As a young environmental activist, I am excited about the innovative expansion of the sustainability field. Although I am only 18 years old, I have focused on educating myself on topics such as solar power, biodegradable materials, reduced energy housing, Cool Roofs, Zero-energy structures and many other amazing products and technologies. Through all my research, hemp has stood out as the product that will be the game changer of the sustainability market. Scientific research and marketing have focused on the benefits hemp has on the mind, body, and overall health. I believe the future of sustainability will involve the expansion of hemp-related products beyond the field of health-related products. Globally, our world is facing the negative impact of single-use plastics. Although one may not see mounds of plastic as they walk outside, items such as storage containers, hairbrushes, water bottles, and plastic bags are made of non-biodegradable materials. While they may seem innocent, these products and millions of other plastic-based products are not biodegradable and will remain on our earth throughout the end of time. According to an article from The Guardian, “an estimated 8.3 billion tons of plastic have been produced since the 1950s – that is equivalent to the weight of more than 800,000 Eiffel Towers, and only 9% of these products have been recycled. Based upon this knowledge, we can conclude that even if citizens would begin to regularly recycle, products would need to be made out of biodegradable materials to drastically decrease our carbon footprints and begin to improve the entire earth’s ecosystem. Hemp on the other hand, is a prolifically grown crop that can be used to create sustainable plastics known as bioplastics. Bioplastics are a key factor to minimizing single-use plastics and helping to ensure the earth remains habitable and not overrun by waste.

Hemp can also benefit our nation’s agricultural production which is currently being negatively impacted by human overpopulation. An article recently written in The Environmental Benefits of Hemp, described the benefits of the hemp plant and the positive impact hemp production could have on our nation’s agricultural economy. The article describes the hemp plant as being able to grow five feet in height within a few weeks. Within a few months, the hemp plant can reach heights of over 20 feet. The article also describes that “in comparison to one hectare of cotton, hemp is able to produce two to three more times of fiber annually.” The vitality of the hemp plant and its rapid growth could result in a drastic change in the agricultural economy as well as upon the world overall. Hemp production would enable farmers the ability to harvest and perform crop rotation faster and more efficiently. While the economic value of hemp products such as CBD products, paper, clothes, and wood are difficult to determine beforehand, the ability to rapidly grow the material needed to produce hemp-based products would speed up production time and lead to an increased job market, product sales and positive economic impact.

Another area of agriculture that could be positively impacted by the hemp industry is the field of biofuels in rural communities. The 2017-18 Industrial Hemp Trial has shown that hemp, as a cover crop, can assist in the revitalization of soil by shading out weeds and reducing the need for synthetic herbicides. The self-producing soil repair provides farmers the opportunity to plant additional plots of hemp which would ultimately increase the crop stability of the farmer as a hemp crop can be substituted for almost any harvest. Once planted and harvested, hemp production would increase available job opportunities through the production of a variety of products. In so much that advocates of hemp claim hemp can be used to create 25,000 different products including food, clothing, and toiletries. Therefore, hemp crops are financially more profitable than crops of traditional corn and/or soybeans.

Overall, the benefits of hemp production support product development, agricultural profitability, and sustainability of the earth as a whole. As I continue my interest in the field of sustainability, I will be transitioning my education to the highly involved environmental educational environment at Paul Smith’s College in Paul Smith’s, New York. As I make this transition, I will aspire to agricultural and environmental sustainability. I look forward to engaging in Paul Smith’s sustainability program including “mission” and “research” international missions to assist in the implementation of sustainability methods related to energy conservation, product sustainability, and the overall improvement of the quality of life.

As the child of a hippy, my mother has always taught me to be highly passionate and compassionate about the earth, climate change, and ways that I can help others. I have spent my life volunteering and helping those unable to help themselves. I have dreams of someday joining the Peace Core and traveling overseas to continue my passion and teach underdeveloped communities how to benefit from hemp production. In the synthesis report, The Executive Summary of the IAASTD, expressed the statement, “we cannot escape our predicament by simply continuing to rely upon the aggregation of individual choices to achieve sustainable and equitable collective outcomes.” I highlight this statement because it holds a very powerful message, that without the collaborative efforts of individuals, companies, and communities nationwide, waste pollution and environmental damage are going to increase. This statement also reminds me that, as I continue to grow, I will continue my studies and gain experience in environmental advocacy. While it may seem that I am trying to take on the world, in reality, that is exactly what I am trying to do. My passion for having a positive impact on climate change and public service, I will make a difference.

Essay by: Izabella Hays
Slippery Rock Area High School

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