Since we’re talking about hemp I thought I would replay this interview with Jim Savage too!
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Hemp Home Tiny+
Jim Savage from Greenbuilt Hemp Homes is here to share his dream to change the world by creating a healthier planet for his grandchildren to grow up in. After studying the multiple uses and benefits of the amazing hemp plant for concrete, insulation, food, material and clothing, plastics and paper he took his knowledge of supply. When researching Jim I found this great article in the NY Times where you can learn more about hemp homes.
The other day Mike was scrolling through his Facebook feed and said, hey wifey, check this out, you’re gonna want to interview this guy! And I contacted him and here we are. It’s a little bit different because we are not going to talk about gardening but I think listeners will maybe want to live in one of these houses… Way back in the early 90s I had a little hemp business, I made backpacks and clothes and everything out of hemp fabric on my treadle sewing machine but I knew nothing about business so it ended up fading away…
Tell us a little about yourself.
After about 8-9 years ago, after Hurricane Katrina, people were first displaced by Katrina and then were living in these toxic environments, toxic trailers for years! I said to myself, there’s really something terribly wrong about this, and something else has to be done. At the time I was doing something else for a living.
That just got something under my skin, and then a few years later when the houses in Haiti were what fell down on people and killed them because their homes were made out of concrete, I said I have to do something about this! I said where can we find a sustainable, healthy, non-toxic material for housing that’s not gonna kill people? That’s actually gonna be good for people’s heath and good for the economy in Haiti was in terrible shape. Then I started looking in the third world generally and seeing how poorly their economies were doing. One of the amazing things is when you look at Haiti, this is an island is made out of limestone, and there are no cement plants in the country of Haiti, so they were importing cement from the multi-national companies and they paying more for cement in Haiti then in the SouthEast US and their houses collapsed on them during the earthquake.
So I tried for a few years to do things in the third world, I had a project in Mali in West Artful, ended with coups, and change in government. The people who were involved in the project were forced to leave.
We needed up in a situation where I said what am I gonna do about this? I believe in this material. What I had seen in Europe, really nice buildings,
- carbon sequestering
- some of them were really beautiful
a couple of homes built in NC, hemp is not legal to grow in the US. Industrial hemp which has virtually no thc, is still considered to be a schedule one controlled substance in the US.
I started looking as cannabis started becoming legal, it was sort of the tail wagging the dog, hemp started to move towards legalization.
In 2013, the farm bill, did allow research and pilot programs to begin, it was signed in Feb 2014, by President Obama. Almost 30 states have passed laws legalizing industrial hemp, we think it will be pretty soon we will be able to grow industrial hemp. The hemp has a whole lot of different applications, besides the inner woody core for building products. You know this because you were using the fiber to make the products back in the nineties.
Hemp Products and Uses
- building products
- a bio-plastic can replace petroleum in plastics
- textiles – hemp and hemp blend fabric to replace synthetic materials and cotton
- animal bedding
- also used in pulp and paper
- the first American flag , Betsy Ross’s flag was made out of hemp
- every single sea going vessel, in the 19th century had hemp sails and hemp rope
- at the time of the Revolution there were laws in certain states that required farmers grow hemp – we’re hoping that changes soon.
In the 40’s there was that movie Hemp for Victory because they anchorage gardeners to grow hemp for the Navy
Then once the war was over they banned hemp, that was all part of the, it was largely a result of the industry for pro cotton wanting to use wood for paper pushed hemp out of the market. Hemp as a crop is a tremendously important crop in the US, it will be importune for us to move forward.
