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Industrial hemp is gaining a lot of respect around the world for its amazing versatility and environmental benefits. Many companies are turning to hemp in order to make their products more sustainable and eco-friendly in general.

Unfortunately, widespread acceptance of hemp still has a long way to go. Many people are oblivious to the great benefits of hemp. Some (incorrectly) assume that it’s a drug (because of its close association with marijuana). The U.S. government has even made it illegal to grow hemp. This does not make it easy for those of us who are trying to do the right thing!

Hemp cultivation can provide many benefits for the environment. Also, hemp products can provide further environmental benefits when comparing them to products made from other fibers.

Here are some key reasons why hemp should become much more widely used than it currently is.

Growing Hemp
Here are some of the major environmental benefits of growing hemp:

Fast and robust growth: Hemp grows extremely fast and can be grown in any climate, in any agronomic system
No herbicides/pesticides required: Hemp can be grown with no (or little) herbicides, fungicides, pesticides, or other biocides.
Suppresses weeds: Hemp is a natural weed suppressor due to the fast growth of the canopy. Actually, hemp is a weed. Because it grows so fast and densely, it blocks out sunlight to other weeds that are trying to grow.
Improves soil structure: Due to it’s long roots, hemp replenishes soil with nutrients and nitrogen and helps control erosion of topsoil. Also, once harvested, any residue can act as an eco-friendly manure.
Hemp produces lots of oxygen: Hemp produces the same amount of oxygen while it’s growing that it would use in carbon dioxide if burned as a fuel. Also, due to it’s leaf/root ratio (this can often be 10% roots vs 30% leaves), hemp can produce between 20% – 40% more oxygen than will be polluted.
Cleans up pollution: Hemp can actually clean up toxins from the ground. This process is called phytoremediation. A good example of this is when hemp was used to help clean up the Chernobyl nuclear disaster site to remove radioactive elements from the ground.
Hemp Products
Naturally, products made from hemp are 100% biodegradable, recyclable, and reusable. Also, the speed at which hemp grows can provide benefits regarding the resource requirements of the end product.

Here are some examples of how hemp products could benefit our environment and our health:

Switching to hemp paper could reduce deforestation significantly. For every 4 acres of trees that are required annually to make paper, only an acre of hemp would be required. Furthermore, because hemp paper can be recycled so many times (up to 7 or 8 times), much less is needed. In comparison, paper from wood pulp can only be recycled around 3 times. This means even more trees are required.
Clothing and textiles made from hemp have no residual chemicals that could affect our health (as many other fabrics do).
Hemp based fabrics block the sun’s UV rays more effectively than other fabrics. This is true, even if it’s only a 50% blend with another fabric.
Hemp oil is the richest known source of polyunsaturated essential fatty acids (the “good” fats)
It’s widely known that hemp can be used in so many ways as an eco-friendly alternative to current methods. Given that so many of today’s products are produced from toxic materials, by switching to hemp based products, the benefits for the environment (and ourselves) would be enormous.

Ecospun is a polyester fiber made from 100% recycled plastic bottles. It can be used to create various fabrics, including fleece fabrics. The Ecospun fiber can be used by itself, or it can be blended with other fibers such as cotton, wool, and tencel.

Environmental Benefits of Ecospun
Ecospun enables billions of plastic containers to be recycled each year, instead of them being buried in landfill.

Currently, less than 30% of plastic bottles produced in the US are recycled. Given the fact that over 40 billion plastic bottles are produced in the US each year, this is a huge environmental problem. Furthermore, it takes over 700 years for each of these plastic containers to decompose!

What is Ecospun used for?
Ecospun, whether by itself or blended, can be used in many products. Here are some examples:

clothing (eg, vests, jackets, pants)
blankets
carpets
wall coverings
automobile interiors
various home furnishings
fiberfill (eg, filling material for cushions)
craft felt
So chances are, thousands people around the world are wearing recycled plastic don’t even realize it!

How is Ecospun Made?

