TWO students from St Brogan’s College, Bandon are partaking in the ECO-UNESCO Young Environmentalist Awards with their project ‘Hemp for a Sustainable Future.’
An innovative project by Transition Year student Cian Walsh and second-year student Caoimhe Walsh has qualified for the ‘ECO-Den Semi-Finals’ which will be held at the end of April.
Their project aims to promote the social, economic and environmental benefits of growing hemp and how the crop can promote sustainable farming.
Cian said that hemp is a very versatile crop and has over 50,000 different potential product applications. “100% of the hemp crop can be processed into many different eco-friendly products; some examples include hempcrete, hemp insulation, and hemp bioplastic.”
Caoimhe says their project will benefit the environment while supporting the economy. “We believe that farmers are being put under extreme pressure to deliver climate action without being given any viable alternatives to their current farming methods. We have always been interested in investigating ways that we can mitigate climate change, whilst supporting our economy and local jobs.”
TY student Cian said that hemp has the ‘potential’ to create thousands of jobs over the coming years. “Ensuring the protection of the jobs of Irish farmers should be a top priority of our public representatives when considering such proposals. Data shows that through government investment in the hemp industry, hemp has the potential to create 82,000 jobs over eight years.”
Their project began in 2019 when Cian took part in the RTÉ Youth Assembly on Climate and received the opportunity to present in Dáil Éireann on his proposal surrounding the development of industrial hemp processing facilities. Since then, the students have conducted greater research while also promoting their project by conducting surveys, hosting hemp information meetings and engaging with public representatives.
In the past number of months, the project has gained awareness through its success at the BT Young Scientist 2021 as the winner of the Teagasc award. The project was also presented at Self Help Africa’s recent ‘Science for Development’ showcase.
With the cellulose content of hemp fibre reaching 70%, it can also be used to make paper, furniture and pellets substituting wood, meaning that preservation of forests and their habitats can be accelerated by cutting less woodland. This would lend itself to the establishment of permanent native forests.