- can grow almost anywhere that has water, may be tough to grow in the desert southwest virtually any soil that has that is not a heavy clay soil
Also, it’s got really deep roots, so for erosion, places there were frostiest fires etc,
- also good for phytoremediation
in Ukraine where they had the nuclear disaster they used hemp plants to fix the soil
- grows so fast
- builds organic material in a crop rotation
grow almost a foot a week during their life cycle, so you’ll have a plant that grows for 12-13 weeks will be 12 to 14 feet tall. Also because it grows so fast, it crowds out it’s competing weeds so in a crop rotation the next crop will have to deal weeds… What that does it means you end up with you end up with more and more organic farming… as a result of having hemps as part of a crop rotation.
Now what did you say? Photoremediation what’s that?
Phytoremediation is taking toxins out of soil….
here’s another one
Right now, there’s some research being done by a professor at Clarkson University by David Mitlin making electrodes made from hemp nanoshetes, better then graphene at making super capacitors! This can be used for all kinds of things!
- hemp as a food plant is also exceptional
the seeds are very high in the omega 3s and omega 6s and they are very well balanced in hemp.
- hemp oils and hemp oilseed materials as food
A lot of people are eating hemps seeds as part of what they eat everyday at this point.
and there are companies in Canada that over $100,000,000 worth of sales selling throughout North America. Companies like Nutiva and Evo Hemp, Natures path who are all marketing hemp oil seed products.
You can’t go anywhere without seeing hemp today, besides at the health food store, but even at Christmas I took a picture of this hemp bracelet making kit for teenagers, I remember when I first started and my mom was like are you crazy and people were laughing at me, I mean people are always laughing at me, but you can’t go anywhere, it’s at the hairdresser, hemp shampoo sitting there, anywhere you go, there’s products everywhere. And he we are in the United States with an economy that’s struggling and then we can’t grow this product. Our Senator from Montana, Senator Tester is a farmer, he tried to get a hemp bill passed but he said he went up against the DEA or police said they couldn’t tell the difference. I think it’s ridiculous because anyone who wants to grow marijuana isn’t gonna want hemp plants with seeds near their pot. And it just grows totally differently as it grows tall like you said for the tall hemp stalks.
It’s sort of the difference between a toy poodle and a wolf, they’re both dogs, but they’re different.
Industrial hemp is required in testing you are required to have less then 0.3% thc. You could smoke a telephone pole and it wouldn’t get you high.
What’s happening though, in other parts of the world, like in Canada you’ve seen this massive growth in hemp cultivation. So in Canada they went from 8000 acres in 2008 to 110,00 acres in 2014 in Europe, it’s been from about 20k acres in 2011 to 65k acres 2015. What’s happening hemp is being used as a food crop and an industrial crop and at the same time we in the United States, we are being left behind. There are some states that are moving forward in the testing, getting hemp as a mainstream crop
There is a bill in the senate with 8 co-spoonsers including Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellfrom Kentucky really wants to be a leader in hemp cultivation.. It will replace their tabacco industry.
A couple of weeks ago, I had a conversation with hemp … specialist … agronomist … She was talking about teaching her students… the idea …she wants to grow hemp plants in NY state she was saying that pretty soon your gonna stop getting the subsidies for corn… corn is a feed, but getting subsidies for ethanol which is an inefficient way to produce energy so when those subsidies go away. So farmers in my region, corn stops being a profitable crop. They’re gonna need to replace cron with something else. So she thinks that hemp is the way to go.That it has so many uses, and is so valuable as an industrial crop so to not move quickly to getting to cultivatars leagalized and we need to get tested and ready to goto not have the infrastructure built is a mistake, I think we’re gonna see significant hemp processing plants in this country by the end of this decade!
So speaking of Hemp products tell us about your hemp products and Greenbuilt Hemp Homes!
You can see at our kickstarter campaign Hemp Home Tiny+.
What that is is a mixture of hemp and a lime binder, what that does is it makes both a complete building material for walls and a very good insulation material. And as an insulation material for walls it has an R value – it’s not the best because it’s about 2-2.5 but what makes it so much better is it’s breathable and allows you to have a very healthy indoor environment.
