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It’s Not Easy Being Green…When You’re in the Cannabis Business

January 30, 2019

The new cannabis customer may be turning away from pharmaceutical solutions in search of more natural remedies and aids. For them, sustainable approaches are an important lifestyle choice.

Common misconceptions have consumers believing that cannabis cultivation is on par with that of environmentally sustainable industrialized hemp.

Cannabis production, however, is a huge consumer of resources. According to a recent article by Diane Peters called “The Greening of Green”, cannabis plants consume huge amounts electricity: the city of Denver recently reported that 4% of its electricity was being used by the cannabis industry. Another report claims that 1% of U.S electrical output is used for cannabis cultivation. Plants need water – as much as 5 gallons of water per plant per day – as well as nutrients and fertilizer. They generate herbicide-filled wastewater that’s being dumped into sewers. The product attracts a ‘green’ crowd, but most production today is not very environmentally friendly.

Some companies are looking for ways to become more aligned to many of their customers’ greener values. “I realized that if we were growing cannabis in a way that destroyed the planet for a profit, we were no better than an oil company,” said Jesse Peter of Eco Firma Farms in Oregon.  Jesse and many green-minded producers are trying to turn down the lights and lower their costs and carbon footprint.

Sustainability will become a strong proof point for some brands. Customers will demand it, and search for evidence of greener practices among their product options.

Here are 4 ways cannabis will grow greener:

Electricity Use

Cannabis plants are mostly grown in buildings where they have 24/7 lights and supporting cooling and dehumidifying controls. Companies are seeking lower wattage solutions by using LED lights, which also lower the building’s heat. Some are building greenhouse facilities: the added cost of security for these outdoor buildings are offset by savings. Solar and wind energy sources are green choices for producers.

Innovation

Many innovative companies are looking to new and advanced ways to minimize their environmental impact. Licensed producers are managing wastewater using aquaponics—a system that combines conventional aquaculture and hydroponics. Plants are grown in water fertilized by waste produced by aquatic animals swimming in adjoining tanks. The systems swap water, wasting little, and using 90% less than conventional growing practices. Across the industry, similar closed-loop systems to manage and reuse water consumption are growing in usage and appreciation.

Packaging

Today, single-use plastics are a huge pain point for environmental sustainability. New cannabis companies would do well if they found ways to make sure they weren’t contributing to the pile. Reusable, biodegradable and compostable packaging will serve green consumers better.

Giving Back

Making a visible contribution to a cause can be another way to support and even bring action to sustainability issues, as well as other important contributions. Companies can support forests and promote conservation. Many producers keep their giving local, with donations to parks, food banks, school education programs, and community gardens.

 

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