Here’s how the Ecospun process goes:

Plastic containers are collected from curbside and community recycling centers
The containers are sorted by type and color
All labels and caps are stripped off
The plastic containers are then washed
Then they’re crushed
Then they’re chopped into flake
The flakes are then melted and extruded to create fiber
The fiber is crimped, cut, drawn, then stretched into the desired length (based on its strength), then baled.
Fortrel® Ecospun™ is a registered trademark of Wellman Inc, and is manufactured by Foss Manufacturing Company.

Hemp is an extremely versatile plant with enormous environmental benefits. It can be used in a wide variety of applications.

It’s no wonder that companies such as Ford, BMW, Mercedes, The Body Shop, Calvin Klein, and many more are turning to hemp so that they can create more eco-friendly products.

Here are 60 examples of how hemp is being used around the world:

Paper
Printing paper
Specialty paper
Cigarette filter paper
Coffee filter paper
Newsprint
Cardboard
Packaging
Foods
Cooking oils
Salad dressing/oils
BIO-EFA food oil
Margarine
Vitamins/Food supplements
Granola
Bird seed
Flour (protein enriched, gluten-free)
Body Care
Soap
Shampoo
Bath/shower gels
Hand cream
Cosmetics
Moisturizing lotions
Balms
Consumer Textiles
Apparel
Bags
Shoes
Socks
Denim
Diapers / Nappies
Fabrics
Industrial Textiles
Canvas
Rope
Twine
Nets
Tarpolans
Carpet
Geotextiles
Brake/clutch linings
Caulking (i.e. sealing the seams in boats or ships to make them watertight)
Agro-fiber composites
Industrial/Technical Products
Oil paints
Varnishes
Printing ink
Fuel
Solvents
Lubricants
Putty
Coatings
Molding
Chemical Absorbent
Mulch
Pultrusion
Biocomposite
Animal bedding
Ethanol/biofuel
Erosion control
Building Materials
Fiber board
Insulation
Fiberglass subsitute
Hempcrete
Stucco and mortar
This list is not exhaustive – I’ve heard that there are over 25,000 known uses for hemp. Feel free to name some more!

There’s no doubt things are warming up on planet earth.

Here are the top 10 hottest years on record:

1998 – 32.94 degrees Fahrenheit (0.52 degrees Celsius)
2005 – 32.86 degrees Fahrenheit (0.48 degrees Celsius)
2003 – 32.83 degrees Fahrenheit (0.46 degrees Celsius)
2002 – 32.83 degrees Fahrenheit (0.46 degrees Celsius)
2004 – 32.77 degrees Fahrenheit (0.43 degrees Celsius)
2006 – 32.76 degrees Fahrenheit (0.42 degrees Celsius)
2007 – 32.74 degrees Fahrenheit (0.41 degrees Celsius)
2001 – 32.72 degrees Fahrenheit (0.40 degrees Celsius)
1997 – 32.65 degrees Fahrenheit (0.36 degrees Celsius)
1995 – 32.5 degrees Fahrenheit (0.28 degrees Celsius)
These are global figures and are based on average temperatures.

I think most people would agree that the big question of “is global warming really happening?” has now been answered. And the other big question I think is becoming a little outdated (”are humans really responsible”?).

I think relevant questions would go along the lines of “is global warming a good thing?”. And, “if it’s not a good thing, what can we do to change this?”.

Milford Sound is located near the bottom of New Zealand’s South Island in Fiordland National Park.

Milford Sound is known for its rain. It receives up to 8 metres of rain per year. This makes it one of the wettest places on earth. There’s so much rain that the first few metres of water in the sound is fresh water!

One of the benefits of having so much rain is that you can see how healthy the natural surroundings are. Another benefit is that you can often see what seems to be an endless number of waterfalls pouring down the sides of the mountains.

Milford Sound does attract a lot of tourists but, apart from a few tourist utilities, it remains almost totally un-developed.

The famous Mitre Peak is the highest mountain in the world to emerge directly from the sea.

Keas are a mountain parrot who like to walk everywhere. The Homer tunnel is a narrow tunnel that you have to drive through on the way to Milford Sound.

Keas like to make their presence known. Unfortunately, tourists can’t resist feeding them. This makes them agressive and somewhat dependent on humans.

While on a relaxing boat cruise, spot the seals basking on the rocks

Maybe you can see them better from this angle?

