Sustainability in the Cannabis Industry
The topic of sustainability has been more prevalent in the news lately, and the cannabis industry is no exception. A Nielson study published in 2018 found that 79 percent of Gen X and 85 percent of Millenials surveyed said it is “extremely” or “very” important that companies implement programs to help the environment. So what does this mean for the cannabis industry?
Companies and industries are expected now more than ever to have procedures in place that offset their carbon footprint. The cannabis industry, specifically when it comes to growing, cultivation, and extraction, has historically been scrutinized for its environmental impact. Even before the first waves of cannabis legalization, one percent of all electricity used in the U.S. was attributed to cannabis. Politically, these figures have been used as leverage against further cannabis legalization in states without a medical or recreational marijuana program.
The electricity consumption, water consumption, and packaging requirements associated with growing, cultivating, extracting, manufacturing, and supplying cannabis products are all factors that contribute to the cannabis industry’s overall environmental impact. While these processes are unavoidable, leaders in the industry have developed ways to maximize their sustainability efforts while also implementing programs that offset their carbon footprint.
Implementing LED Technology
One way that cannabis farms have offset their energy usage is to incorporate LED grow lights in their facilities. Not only are LED lights 60-70 percent more energy-efficient than incandescent lighting, but they also last longer and emit almost no heat, reducing or eliminating the need for on-site HVAC systems.
Water consumption is another major factor that contributes to the environmental impact of cannabis production. One way that cannabis growers can make the most out of the water used is by implementing closed-circuit desalination (CCD) and reverse osmosis (RO) water reclamation systems. These systems circulate reclaimed water but also clean wastewater before it is discarded.
Reducing Energy Usage
In addition to implementing LED grow lights, the right way for cannabis growers to offset their energy usage is by incorporating more sun-grown cannabis. Sun-grown cannabis uses far less energy than cannabis grown indoors and at a much lower cost.
Utilizing Renewable Energy
One way to make growing cannabis indoors a more sustainable practice is by utilizing renewable energy sources whenever possible. Incorporating solar panels is becoming increasingly popular, and some rural growers have built windmill systems.
Anyone who ever purchased an item from a dispensary knows how much packaging is involved. Most of this packaging is single-use plastic and is quickly thrown away by the consumer. Packaging recycling programs are crucial to offsetting the environmental impacts caused by packaging.