Why do we cling to the notion that paper products must come from trees? At least two sustainable alternatives exist: Hemp and bamboo.
Industrial hemp, the blue-collar cousin to marijuana that has no psychoactive properties, has been grown for at least 12,000 years for fiber (textiles and paper) and food. (Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence on hemp paper, according to the North American Industrial Hemp Council.) It was grown commercially in the U.S. until the 1950s.
States are increasingly authorizing the cultivation of hemp, USA Today reported. From 1999 through last year, 17 states have enacted measures that would either permit controlled cultivation or authorize research. Hemp, as fiber or oilseed, is used to make thousands of products, including clothing and auto parts. Proponents say American farmers and industry are being shut out of a lucrative market as more than 30 countries, including Canada, grow hemp as an agricultural commodity.
(One of those countries is France, where Kimberly-Clark has a mill that produces hemp paper preferred for bibles because it lasts a very long time and doesn’t yellow, according to the hemp council.)
Importantly, hemp can be pulped using fewer chemicals than with wood. It doesn’t require chlorine bleach, which means no extremely toxic dioxin being dumped into streams.
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