In places like the north east, where we have hot humid summers and cold and where we use heating and inside the house it gets very dry, what we’re gonna be doing using hempcrete, it allows you to reduce indoor humidity in the summertime, because it’s a breathable material, while it’s airtight it allows vapor to go through the material and normalize. It will be more humid in the winter outside, it will be more humid inside the building in the summertime, it will move it into the building fabric and then out of the building. So you end up with a healthier and much more comfortable environment. Throughout the US most cooling that is done in the summertime is to reduce humidity, if you have something to naturally reduce humidity then you need to use less cooling.
We are building a prototype tiny house, and we are simultaneously building panels that will allow us to build it quickly and efficiently. We are building it to passive house standards with 0 net energy. Even in our environment in NE there will be
- heating and cooling with no combustion
- it will generate no carbon
- beautiful design from an award winning architect here in Westchester County NY named Christina Griffin actually.
Let’s talk about the Kickstarter campaign you can get some hemp love lip balm and for $30 you can get some Brooklyn Dark Candy bars
These are great. I love Brooklyn Dark Chocolate. Rain Forest aligned beans, it has the hemp nutrition in there, just wonderful dark chocolate.
They’re vegan and gluten free, and come in Hemp flavor, Moroccan Spice, Open Sesame, and Orange Silk! For other pledges you can get a wallet, t-shirts, which are cool looking!
There are other things you can do! You can actually do come to our site in the Hudson Valley and come to a workshop and each session will be limited to 15 people.
The other thing you can get, we don’t have a picture yet, because it’s still being designed is a dog house! A hemp dog house so your dog can live in comfort as well, our team is very excited about it, they’ve never worked with hemp before, so soon we should draft of a design! It should be as beautiful as the house.
I think it’s just a cool idea! I love dogs thought! I’ll try to get this up asap because the kickstarter campaign is about to end.
The kickstarter campaign is also for getting the word out, we’re haearing from people all over the country that want to live in a green house. And hemp homes have so many advantages, if you are concerned about the environments, not just in terms of it’s resiliency. It’s:
- insect resistant
- mold resistant
- fire resist
in addition to that, all naturally, it’s also
- carbon free – it actually sequesters a much more carbon per acre then a forest does!
Leadership and Environmental Design that the US Green Building Council has.
One of the ways you get LEED points is through rapidly renewable materials, but less then 2% of all Leed projects have rapidly renewable materials, this is one where you, rapidly renewable means it grows in less then ten years, well this grows in less then one summer you have the ability to have building materials that are virtual endless, there’s no waste, when we mix this material any of the waste can go as mulch in the garden! It’s basically a mixture of the lime and the hemp, which just goes back into your garden and it makes it better then it was to begin with! You don’t have to truck your construction waste over to a toxic waste site. Which in many cases you do!
Wouldn’t it be cool if we could all live in hemp houses? As somebody who lives in the forest and knows how long it takes to replace a tree. Mike and I had a fight the first day we met, cause I was like we shouldn’t cut any trees down and he was like you ignorant environmentalist, do yo know what would happen if we didn’t cut trees down? There are dead trees from bug kill, and other reasons you have to cut some and keep a healthy forest. And the quality of the paper and materials, the fabric is never going to wear out, maybe the stitching. You’re not gonna get a hole in your jeans!
The original Levi jeans were made out of hemp fabric.
Mike got nice hemp jeans and really nice hemp shirts from this company Two Star Dog that were awesome! It’s crazy to be importing that fabric.
I love the curves in the design, IDK if that’s a girly think, to have part of your house be round instead of just square? It just has a lot of cool potential and possibilities Certainly it would help get rid of the corn subsidies, help our agriculture and our farmers. Two interesting guests I wanted to mention. Jes Pearce who’s episode 134 released on Monday, I asked her about growing hemp, she talks about backyard gardeners growing your whole diet in a small space and they plant 60% of what they plant is for soil fertility, she said they grow for height and things that grow really tall, she was talking about quinoa.
