In partnership with Warren Wilson College’s Environmental Leadership Center, Xpress presents The Swannanoa Journal, short audio essays on regional environmental sustainability issues, written and recorded by WWC students.
North Carolina is home to Hemp Technologies, a company responsible for building the first modern made hemp home in the United States. David Madera and Greg Flavall co-founded this company with the intention of building ecologically sustainable houses with non-toxic, healthy materials.
Hempcrete is their building material, a concrete-like mix of hemp and lime. Hempcrete offers a range of advantages over other materials, as Madera notes, “it’s a breathable material; its non-toxic; it can never have mold; it can never have mildew. It petrifies over time so the walls actually get harder and harder so instead of something falling down in 30 years it lasts for 600.” Madera goes further saying, “50 percent of our landfills are filled with construction materials. Whenever you use cement you have 10 to 15 percent extra that has to go to the landfill. Drywall is not nearly as anti-microbial and often gets mold behind it, which causes people to get sick. With industrial hemp, there is no waste. If there is a little bit left on the last day of the job you can throw it into your yard as fertilizer.”
It is illegal to grow hemp in the United States. The classification of hemp with its cousin, marijuana, has caused the plant to gain a poor reputation, however, the tide is turning with popular attitudes toward this plant. The Consumer Union, a public watchdog, released a report recommending an immediate repeal of all Federal laws against the growing, processing, transportation, sale, possession, and use of Cannabis. Other distinguished groups, such as the American Bar Association, the American Medical Association and the Committee for Economic Development have all urged a softening of cannabis laws. Recently Representative Ron Paul introduced a bill in Congress which if passed would eliminate a federal ban on the substance and would leave it up to state control to determine how it would be regulated. Commenting on the— legal aspect of working with hemp, Madera said, “It’s pretty amazing that we can’t grow it here and put our people to work. It’s basically outsourcing a product that could be putting plenty of people to work. You’ve got farmers, processors, people that make products like Hemp Technologies. Why should we have to import something that we can grow here, and that we have grown here since the beginning of or colonization?”
North Carolina Representative Patsy Keever commented on the emerging hemp industry saying, “ I think it’s fabulous, I wish that it would be legal.” Keever mentioned that she is on the state agricultural committee, and had the Vice President of the North American Hemp Society give a presentation to the caucus to help inform the individuals making the decisions.
When federal restrictions are lifted on the production of hemp a tremendous industry will emerge that will offer employment and opportunity to a wide array of people. Madera noted that hemp grows 14 feet in 14 weeks, and that, “ you can watch it grow on your porch”, so there will be little lag in receiving the many benefits of this plant once farmers are permitted to grow this incredible crop. The time for industrial hemp production has come, and North Carolina has shown a hospitable habitat for this industry to take root and flourish.