Two secondary school students from Co. Cork has received a national environmental prize for its initiative promoting the benefits of growing hemp.
Cian and Caoimhe Walsh of St Brogan's College in Bandon, Co. Cork, have been awarded the ECO-UNESCO Young Environmentalist all-Ireland award for their project "Hemp for a Sustainable Future."
The students' project aims to raise awareness of the social, economic, and environmental benefits of hemp cultivation, as well as how the crop can promote sustainable farming in Ireland.
According to the twins, Cian, a transition year student, and Caoimhe, a second-year student, hemp has over 50,000 possible product uses and can help with sustainable cultivation. According to Cian hemp insulation, hempcrete (an eco-friendly alternative to concrete), textiles, and hemp bioplastic are among the possibilities for the hemp crop.
Their plan calls for hemp processing facilities to enable farmers to use hemp as a sustainable alternative land use while also creating jobs in rural areas.
Cian was able to present his hemp recommendations at the Dáil Éireann after participating in the RTÉ Youth Assembly on Climate in 2019. The government has committed to exploring the possibility of cultivating fibre crops such as hemp in the current Programme for Government.
Cian and Caoimhe have conducted research, hosted hemp information meetings, developed a website, and met with public representatives to discuss hemp. For research purposes, they produce their own hemp crop.
Caoimhe said they feel farmers are being put under increased pressure to provide climate action without being provided with viable alternatives to their existing farming methods. Hemp captures on average 8.9 tonnes of carbon dioxide per acre, making it more efficient at carbon sequestration than trees.
Cian added that data reveals that government investment in the hemp business has the potential to produce 82,000 employment over the next eight years. Through the building of Ireland's ‘hempire,' they expect that Ireland will be able to meet its climate action and rural development plans.
Cian was picked as the winner of the Teagasc prize at this year's BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition, so this isn't the project's first triumph (BTYSTE).
The Young Environmentalist Awards, sponsored by ECO-UNESCO, are an all-Ireland awards programme that recognises and celebrates young people who work to better the environment through raising environmental consciousness. Over 49,000 young people have participated in the ECO-UNESCO Young Environmentalist programme since its inception in 1999.
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