What Is the EU Green Deal?
The EU Green Deal was introduced by the European Commission to improve the well-being of communities and strengthen the EU economy by protecting our natural environment.
Its goal is to make the EU climate-neutral by 2050 through a sustainable green business transition. We need to find a balance between carbon pollution and the capacity of ecosystems to absorb the carbon from our atmosphere. This involves cutting emissions wherever possible, investing in research for sustainable alternatives, and developing green technological innovations. Protecting public health by preventing pollution of air, water and soil with harmful chemicals is of utmost priority of the Deal.
The EU Green Deal will influence all sectors of our economy. The energy sector, which produces 75% of the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions, will need to shift to more efficient and less polluting technologies. Buildings, accounting for 40% of the EU energy use, will need to be upgraded to consume less energy and natural resources. The transport sector, generating 25% of the EU emissions, will need to offer cleaner, cheaper, and healthier options. The industrial sector, which generates 20% of the EU’s emissions, will need to rethink its business models to use more sustainable, recyclable, and biodegradable materials. A sustainable products’ policy will be introduced for resource-intense sectors like textiles, construction, electronics, and plastics.
The European Green Deal Investment Plan (EGDIP) has committed to raising at least €1 trillion of sustainable investments in the next decade. The EGDIP Just Transition Mechanism will provide workers and communities with €100 billion investments to support their transition between 2021 and 2027. This includes Farm to Fork Strategies offering incentives for the agricultural sector to develop innovative farming and fishing methods, reduce using chemical pesticides, fertilisers, and antibiotics in food production.
Technology vs Plants
Advanced technologies have been a major focus of many green projects promising futuristic solutions in the fight against pollution and climate change. Yet, every new technology comes with new challenges, so why not focus on a solution that has been around for 1000s of years, the Hemp plant!
Smart home devices
Smart home appliances utilise sensors, Big Data, and the Internet-of-Things to help households save energy and utility costs. They aim to improve safety, comfort and energy use by regulating temperature, lights, etc. However, the life cycle assessment shows that smart devices are also a source of increased emissions. Smart light bulbs and smart plugs continue to use power even when they are switched off into standby mode to maintain the connection with a dedicated hub or a Wi-Fi router. This is necessary for their remote control via smartphones, Amazon Echo, Google Home, etc. The production of smart devices involves a lot of plastic, energy, and hazardous materials, such as used for LCD screens. Most of them cannot be recycled, and are typically sent for treatment and incineration.
Smart building design, green construction, operation, maintenance, renovation and deconstruction of buildings using the principles of resource-efficiency and sustainable material use creates high-performance buildings without the need for extra high-tech equipment.
Green building design helps reduce the impact of the built environment on human health and nature. It aims to use energy, water, and other resources more efficiently, increase the durability, and comfort, protect the resident’s health from indoor pollution, reduce waste and environmental degradation.
Electric vehicles are widely promoted as a green solution for achieving the EU’s climate protection goals in the transport sector. With no direct emissions when driving, they seem to help us shift away from burning the fossil fuels. However, since most of the electricity in the EU still comes from fossil fuels, the emissions from the electric car use are still produced on the power plants. The extraction of lithium, cobalt and other metals required to produce batteries and other parts of electric cars requires a lot of water and creates significant damage to ecosystems. A recent study in China showed that the recycling phase of a fossil-fuelled car results in about 1.8 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, and 2.4 tonnes for an electric car, a big part of it is due to battery recycling. So, the total environmental footprint of electric vehicles is quite substantial.
The sharing economy involves acquiring, providing, or sharing access to goods and services, often facilitated by a community-based online platform. It has experienced an explosive growth in the last decade. There are thousands of sharing economy platforms operating in almost every sector and activity around the world. Analysis by the Brookings Institute shows that private vehicles stay unused for 95% of their lifetime. Using car-sharing services is a more sustainable alternative, than producing new electric cars.
So before investing in any new technologies, we should carefully consider their impacts, and what other alternatives we could utilise to achieve our economic and environmental goals.
What does Hemp have to offer the Green Deal?
A natural chemical-free solution that could help achieve the goals of the Green Deal has been a part of our culture for thousands of years – hemp. It grows well in the European climate, fast and dense, saving agricultural space, and doesn’t require many pesticides and herbicides.
Hemp plantations support biodiversity, creating feeding grounds for bees, birds, and animals. Serving as a ground cover crop, hemp prevents soil erosion with its deep roots and enriches the soil with high quantities of biomass. It can be used for phytoremediation to decontaminate soil from industrial pollution.
Hemp has a high capacity for carbon sequestration – every ton of grown hemp removes 1.63 tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. One hectare of industrial hemp can absorb 22 tonnes of CO2 per hectare. Due to its rapid growth, hemp is one of the fastest modern tools for converting CO2 to biomass. It is considered more efficient than agroforestry, as it grows up to 4 metres in just 100 days.
Sustainable food and textiles
Hemp seeds are considered a healthy super-food for people and can be used to feed livestock and fisheries. Their extract is used in cosmetics and technical use like colourants and oils. Hemp fibres can be used for sustainable fabric, textiles, and paper. Hemp textile is very durable, breathable, and has antibacterial properties. One acre of hemp can produce three times more fibre than cotton in the same area while using drastically less water.
Green material for transport and construction
Composite bio-plastics made from hemp mixed with other plant sources offer high strength and rigidity. They can be used in the structure of cars, boats, and some musical instruments. Hemp plastic is biodegradable, reusable, and recyclable, which makes it an excellent material for more sustainable transport production. Hemp wood, bricks and prefabricated panels are also used for green building design. Hempcrete is extremely fire resistant, so it can be used for wall, insulation and plaster carriers.