As an island situated between the Greenland Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, Iceland typically receives less attention from the world than its Northern European brethren. Yet according to the CIA, the longevity, income, literacy, and social cohesion enjoyed by the residents of Iceland, are second to none, by world standards. But it doesn't end there. If the country's policymakers are successful, they will be able to add another feather to their cap within several decades: Iceland plans to become the first oil-free country by 2050.
To appreciate just how this diminutive nation could make such a bold and ecologically admirable goal a reality, it is critical to understand that approximately 70 percent of their energy is already being supplied through green power -- specifically, geothermal and hydroelectric. In particular, the country's unique geology and volcanic dangers have blessed it with seemingly unlimited geothermal energy, lying beneath the earth's surface, and offering the potential to be tapped for power as long as it doesn't get too hot or too cold. These energy sources are not only environmentally superior to the burning of oil and gas, but they have already proven themselves capable of meeting diverse energy needs, from heating buildings to generating the electricity used within them.
In fact, the only sector of Iceland's economy still relying upon fossil fuels is transportation. But even that holdout may go completely green in the future. One big step in that direction is the current project to replace all diesel-powered public transit buses with ones running on hydrogen. These vehicles are already in use on the streets of Reykjavik, the nation's capital. While they do cost three to four times more than their conventional counterparts, the hydrogen-powered buses emit only water vapor, and are twice as efficient as their smoke-spewing predecessors -- leading to financial savings in the long run.
The overall success of this effort will depend largely upon the efficiency of the hydrogen fuel cells utilized, and any technological advances that reduce the great expense of creating the hydrogen needed. To that end, car makers from Japan and America have already examined Iceland's hydrogen projects for the purpose of discussing fuel cell design. As a positive sign, the world's first hydrogen filling station opened in Reykjavik in April of 2003. If all goes as planned, Iceland may end up getting a lot more attention from the world, especially as oil production declines and prices rise. At that point, the only oil used on the island will be in airplanes flying into Reykjavik's airport to transport foreign officials interested in learning how Iceland transformed itself into a "green land".
Centuries ago, people were well aware of the many uses of hemp, which is a versatile fiber plant -- not to be confused with marijuana grown for narcotic purposes. As the oldest cultivated fiber plant on earth, hemp has a long and notable history intertwined with our own. It was used extensively for making paper, prior to cotton replacing it for non-ecological reasons. For instance, the first Gutenberg Bible was printed on hemp paper, as were the first drafts of the U.S. Declaration of Independence. As a raw material for making cloth, hemp was second to none for strength and durability. The sails and ropes used on the great sailing ships were fashioned from hemp, as was the first flag of the American colonial states, and the original Levi's blue jeans.
Hemp has innumerable industrial and manufacturing uses. Back in 1941, Henry Ford built a car made from the fibers of hemp and wheat straw, creating a primitive plastic. Modern automobile makers have not forgotten that potential, as evidenced by reports that BMW is experimenting with wheels utilizing hemp in place of fiberglass matte. Not only can hemp be employed in the construction of motor vehicles, but it can provide the fuel to power them. In addition to being completely renewable (unlike the oilfields in the Middle East), hemp is quite an efficient fuel, able to produce 10 times more methanol than can corn. Hemp's versatility will no doubt be further explored in the future, as the modern world continues to burn hydrocarbons that are nearing peak production. Given the appropriate chemical and materials technology, anything that is made from a hydrocarbon can instead be created from a carbohydrate such as hemp fiber.
Hemp may receive little respect nowadays from the general public, but truly should be considered an environmental superstar. Hemp plastic is biodegradable, while synthetic plastic is not. Hemp plants reduce erosion and nourish the soil. In stark contrast to oil, hemp burns clean and free of sulfur. While half of the pesticides in the U.S. are sprayed on cotton plants, hemp plants need no such pollutants to flourish, and are naturally resistant to mildew, unlike cotton. In terms of replacing wood products, hemp is far more cost-effective, because it can be cultivated in less than four months, and yields four times more paper than trees can.
Nowadays, one of the most common applications of hemp fiber is for creating paper, just as it was ages ago. Hemp paper is stronger and longer lasting than paper made from wood pulp, and is free of chlorine and other acids. In terms of reusability, there is no contest, because hemp paper can be recycled seven times, while wood pulp paper can only muster four times. Cotton-based paper is more recyclable than wood pulp, but involves more chemicals than hemp in its manufacture, and does not last as long as hemp paper. If and when U.S. authorities finally get over hemp's unfortunate and ill-founded stigma, then people will likely gain a renewed respect for this hearty plant, and you may see it making a welcome comeback on a desk or in a gas tank near you.
For an example of hemp paper, please see the featured products below.
The Natural Zone
As part of its mission to offer quality and earth-friendly items to customers, the Natural Zone makes available a wide range of hemp paper products, none of which contain any virgin wood fibers. The colorful greeting cards, writing paper, drawing paper, and envelopes are produced by Hemp Heritage without the use of chlorine or other acids. Rembrandt, Van Gogh, and other masters painted on canvases made of hemp, and now you can, too!
Just in time for Valentine's Day, Organic Bouquet offers a variety of beautiful organic flowers that are safe not only for the environment, but for the farm workers who cultivate them. The lovely roses, lavender, lilies, and other bouquets are guaranteed to last at least seven days from the time of delivery, and are shipped directly to you from the farm. Treat yourself or someone special on Valentine's Day or any day!
Finding Products Quicker
Navigation on the PristinePlanet.com Web site has been revamped with a new "quick find" capability, added to the site's homepage, as well as the individual product category pages, near the top of each. Drop-down menus display 90 product and organization categories, and adjacent "GO!" buttons allow the site visitor to easily jump to any of those pages. This new feature complements the capability to search the PristinePlanet.com site utilizing the Search fields found on every page, in the upper right.
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