On the Green Horizon: Clever Concepts for Environmental Living

Learn about uses of industrial hemp and a new "green" entertainment TV set.

| March/April 2008


Industrial hemp can be formed into biocomposites used in construction, automobile interiors and more.

Stems and Seeds

After decades of being confused with its outlaw cousin, marijuana, industrial hemp (which contains no narcotics and won’t get you high, no matter how much you smoke) is making a comeback. While it’s still illegal to grow the crop without a permit in the United States, Stemergy—a global supplier of renewable biofiber products in Ontario, Canada—has developed many applications for hemp fibers, including high-tech composites and consumer products such as garden mulch and animal bedding.

The beauty of biofiber lies in its versatility. "Hemp is high in performance and low in cost," Stemergy president Geof Kime says. It’s also a rapidly renewable plant source of valuable materials, and it requires few or no pesticides to cultivate. Stemergy, which uses only Canadian-grown hemp, supplies biofibers to companies that make compression-molded panels for constructing doors, cabinets, furniture, wall partitions and decking.

"We’re combining hemp and flax fiber with materials such as wood, concrete and plastics to make new composite substances," Kime says. Biofibers can reinforce and fill stucco and concrete, and biofiber insulation may become the next big eco-product. Chrysler, Mercedes and Ford automobiles already feature molded interior parts made from hemp fiber.

"Biofiber technology sounds quite promising for many building components," says Brian Dunbar, executive director of the Institute for the Built Environment at Colorado State University. For information, click here.

Thinking Out of the Box

elderberry, echinacea, bee hive


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