Also Anastasia Cole Plakias, wrote a book about the biggest rooftop farm in the world, in Brooklyn, she talks about the business and community building but they had a great kickstarter campaign I was gonna mention her to you because they did some things with their campaign you might be interested in. Do you want to tell us what you did before this because I think people might be interested in that?
Before this I spent about 20 years working as a stock analyst following mostly companies that were in supply chains, the suppliers particularly into the electronic industry, the component companies that manufacture for other companies. One of the things that I have done is thinking how do we make this into an efficient economically viable industry where it will be helpful to the economies of our regions, where it will help revive the rural economies and small towns, through out the NE and midwest we’ve seen a hollowing out of our rural economy and our industrial economy.
How we can get an efficient supply chain that at the same time takes care of the people in the region and gives them a good living. Coming from that background of following supply chain companies, and how do we make this into an effective supply chain, obviously first thing is to grow hemp in the United States.
One of the things about buildings, some of the buildings that have been built in the US before this using hempcrete before this, not only used imported hemp and we continue to use imported hemp at this point, but they’re also using imported lime. So we found a supplier here in the US who produces very high quality binder. It’s an American company who produces its product here in the US. So we’re trying to work out a a way we can benefit the economy here with our products.
As well as benefiting the housing stock one of the goals of NYC, and in the US, so they have a plan to reduce energy consumption by 50% by 2050 and they have targeted buildings as the key way to get there, so not only are we building. Later in May we are going to be presenting at an event there is a 65k square foot, old masonry structure, that is going to be retrofitted to make it energy efficient.
We anticipate we will be abele to participate in that and put in the insulation in that building using hempcrete. Generally these older buildings you can’t insulate with the modern materials.
Spray foam for example:
- it’s impermeable
- in the wall you start to get water accumulation
- condensation and gaps between the wall and insulation
- pests are attracted to the insulation
- spray foam has a huge amount of embodied energy so you say it has a great R value but it’s made from toxic materials
- blowing agents very potent global warming chemicals
- flame retardants are toxins and they don’t work that well
- and it degrades so hemp lime should stay the life of the building
- moisture migrates throughout the wall so you don’t have mold growthparticipating in this event
And from there hopefully well keep going and then to places in the south, in your area of the country too
- while humidity is a key factor in how good this is
- less problems
- ou still have problems with mold
- insects and rodents
really positive material to be using and growing around the country.
Well I really wish you the best of luck because this is something I’m really passionate about, I think it would create so many jobs, as someone who has struggled I tell my mom, I’m the epitome of the working poor, high wage jobs are few and far between around here, which sometimes I’m grateful for, because it does keep the people down, but …. and any jobs!
These are high quality jobs!
When you’re working with the material, and I brought in workers who are unfamiliar with it, we took out the existing fiberglass insulation, which had mice homes there, but they we’re scratching for days after taking out the fiberglass.
!hen they started working with the hempcrete, I had to keep reminding them they had to protect their eyes. and when they worked with it, they had to wear gloves because it was so much more environmentally friendly you could tell it’s not a toxic material! It is with the lime, it has a very high ph if you work with it without a glove you might not have any fingerprints because of the lime.
difficult to make sure people took standard health procedures when they were working with it. It’s such a good material to work with and so different from what they are used to and if you see people put spray foam they wear a hazmat suit and certainly you won’t have to do that with this.
Final question- if there was one change you would like to see to create a greener world what would it be? For example is there a charity or organization your passionate about or a project you would like to see put into action. What do you feel is the most crucial issue facing our planet in regards to the environment either in your local area or on a national or global scale?
I stay awake at night worrying about what the world my grand children live in is going to be. I do worry about water. I worry particularly about climate change and anything we can do to reduce carbon emissions, to improve efficiency and move towards reneawables and we have to do it in in a way that benefits everybody, and not just a few rich people! We are the 99% right?
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