In 2020, the CBD market was worth £300 million in the UK, with that number expected to grow to £1 billion in 2025. As with any rapidly expanding sector, questions have been asked about how sustainable CBD is, and exactly what impact this rapid growth is having on the environment. Indeed, with a growing interest in environmental preservation from the general public, it has become more important for brands to be more transparent about the environmental impact that their products might have, and their plans to reduce their footprint as we approach The Paris Agreement.
In this article, we will explore how sustainable CBD is, including the benefits of the hemp plant that it derives from, the environmental factors involved in manufacturing and distributing CBD products, and what you should look out for when buying them.
CBD vs Hemp
Cannabidiol (CBD) is the non-psychoactive compound found in the hemp plant, a versatile crop with several uses, including clothes, food, medicine, bioplastics and construction materials. Indeed, the seeds, stalks, roots and leaves of the hemp plant can all be used in a number of amazing ways that help to reduce waste.
Cannabidiol (CBD) oil is extracted from the flowers, leaves, and stalks of the hemp plant, whereas Hemp oil is derived from the seeds of the hemp plant through a cold-pressing process. Both are legal in the UK if they contain less than 0.2% THC, and therefore shouldn’t show up on a drug test.
To answer the question of whether CBD is sustainable, we need to first turn our attention to the hemp plant where CBD comes from.
Is Hemp Sustainable?
Hemp is an aromatic weed that belongs to the Cannabis sativa species, and is often cultivated for its bast fibre or edible seeds that are rich in healthy fats, including omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Although it has been used for thousands of years, in more recent years, it has been recognised as a ‘sustainable, organic and regenerative agricultural crop’ that can be used in place of ‘cotton, soy or corn, with way less impact on the Earth.’ In short, alongside its health benefits, hemp is thought to be sustainable to grow and produce, and a great alternative to less sustainable crops like cotton.
How Is Hemp Good for the Environment?
Let’s look in more detail at how hemp can be good for the environment.
1. Fast Growth
Hemp has a short and fast growth cycle, with seeds growing to maturity within just four months of being planted. This allows for multiple harvests per year of this tall and dense plant.
Hemp plants are naturally resilient and pest-resistant, which means they require no pesticides, herbicides or fungicides to grow. Pesticide-free farming practices and pesticide-free extracts are also better for our health, as human exposure to chemical pesticides has been linked to several chronic conditions, including heart, respiratory and neurological diseases.
3. Less Water
Hemp needs about 2.000 litres of water per kg fibre which is accommodated by natural rainfall, whereas cotton needs about 10.000 litres of water per kg and half of this comes from irrigation.
Hemp also grows and thrives in areas where plants would otherwise require excess water. Compared to traditional crops then, hemp cultivation requires far less water.
4. Converts CO2
Hemp acts as a carbon store, which means it sequesters (absorbs) atmospheric CO2 for as long as the plant continues to exist. Research suggests that a Hemp field absorbs 22-44 tonnes of CO2 per hectare (at one or two crops a year), which can help to mitigate climate change.
5. Absorbs Pollutants
Hemp has deep roots that penetrate the soil, which can help to absorb pollutants through a process called phytoremediation. Hemp also improves soil structure and health, and its dense leaves are thought to prevent soil erosion.
6. High CBD Content
More often than not, hemp plants are grown with high levels of CBD in mind, making for a less wasteful extraction process as more of the plant will be used.
7. Alternative to Synthetic Pharmaceuticals
As an alternative to synthetic pharmaceuticals, CBD might help to reduce reliance on chemical-based medications, which could reduce the strain on valuable healthcare resources.
The one environmental downside is that there are limitations in the UK on where hemp can be grown, despite being legal to sell and use. This might mean that the hemp has to be grown and flown from overseas, increasing travel emissions.
Is CBD Production Sustainable?
Alongside the hemp plant that it derives from, we have to consider the environmental factors involved in the manufacturing and distribution of CBD, and what you should look out for to ensure you’re investing in a sustainable product.
There are several different methods of extracting CBD from the hemp plant. The most eco-friendly method to remove CBD from the hemp plant is CO2 extraction. This extraction process uses pressurised CO2 as a solvent to extract the oil from the plant, resulting in a CBD-rich extraction of cannabis oil. Although CO2 is a greenhouse gas, it doesn’t impact the environment here — ‘While the extracted substances are collected and discharged, the CO2 is returned to its original state and can be used several times’ or recycled.
Third-Party Lab Reports
Third-party lab reports should show that your product is free of pesticides and other contaminants, which are often used in less sustainable practises. On the same note, a certification from the Banned Substance Control Group (BSCG) will guarantee that your product is 100% THC free, and safe for use by professional athletes.
Manufacturing & Distribution
When it comes to manufacturing and distribution, retailers should continue to make every possible effort to meet sustainability requirements, such as using local goods, or packaging products in low or zero-waste materials. Some CBD retailers have even adopted ‘carbon neutral’ policies to achieve net-zero carbon emissions.
At Purity Wellness Group, sustainability is at the heart of everything we do. From the organic hemp we grow on our farms in nutrient-rich soil and clean water sources and farm with sustainable and quality-assured farming processes, to the CO2 extraction process (with patented tech) that we use to extract a CBD-rich oil, we’re committed to supplying a premium range of organic CBD products, including broad-spectrum CBD oils.
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