Hemp is one of nature’s most versatile plants. From fabrics to food, construction materials to plastic and paper, it is the Swiss Army knife of plants. Now that hemp is legal both in Canada and the USA, consumers and companies can now explore the real potential of this long-overlooked weed.
Further, the cannabis business is going through some growing pains. It is fighting to discover a sustainable way to satisfy the requirements of commercialization. Packaging, landfill waste, and higher water and power use all contribute to the industry significantly less than green standing. Fortunately, cannabis’ salvation might come in the kind of fresh and innovative applications for the hemp plant.
To find out more about a few of the renewable initiatives happening in the hemp space, we talked with Zaffia LaPlante, president and creator of Hempergy. The indigenous-owned and operated firm is employed to highlight hemp’s longevity and durability, and especially its usefulness within native communities.
Zaffia Laplante, pupil entrepreneur, together with Massimo Iacurti, RBC regional vice president, in the Schlegel Centre for Entrepreneurship & Social Innovation.
“Hempergy is focused on improving the supply chain of waste management in the cannabis and hemp industries. Our goal is to use hemp as a sustainable feedstock for construction, cosmetic, and textile purposes. The aim is not necessarily to create these amazing products, but it’s also to engage collaboratively and cooperatively with indigenous groups around North America, so that they’re not just the end user of our product, but included throughout the entire supply chain,” clarified LaPlante.
LaPlante is enthusiastic about her project, not simply due to her excitement for hemp, but also due to the high level of the housing crisis in First Nations reservations. Because of Canada’s 1876 Indian Act, native individuals can not own land in their own reservations. Therefore, those residing on reservations don’t have any resources to leverage to get a mortgage. To put it differently, they need to supply 100 percentage of construction costs up front, often in distant locations. The outcome is aging houses dotted with mold and lacking in basic necessities, such as heating or power.
Hemp construction materials could deal with some of those issues. LaPlante elaborates, “Hempcrete is mold proof, nontoxic, fire-resistant, biodegradable, and, unlike fiberglass installation, it doesn’t use chemicals or toxins.” LaPlante expects to make the material more accessible to those communities and have them involved in each stage of growth.
“A lot of the indigenous communities that I’m working with approached me because they are growing cannabis right now and they’re thinking about maximizing their economic opportunities. They understand that Hempergy has this different ethos of operating… It’s much more attractive than mainstream producers who may be doing an amazing job growing, but who don’t understand the corporate social responsibility and added social value of what we do,” she clarifies.
Some members of First Nations communities believe that the housing crisis is just another iteration of the long-endured oppression. The provincial parliament member for Kiiwetinoong in northern Ontario, Sol Mamakwa, talked with The Guardian on the topic: “This system is not broken, it’s working exactly the way it’s supposed to. It’s a colonial system designed to take away our people’s right to natural resources and lands so we can’t take care of ourselves.”
LaPlante has seen firsthand how the shortage of funds can affect communities. “I am an indigenous woman of Canada, and I do have an understanding of the reality that indigenous people are faced with here in Canada, but also across North America, and even in Australia. I came across similar parallels of the marginalization of colonialism and how indigenous communities and indigenous people are put in this position because of the western system we live in.”
She’s”[Hemp] can be an instrument to produce our own alternatives… That is why myself and Hempergy are behaving as an instrument to encourage whatever problem the community could be facing. It is important to prevent being restricted to simply growing the plant for medicinal purposes and to begin using it for construction materials.”
In Canada’s harsh climate, creating substances which are equally lasting and water-resistant is very important to the long-term sustainability of local communities. Further, the isolated nature of many native reservations makes transporting substances an arduous and costly task. Demolition expenses and waste-removal prices for eliminating existing dilapidated structures may also be prohibitively costly.
This is not a feature that has been missing on LaPlante. “It’s much easier to recycle compared to other natural building materials, like straw bale homes. Hemp and hemp-based materials also absorb a higher amount of humidity and water. So instead of simply holding on to that moisture and leaking it out later, creating mold and mildew, hemp actually absorbs that humidity and stores it within the material and then releases it at a later time to retain a healthy living temperature.”
LaPlante’s aspirations do not end with Hempergy. She believes the entire hemp community should pool their collective knowledge to help progress the business. “Understand that if you want to make an impact and really change the world and make it a better place for current and future generations, we have to work together. We can’t just work in silence. We have to collaborate, cooperate, and share that knowledge.” She concludes, “I really do feel that hemp is the future and it’s what we need to be focusing our time and energy on, so we can scale it not just across America, but across the world.”