Disposable diapers have long been a major environmental problem. Traditional disposable diapers can take up to 300 years to decompose. Biodegradable diapers, on the other hand, can decompose within months.
The Environmental Issue
Here are some facts regarding traditional (non-biodegradable) disposable diapers:

In the US alone, over 18 billion diapers are thrown away each year
Over 82,000 tons of plastic is used to make those disposable diapers each year
Over 250,000 trees are cut down each year in order to make those disposable diapers
Traditional disposable diapers take around 300 years to biodegrade. This means that no traditional disposable diaper has actually biodegraded yet.
In many countries (including most states in the USA), it’s illegal to dump human waste in landfills. However, this is exactly where disposable diapers are dumped once they’ve been used. This has the potential to infest the water with viruses such as polio, hepititis, dysentery etc
Benefits of Biodegradable Diapers
Biodegradable diapers will go a long way in eliminating many of the environmental issues related to disposable diapers. Unfortunately, at the time of writing, there aren’t many biodegradable diapers on the market. Plus, most biodegradable diapers are only partially biodegradable. This will change though – especially now that we have products such as Safeties Nature Nappy, which is a fully biodegradable disposable diaper. There are various diapers that are partially biodegradable, but as far as I’m aware, at the time of writing, the Nature Nappy is the only 100% biodegradable diaper. (The term “Nappy” is an Australian term for “Diaper” – the Nature Nappy was invented in Australia).

Biodegradable diapers will need to comply with international standards regarding their biodegradability. The Nature Nappy complies with the EN 13432; ISO 14855; ASTM 6400-99 standards.

Eight years ago in India, cows were found to be dying on the streets from what was initially thought to be a mystery disease. Closer inspection revealed that the cows were dying from plastic bags. They were mistakenly ingesting the plastic bags while eating food at the side of the roads.

At the time, it was estimated that over 3,000 cows were dying each month from plastic bags. According to the audio story attached to this article by the National Public Radio, between 15,000 and 20,000 cows die each month from plastic bags.

Unfortunately, although a plastic bag ban was pushed for, the plastic bag industry managed to persuade against it. In the end, only ultra-thin plastic bags were banned. But it appears that these ultra-thin plastic bags are continuing to be manufactured and distributed in India.

So the result is that more and more cows are continuing to die an excruciatingly painful death from ingesting unused plastic bags.

Recycled Polyester is a polyester that has been manufactured by using previously used polyester items. In the clothing world, recycled polyester clothes can be created from used clothes. It is used in some components when doing more extensive work like garage door repair too.

Polyester fibers made from recycled plastic containers (such as Fortrel Ecospun) are often referred to as recycled polyester too. However, in this article, I’m referring to polyester clothes made from other polyester clothes.

A company called Patagonia has become quite famous for it’s recycled polyester clothes. They have been able to create polyester garments using previously worn garments. They also started the world’s first garment recycling program – which enables customers to bring their used clothing back for recycling. Patagonia encourage customers to bring in their used Capilene baselayer, Patagonia fleece or Polartec® fleece. The fabric of these items makes them suitable for recycling. Patagonia can create a new garment made from the recycled polyester.

Is Recycled Polyester Eco-Friendly?
Recycled polyester is not always eco-friendly. The “eco-friendliness” of recycled polyester depends on the recycling process, and the original polyester itself. Polyester is still a synthetic fabric, so it’s not going to be as organic as plant fibers such as hemp, bamboo, ramie etc.

Traditional polyester has potential health hazards and environmental issues that make it a lot less eco-friendly than it could be. A relatively new brand of polyester called Eco-Intelligent® Polyester (launched in 2001) aims to overcome the health hazards and environmental issues inherent in traditional polyester.

As far as I’m aware, Eco-Intelligent Polyester is currently only available in upholstery and interior trade (not clothing etc).

Where can I buy Recycled Polyester products?
You may be able to find recycled polyester at your local clothing store. If you’re looking to purchase online, check out the Patagonia website.

When shopping for clothes, many people shop based on things like comfort or style, but not many people check for clothing’s eco-friendliness.

