Ask Our Experts: Carbon Emissions of Hemp Products


Q: Are hemp products truly carbon-neutral?


By Trevor Yahn-Grode, Data Analyst, New Frontier Data

A: As is so often the case, the proof resides in (the recipe for) the pudding.

On average, an acre of hemp sequesters about 11,000 pounds of CO2 throughout photosynthesis during its growth cycle. Then, the carbon emissions of all subsequent farming and manufacturing activities are counted against that 11,000. Ultimately, whether the carbon emissions from value-added activities subsequently exceeds the carbon sequestered via hemp’s growth cycle depends on the specifics of those value-adding operations.

Hemp products certainly can prove to be carbon-neutral, or even carbon-negative, if companies are meticulous about their carbon footprints. Local manufacturing helps a lot in that regard, since it avoids the compounded emissions attributed to long-haul shipping. It is important to note, however, that even if certain hemp-based products result in net positive carbon emissions, the relative carbon sequestered by the plant during its growth cycle means that its footprint will be significantly less than that of petroleum-based products. The best research yet done on the issue is by Germany’s NOVA Institute, which found that natural fiber products – especially those being hemp-based – have “outstandingly low CO2 footprints” compared to glass and mineral fibers.