Looking back on her life it is now evident that Annie would end up as an eco-conscious, hemp-activist entrepreneur. She grew up on a couple hundred acres of land in the heart of beautiful Kentucky where she would get lost in the woods searching for oddities in the wilderness, but it was not until her adult-life that her tree-hugging spirit started to shine.
We’re thrilled to announce that Annie Rouse is our Hemp Goddess – protector of the innocent plant that is entirely useful for both human and environmental health. This is the first part of our Goddess Series – where we sit down with influential women who have a vibrant energy and a message to spread good in the world.
Annie’s passion for hemp and the environment is contagious. This year while at Electric Forest, she carried around a totem that said Think Hempy Thoughts. At one point someone asked her how to do it, so she looked at him with a smile and said, if you think consciously, you are thinking hempy thoughts. 🙂 We sat down with the Goddess to chat about some serious and fun topics.
WHAT IS INDUSTRIAL HEMP AND WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?
Historically, hemp was grown for rope for war efforts, but it has potential for a variety of natural-based products that are currently created from petroleum—products like cosmetics, plastics, diesel fuel, paints, varnishes and textiles. More recently, the excitement around hemp is for its health benefits and as a nutraceutical. Hemp foods contain all of the essential amino acids, nine of which are not naturally produced in the body but are found in hemp. They also have a near perfect Omega 6 to Omega 3 ratio, making hemp foods ideal for digestion and inflammation. The cannabinoids found in the flowers of hemp (and cannabis in general- so both hemp and marijuana) have been used for centuries for different ailments but more recently have been found to be beneficial for controlling the body’s endocannabinoid system (a system in the brain that controls mood, pain-sensation, memory and appetite). This breakthrough research has created a rapid increase in interest in the plant to the point that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services holds a patent for cannabinoids as a neuroprotectant and antioxidant.
Unfortunately, even with the wide variation in markets for industrial hemp products, for the last 70 years, American farmers have not been able to freely grow it because of regulation. Since 1970 industrial hemp has been regulated as a Controlled I Substance, putting it in the same drug category as heroin. Schedule I drugs are considered to have no medical value which is ironic given that a branch of the federal government holds a patent saying it has medical value. Not only is hemp (reminder: a non-psychoactive plant) considered as dangerous as heroin (the deadliest drug in the world), but it is considered more dangerous than opioids (derived from the poppy seed plant), drugs that are the leading cause of accidental deaths in the US.
WHAT IS YOUR SPIRIT ANIMAL?
An elephant, but now that I think about it, maybe a raccoon because of my unrelenting desire to pick up trash… 🙂
IF YOU COULD TIME TRAVEL TO AN ERA WHICH WOULD IT BE AND WHY?
The 1920s-1950s. It was an extraordinarily influential time in modern history and our second industrial revolution. Decisions made during that time have tremendously impacted modern society. It was a time of extreme wealth but also collapse in American society which parallels 2008; but not in the same industrial scale. In the 1920s and 1930s, 50% of America made their wealth on the farm, an actual family farm, not like the industrial farms of today. In the 1930s, America went through horrendous bankruptcy through the oversupply of agricultural resources spurred from WWI (among other problems).
Some influential individuals thought it would be best to stimulate the economy, through a concept known as Chemurgy, which took the surplus farm waste and made industrial products. However, other industry professionals and government officials preferred a different route- one based on extracting and processing petroleum into the same industrial products that could have been plant-based and therefore biodegradable. It was a pivotal time in history because once America chose the route of petro-chemical based products, the entire world adopted it and we haven’t looked back until more recently. And while we are realizing the impact, we are still stuck in a petroleum-based economy.
It also coincides with the exact timing that the U.S. government started regulating industrial hemp; so I can’t help but be completely enthralled by it. I would love to travel to this time to be both the fly on the wall but also to convince the decision makers that there would be major consequences down the road.
WHAT ARE YOUR TOP 3 FAVORITE SONGS OF ALL TIME?
‘Rollover’ by The String Cheese Incident; ‘One Day’ by Matisyahu; ‘Late in the Evening’ by Paul Simon
WHAT WAS YOUR ORIGINAL AOL SCREEN NAME?
