northern Mendocino County, in California, that showed cutting-edge leadership on the hemp-paper front. With a forte to, “produce pulp for paper from the whole stalks of hemp, flax, kenaf, and agricultural waste, using no wood products at all”, they were able to realize the potential in knowing that “the timber that is used for making paper takes more than hundred years to grow back in same volume whereas it takes only 100 days for hemp to grow.”
Hemp is known to give pulp four times more than regular trees if planted in same area of plantation. Equally, the pulping process has been shown to be an art in itself, as told by Tree.Org, a leading educator in sustainability methods: “One of the major problems to consider is the best method of producing pulp from this variety of source material, since equipment designed for wood chips is not easily transferable to alternative fibres.”
Ideally, “the process can made to be a closed system that integrates all of the major processes of pulp production in one unit. It recovers and recycles the chemicals used, and even delivers the removed lignins and sugars as market products rather than as part of a toxic sludge” (Source: Tree.org).
In Canada, we’ve been making slow but steady strides as well. Edmonton, Alberta and St Agathe, Manitoba, are home to the hemp industry. One can cultivate fibre hemp on as small an area as 3000 square feet. That’s not what government likes to tell us. One of the misnomers or myths that farmers here are trying to unpack for the media is the notion dozens and dozens of acres are required to show any kind of leadership on promoting hemp—and the possibility of changing over from a *fresh* tree-based paper product economy to a hemp-based farming economy that uses sustainable pulp processing methods and in turn educates people of the need to focus on purchasing hemp and recycled paper only.
Getting behind the hemp-paper economic development model is a pressing issue! Get involved!
Diane Walsh, MA, is an investigative journalist based in the Pacific Northwest. She contributes to new media outlets, newspapers which by some miracle haven't gone under, and magazines in the US, Canada and Europe. Diane became acquainted with the Salem-News.com team during a recent speaking tour that included Canada. She is a welcome addition to our lineup of truth-bound thoughtful and extremely talented writers.
For more information on specific publications and to reach Diane directly, please visit: indydianewalsh.wordpress.com