More and more clothing companies are providing clothes made from eco-friendly fabrics. Demand for these clothes is increasing too. This makes sense given the environmental issues we’re faced with in today’s world.

What Makes a Fabric “Eco-Friendly”?
Eco-friendly fabrics generally have the following characteristics:

Minimum use of chemicals and pesticides
Best land manangement practices
Sustainable farming practices
Eco-friendly certification (i.e. EU-Eco label certification)
Animal friendly
Production adheres to fair trade practices
By purchasing organic, you can be sure that the product was produced without the use of harsh chemicals and pesticides, and is not only healthy for the environment but is also healthy for you.

The Fabrics
Here’s a list of eco-friendly fibers to look out for. Next time you’re shopping for clothes, look out for clothes that are made from the following fibers (or other eco-friendly fibers):

Hemp – An amazing natural fiber. Some say hemp could have 25,000 uses. Hemp provides enormous benefit to the natural environment. This is true when used in products and when growing the hemp plant.
Jute – Similar to hemp, jute is a type of vegetable fiber used for thousands of years, with outstanding potential for the future.
Ingeo – Trademark for a man-made fiber derived from corn.
Calico – Fabric made from unbleached cotton. Also referred to as muslin.
Hessian Cloth – Coarse woven fabric made from jute or hemp.
Organic cotton – Cotton grown organically (without pesticides etc)
Recycled Polyester – Polyester created from used polyester garments.
Bamboo Fiber – Bamboo fabric is very comfortable and 100% biodegradable.
Tencel® – Brand name for a biodegradable fabric made from wood pulp cellulose.
Ramie – Ramie fibers are one of the strongest natural fibers. Ramie can be up to 8 times stronger than cotton, and is even stronger when wet.
Organic Wool – Organic wool is wool that has been produced in a way that is less harmful to the environment than non-organic wool.
Organic Linen – Linen that is made from flax fiber. Could also refer to be linen made from other organically grown plant fibers.
FORTREL EcoSpun – Fiber made from plastic containers
Milk Silk – Silk made from milk
Soy Silk – Silk made from soybeans
Nettle fiber – Made from stinging nettle (commonly known as a weed)
Spider-web fabric – Fabric made from spider webs. Still in the experimental stages.
Eco-Friendly Finishes and Dyes
As well as the fabric used to make clothes, many clothes are dyed and/or have laminate finishes etc. Here are some eco friendly options:

Biodegradable TPU Laminate – Solvent free TPU that can biodegrade in as little as 4 years.
NanoSphere® Textile Finish – Self cleaning textile finish for clothing and other textiles.
Non-Toxic Dyes – These can be better for your health as well as the environment.

More and more people around the world are becoming aware of the environmental issues surrounding plastic bags. Considering their somewhat placid appearance, the impact of plastic bags on the environment can be devastating. There are many small things you can do to help contain waste. For instance, when you chop your pork, you can use plastic containers instead of bags.

Here are some facts about the environmental impact of plastic bags:

Plastic bags cause over 100,000 sea turtle and other marine animal deaths every year when animals mistaken them for food
The manufacture of plastic bags add tonnes of carbon emissions into the air annually, tree preservation ordinances and planting new trees helps combat this damage and remove some of these harmful carbon dioxide emissions.
In the UK, banning plastic bags would be the equivalent of taking 18,000 cars off the roads each year
Between 500 billion and 1 trillion plastic bags are used worldwide each year
Approximately 60 – 100 million barrels of oil are required to make the world’s plastic bags each year
Most plastic bags take over 400 years to biodegrade. Some figures indicate that plastic bags could take over 1000 years to break down. (I guess nobody will live long enough to find out!). This means not one plastic bag has ever naturally biodegraded.
China uses around 3 billion plastic bags each day!
In the UK, each person uses around 220 plastic bags each year
Around 500,000 plastic bags are collected during Clean Up Australia Day each year. Clean Up Australia Day is a nationwide initiative to get as many members of the public to get out and pick up litter from their local areas. Unfortunately, each year in Australia approximately 50 million plastic bags end up as litter.
Fortunately, some governments around the world are taking the initiative to deal with the environmental impact of plastic bags by either banning plastic bags or discouraging their usage.