Erratic weather patterns, melting ice caps, rapidly increasing sea levels - Climate change is one of humankind's biggest threats. However, despite this, the world is not doing nearly enough to decrease our carbon footprint and protect our planet.
But, one area that is beginning to incline and show promise is sustainability rapidly. Sustainable materials, building supplies, and fibres are a fast-growing market that comes with the guarantee of sustainability and environmentally friendliness—a huge pro in today's rapidly warming planet. Let's look closer at natural fibres, natural fibre composites and what they mean for the world.
Fibres are not something most of us typically think about past the prospect of how it feels, its colour and if it's pretty. However, fibre plays a huge role in the impact on the environment. For example, 1.92 million tonnes of textiles get dumped every year. Much of this is down to fast fashion that produces cheap, synthetic fibre clothing.
Natural fibres are, simply put - fibres that are natural. The most common and well-known is probably cotton, but hemp and flax are also gaining popularity. Natural animal fibres also exist, such as wool and silk.
Natural fibres have a long and dated history. Many believe cotton was the first fabric humans utilised, but in fact, researchers now know flax was. Fibres dating back 34'000 years made from flax were recently uncovered. Similarly, hemp fibres date back to 10’000Bc in China, where it was used to make rope.
As previously discussed, the planet is in crisis mode. The entire world is looking for sustainable, environmentally friendly options: And the return of natural fibres may very well be the perfect choice. Some of the top benefits of natural fibres:
A composite is when two materials are combined together, and each has different physical and chemical elements. When put together, they often have a specific purpose; to become lighter, more durable, and electricity resistant. Composites will often have a particular use.
Natural fibre composites work on the exact same principle, except the materials used are natural fibres. Flax is steadily becoming one of the most popular natural fibres that can be used for natural fibre composites. However, hemp is steadily catching up - thanks to its array of benefits.
Previously, fibreglass or carbon have been two of the most popular choices when making composites. Unfortunately, these materials are artificial and cost the planet to produce. Natural fibre composites have enormous environmental benefits, but there are some drawbacks.
Well, natural fibre composites are steadily inclining, particularly flax fibre. Companies that manufacture flax, like Texonic Inc, report an incline in need for natural fibres. However, the natural fibre market is still much smaller in comparison, and some issues this market faces are:
Despite some of the cons of natural fibre composites, many can quickly be resolved by increasing demand and supply. If governments and companies invested more money into building manufacturing facilities and enticing farmers to grow flax and hemp crops - the fibre quality would naturally increase, the supply would increase, the manufacturing facilities would be in place, and costs would naturally decline.
The many variable uses of natural fibre composites are still being experimented with worldwide. America is taking the lead with a massive amount of companies using their creativity and drive for a cleaner, sustainable and natural world to bring natural fibre composites to the forefront.
Lingrove, a California-based company, created a natural fibre composite called Ekoa, which replaces the wood in ukuleles and guitars, as well as sporting goods and furniture. Porcher industries in France, together with Saertex in Germany, have created their own flax fibre/thermoplastic composite to be used in the automotive sector.
Plastic additives can also be replaced naturally now, instead of its traditional plastic or fibreglass option. A company called Heartland, based in Detroit, U.S., launched Imperium. Imperium is the company's first-ever hemp fibre additive that can be used in place of plastic additives.
Heartland initially started creating bio-based plastics, but quickly realized hemp fibre was the way forward. Their goal was to develop natural fibre plastic additives that are cost-effective and carbon-negative, and they discovered that hemp was the absolute ideal plant for that path.
Creating natural fibre composites to replace plastics and other minor uses is definitely a step forward. However, when looking at sustainability - leaps are required at this stage. This is why plenty of companies are doing precisely that: Leaping much bigger into natural fibre composites.
Arup, a London-created but multinational design, engineering and architecture firm, won an award in 2015 for their use of natural fibre composites on the exterior of a home. Arup created flax/bio resin panels for the outside of the house, which increased energy systems by up to 50% with no additional cost!
The next step? Let's get moving. The automotive industry is vast and a perfect place to introduce natural fibre composites. In 2022, BMW revealed a new car: The M4 GT4 race car. This car sported various components of natural fibre composites in the vehicle's body. BMW announced that the simple switch reduced the greenhouse gases associated with the vehicle's production by up to 85% compared to synthetic materials.
Margaret River Hemp Co, Hemp Homes Australia, and Margaret River Hemp Processing are three trailblazing companies in the Australian hemp industry. Pioneered by Georgina Wilkinson and Gary Roger, these companies are tireless champions for cannabis and hemp, with a strong entrepreneurial spirit and an array of innovative ideas.
Their dedication to the hemp industry has led to significant advancements, particularly in the areas of hemp clothing, hemp seeds, hemp oil, and hempcrete for sustainable building.
One of the most notable achievements is the development of Australia's first hemp holiday home, the Sativa Sanctuary. This groundbreaking project, located in the beautiful Margaret River region of Western Australia, is a testament to their commitment to sustainable living and the potential of hemp as a versatile and eco-friendly building material.
The Sativa Sanctuary is situated on a secluded cul-de-sac overlooking a native forest, providing guests with a serene and idyllic setting. The home's Scandinavian-inspired interior, infused with Australian beach vibes, creates a stylish yet cozy environment.
All of the décor has been handmade using repurposed or refurbished materials, reflecting the company's commitment to sustainable practices.
Built with hempcrete and fitted with double-glazed windows, Sativa Sanctuary maintains a comfortable, constant temperature year-round, eliminating the need for air conditioning. The home provides filtered rainwater, further reducing its environmental impact. The hemp walls offer a unique benefit: a stay that's good for both your body and soul.
These companies, under the visionary leadership of Wilkinson and Roger, continue to push the boundaries of what's possible with hemp. They invite you to experience the benefits of sustainable living firsthand at the Sativa Sanctuary. By staying at this unique holiday home, you're not only embarking on a relaxing getaway but also supporting an industry that's paving the way for a more sustainable future.