It was 5th grade so it was horribly embarrassing. I want to say it was mouse9299. I’m not positive on the numbers because AOL gave them to me, but I chose ‘mouse’ because it was an unfortunate nickname at that stage in my life because I was so small, and my last name rhymed with it. For some weird reason, I thought it was cool…But I’m weird, so I guess it fit.
WHAT CRYSTAL DO YOU CONNECT WITH MOST?
I’ve connected most with a diamond, but I think I would connect with most symmetrical crystals.
WHAT IS YOUR GO-TO INSPIRATIONAL QUOTE?
“Life is too important to be taken seriously.” – Oscar Wilde
SUSHI OR PASTA? WHICH ROLL OR TYPE OF NOODLE?
That’s a really tough question. I love sushi but knowing what fish eat and how we catch them, it’s hard to eat it on a regular basis. So I’m going to go with Pasta- in which case, my mom’s lasagna. Nom nom nom.
WHAT WOULD YOUR DREAM VACATION INVOLVE?
Going someplace I have never been and doing something adventurous, but not too touristy. It could be hot or cold, as long as I got to be in nature, I would be happy!
WHERE IS YOUR HAPPY PLACE?
A certain spot in Northern Michigan.
IF YOU COULD GIVE YOUR 20-YEAR-OLD SELF ONE PIECE OF ADVICE, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
Home will always be there.
Annie has spent the past seven years researching hemp during undergraduate and graduate school. She continued her hemp studies in Canada under a U.S. Fulbright Scholarship now is back in Kentucky working to change the policy on industrial hemp, and simultaneously working to build the value chain.
Through her involvement with the industrial hemp industry, studying life cycle assessment, traveling the world, and practicing and sharing environmentally conscious purchasing decisions, led her to start a series of businesses. In 2015 she founded Kentucky Hemp Research Foundation, Inc., a non-profit organization focused on developing markets, improving production methods and educating the general public on hemp. She also started two parallel companies, Verified Life Cycle, LLC and Think Hempy Thoughts, Inc.. Verified Life Cycle, LLC is a third-party verification for industrial hemp and biomaterials that is rooted in life cycle assessment. She explains that while certifications like LEED, Fair Trade, and USDA Organic are beneficial they are not as encompassing as they could be. Verified Life Cycle, LLC looks at the life cycle of a farmer’s, processor’s, or manufacturer’s product, from the raw material to disposal. They analyze environmental, social and economic impacts and provide quantitative assessments on the impacts that lead to impact improvements and cost reductions. They then work with the parallel company, Think Hempy Thoughts, Inc. which operates as a brokerage and marketplace for verified goods. This way, the buyer can make a completely transparent purchasing decision and the industry grows in the most sustainable manner possible, minimizing the overall impact on Earth. When she created Think Hempy Thoughts, it started as a blog for her Fulbright research with the meaning of it as a philosophy of her life. The philosophy is to live for the Earth like the Earth lives for us and while we are here, take the opportunity to care for the grounds and learn about the variety of people along this crazy journey.
Studying the life cycle of industrial hemp did not just open her world to the environmental impact of hemp but of literally EVERYTHING we, as a human society, consume. Fortunately, there are ways to help, and she tries to do her part whenever possible. She gave up using plastic
bottles, plastic bags, including zip lock bags, and even looked into her refrigerator and cosmetics. Changing purchasing decisions on a few
is still impactful.
She also tries to do her part in society to counteract the trash, particularly if she feels she just wasted a lot of plastic. She organizes beach cleanups and always picks up litter. Traveling the world in her mid-20s, several times to underdeveloped communities, also opened her eyes to societal impacts. She says, “It’s hard to realize if people don’t visit these places because as an American we live in an incredibly privileged society and are often blinded by ‘first world problems.’” She knows everyone doesn’t have the same opportunity to travel to these places so she tries to take what she learned abroad, apply it to her life at home and educate whomever is interested on different environmental issues. She says she does this “because it isn’t just about the trash, it’s about how our decisions and consumption patterns impact everyone else in the world to some degree and will continue to impact future generations.”
FOLLOW OUR HEMP GODDESS!
Websites:Think Hempy Thoughts & Hemp Research Foundation
Join the #iSpyHemp campaign and win a free Think Hempy Thoughts t-shirt. For rules click here.
Credentials: U.S. Fulbright Scholar; MBA; MA in International Environmental Policy