Conscious Causes

Eco-Friendly Living

by Paul Rendé

Eco-Friendly Living

“There is no way to re-enchant our lives in a disenchanted culture except by becoming renegades from that culture and planting the seeds for a new one.”

— Thomas Moore

Eco-Friendly Living by Conscious Contributor Paul Rendé

I have been following the Tiny House Movement for quite some time, peering vicariously into many marvelous and innovative architectural designs that have sprung up around the globe. As home prices continue to rise inordinately and put ownership well out of the reach of many people worldwide, a growing number of men and women with adventurous spirits have turned to a simpler way of living with minimalism and environmentalism at its core. They have traded in a daunting mortgage payment and tedious upkeep of a large home for financial freedom, a small and manageable eco-friendly living space and, if desired, an immersion into nature with an ‘off-the-grid’ lifestyle. The ability to easily transport a tiny house allows one to change their physical environment whenever they choose. These diminutive homes are a portal into new possibilities that are teeming with adventure, creativity, community and sustainable permaculture. At the heart of this burgeoning movement is industrial hemp, which is continually gaining traction as the preeminent building material for tiny homes.

Industrial hemp is truly the wonder plant here on earth. It is defined as a non-psychoactive, low THC (only .3%) oil, seed and fiber of the cannabis sativa plant. [1]  As opposed to modern day building materials that are either mined from the earth or harvested from centuries old forests, hemp only contributes positively to the environment.  It grows organically and sequesters carbon while it does so. Hemp takes only four months to reach maturation, therefore allowing more than one harvest per year. Its long and extensive roots circulate air which improves the quality of the soil and helps farmers who want to rotate crops.[2]  Hemp requires very little water to grow and can be cut down and manually processed without the use of big machinery nor extensive transportation. Despite only 10,000 acres being grown in the U.S., hemp is used globally in over 25,000 products and spans across nine markets from agriculture, textiles, and paper to food, clothing and construction. It is this last use on which I will focus my attention.

As a building material, industrial hemp is used to make ‘hempcrete’ which is a biocomposite made from the inner wooden core of hemp, called the hurd, mixed with water and lime (powdered limestone).  The hurd has a high silica content that allows it to bind very well with lime. The chemical reaction between the water, lime and hemp will petrify the hemp and turn the lime back into stone.  The huge advantage of using lime is that it will save 80% of the carbon dioxide released during processing as compared to manufactured cement, and the mixture as a whole requires no toxic materials nor solvents to be used.[3]  The hempcrete mixture does not bear the weight of the structure but rather is placed between long-bearing studs and wooden frames to form the walls of the building. [4]  Hempcrete is very lightweight yet extremely durable and has incredible insulating properties. In various climates, a 12-foot hempcrete wall will facilitate roughly 60-degrees Fahrenheit indoor temperatures year-around without any heating or cooling systems, making its environmental footprint decidedly lower than any traditional construction and greatly reducing a homeowner’s gas or electric bills!

This is extremely advantageous to a tiny house owner who either lives permanently in a region or travels with her home to different locations with pronounced and varied seasons and temperatures. Oftentimes, a clay-based render is used on the inside ‘breathable’ walls to help transfer moisture and humidity from inside the house to outside, reducing the ability for mold to form.  The lime render used on the outdoor surfaces protects the house from severe rain and harsh weather elements. As it does while growing, hemp continues to sequester carbon when placed in the constructed walls. Additionally, hempcrete is pest, rodent, fire and earthquake resistant which will delight many an aspiring homeowner!

However, there are some definitive obstacles that have curtailed the cultivation and expansion of industrial hemp in this country.  It is still an emerging market here in the U.S. and therefore carries the inherent risk of speculation as to its future. Therefore, the user’s manual is an organic one that reacts to the changing developments of an industry that is greatly affected by the federal and state legislation that surrounds it.  Hemp farmers await the fate of the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2018 that was recently introduced to both houses of Congress in order to, among other things, see hemp removed from being classified as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act and making it an ordinary agricultural commodity. This and other current federal and state regulations inhibit the ability of farmers to get bank accounts and mortgages to own and develop land. [5]   With the help of President Obama’s 2014 Farm Bill, currently thirty-four states that regulate the crop allow the cultivation of hemp for commercial or educational research under agricultural pilot programs.

As of last year, Colorado-grown hemp constitutes more than half of U.S. domestic hemp production.  Industrial hemp has been legal in Canada and Australia for the past twenty years and even longer in most European countries.  France has emerged as the EU’s largest hemp producer with hundreds of buildings across the continent using some version of hempcrete with immense success. 1  As demand for this magical plant continues to increase, hopefully we will see as easing of restrictions on both the growing and importing of industrial hemp as well as on building codes that vary from state to state.  This would allow for a much greater proliferation of sustainable hemp production and the resulting surge of eco-friendly homes here in the United States.

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Speaking of Eco-Friendly …

Have you seen Conscious Good’s Movie of the Month, Prophetik yet? It follows fashion designer Jeff Garner on his mission to design and manufacture exquisite clothing using organically grown fabric and dyes. In this short documentary, Garner is seen at his studio outside Nashville, Tennessee where he attracts James and Suzy Cameron to stage a green fashion show on one of Nashville’s main thoroughfares. The film follows Garner to London’s fashion week, where he is chosen as one of thirty designers (out of over a thousand) to runway his product line to great acclaim by several of London’s leading fashion critics, including famed designer Jimmy Choo.

On the Topic of Educational Documentaries …

Welcome to Conscious Good’s Studio Series! Conscious Good presents a monthly series of film events, to help studios fulfill, nurture and grow their communities through engaging content. Each evening’s event will include a guided meditation, the film program and recommended discussion topics, with time to socialize. This month’s film is HEAL – a scientific and spiritual journey where we discover that our thoughts, beliefs and emotions have a huge impact on our health and ability to heal. The film empowers viewers with new understandings of the extraordinary healer within us all, including appearances by: Michael Beckwith, Marianne Williamson, Deepak Chopra, Bruce Lipton, Gregg Braden

What Are Your Thoughts on an Eco-Friendlier Future?

Let us know when you join the Creator’s Network! It’s a place where you can learn from others and bounce your ideas for change off of them. Our goal with the Creators’ Network is to bring Conscious Creators together and fuel the Conscious Media Movement. We want to encourage a whole new breed of filmmakers, marketers, producers, programmers and artists, to put conscious raising at the core of their storytelling.

P.S. If you have a feature film or would like to recommend a feature film to showcase in Conscious Good’s Movie of the Month program, please email us at [email protected]
Paul has been enthralled by storytelling since a young age. After completing his university studies in English literature and writing, he made New York City his home and embarked on a career as a creative writer and actor, having honed his dramatic skills at William Esper Studio. His wanderlust and passion for adventure recently led him on a two-year journey throughout Central and South America and North Africa. Living among diverse landscapes, cultural traditions and indigenous tribes provided a wealth of knowledge and inspiration to help promote education and open discussion about the challenges and solutions to our planet’s sustainability. Paul is committed to drawing upon his life experiences and the narratives of writing, film and video to help foster a more harmonious relationship between humans and the natural and spiritual worlds through conscious living.

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