The Sustainability of Industrial Hemp: A Literature Review of Its Economic, Environmental, and Social Sustainability
3.1. Industrial Hemp Plant
3.2. Parts and Uses for the Industrial Hemp Plant
- Fiber products: Numerous industrial applications use hemp fiber as a natural source of bast fiber . Known for their strength, durability, and length (fiber bundles can reach 1–5 m), hemp fibers have long been valued for serving many purposes including making rope, paper, and textiles [37,38,39]. The life cycle assessment (LCA) of hemp fibers, from cradle to grave, reveals that hemp fibers perform better than glass fiber by weight . LCA assesses the environmental impact and resource usage of a product, including its raw material acquisition, manufacturing, and disposal phases [41,42,43,44]. The increased global demand for eco-friendly natural products and sustainable systems has increased the market share for textiles, fabrics, and clothing made from hemp fiber [12,45]. Hemp fiber is also used to make biodegradable mulch, horticultural planting materials, pressed fiber products, paper and pulp products, building-construction materials, insulation materials, animal bedding made of hurd, plastic bio composites, and compressed cellulose plastics .
- Seed or grain products: Hemp seed has historically served as a vital food source [46,47]. It consists of 20 to 30% edible oil, 20 to 30% protein, 20 to 25% fiber, 20 to 30% carbohydrates, and many other important nutrients and vitamins recommended for humans . Hemp seed oil and grain products include whole and dehulled hemp seeds, hemp seed oil, hemp seed flour, hemp seed cake (a byproduct of mechanical oil pressing), hemp seed meal, hulls of hemp, and hemp protein isolates and concentrates (Figure 5) . Hemp seeds are used to produce olive oil and salad dressing, and seeds of hemp contain omega 3 fats and proteins. In addition to being used in cosmetics, hemp seed oil can be used as a substitute for industrial oils .
- Products for the medicinal market: CBD oil is a nonintoxicating cannabinoid compound produced using industrial hemp; unlike THC, it is not addictive. Because it is non-addictive and may offer health benefits, many states have recently made CBD oil legal . Although CBD is used in various products, such as sparkling water, lotions, and pharmacological substances, its purported health benefits have not been scientifically verified. These areas offer an exciting opportunity for further research . Medicinal market applications, while important, are not the focus of our review.
- Products for the recreational market: Because industrial hemp does not include high THC, it is not used for recreational purposes, and this application was not included in our review.
3.3. Sustainability of Industrial Hemp
3.3.1. Hemp Economic Sustainability
- A wide range of products can be made with hemp.
- Hemp products account for a small percentage of food, textiles, personal care products, pharmaceuticals, and nutraceuticals sales in the U.S. and worldwide, but sales are growing quickly.
- Despite the falling production of hemp worldwide, due to its association with marijuana since the 1950s, business and policy changes, infrastructure investment, and improved production methods have led to a rebound in hemp production over the past decade.
3.3.2. Hemp Environmental Sustainability
- The criteria were set based on the author’s familiarity with the topic.
- There is a limitation to the author’s knowledge of a wide range of crops and criteria.
- There may be some criteria that deserve to be heavily weighted, depending on location (e.g., irrigation may be more critical in areas with low water availability).
3.3.3. Hemp Social Sustainability
Conflicts of Interest
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Kaur, G.; Kander, R. The Sustainability of Industrial Hemp: A Literature Review of Its Economic, Environmental, and Social Sustainability. Sustainability 2023, 15, 6457. https://doi.org/10.3390/su15086457
Kaur G, Kander R. The Sustainability of Industrial Hemp: A Literature Review of Its Economic, Environmental, and Social Sustainability. Sustainability. 2023; 15(8):6457. https://doi.org/10.3390/su15086457Chicago/Turabian Style
Kaur, Gurinder, and Ronald Kander. 2023. "The Sustainability of Industrial Hemp: A Literature Review of Its Economic, Environmental, and Social Sustainability" Sustainability 15, no. 8: 6457. https://doi.org/10.3390/su15086457