Marijuana Industry moves to become more Sustainable
Cannabis in America is estimated to be worth anywhere $28 billion in 2021 to roughly $197 billion currently as more states and the federal government are expected to legalize marijuana.
However, the cannabis industry is often associated with a negative environmental impact.
Indoor cannabis grows tend to consume a lot of energy because of their heating and cooling needs; cannabis plants require a lot of water, and they often emit aromatic compounds. The cannabis industry has also been criticized for generating a lot of waste, including plastic and paper consumer packaging as well as electronic waste from vapes.
Even so, the sector is still keen on becoming more sustainable.
Sustainable Cannabis Coalition, which was founded by cannabis cultivation and manufacturing experts from North Carolina, promotes best practices associated with environmental stability in marijuana cultivation and manufacturing. The coalition supports academic research into cannabis sustainability and works with international bodies that set standards, managing to persuade ASTM International to establish a cannabis sustainability subcommittee. Sustainable Cannabis Coalition cofounder Shawn Cooney, who currently chairs the panel, said that the subcommittee hopes to vote on cannabis standards early next year.
The group also promotes software solutions that make it possible for cultivators to easily monitor their energy consumption, waste generation, and other environmental impacts of cultivating and manufacturing cannabis.
Operators are aware that indoor grows aren’t the most sustainable way to grow cannabis, even though it results in higher-quality products, and they are trying to find ways to limit their energy use without compromising product quality. Switching to LED lights has allowed some cultivators to reduce their energy use, with Smokey’s Cannabis chief operating officer and chief financial officer Melinda Jadinger stating that the company’s dedicated LED lights grow room produced the highest-quality and quantity of cannabis.
Native Roots, a Colorado-based cannabis producer, has deployed thousands of LED lights that have cut its power use by half; in addition, the lights last five times longer than T5 bulbs used in both Native Roots Denver facilities. The company also uses high-pressure sodium lights as part of its heating strategy, which reduces its heating costs by taking advantage of the heat that would have otherwise been seen as a nuisance.
The Sustainable Cannabis Coalition has also funded a project at Dartmouth College to find ways for cannabis cultivation facilities to cut their energy use without having to switch to LED lights.
Addressing excessive water use in the industry is also a key issue. Although data shows that water consumption in the cannabis industry pales in comparison to other agricultural commodities such as wine, wheat and vegetables, the industry has room for improvement. A significant level of water use is actually driven by the illicit industry, which is estimated to use a mind-boggling 11.4 million to 36.3 million liters of water per day.
More cannabis facilities are adopting drip irrigation systems and moving away from hand watering, which makes it much easier to avoid overwatering and conserve water, with some cultivators even deploying sensors to monitor moisture levels.
These and many other adaptations are helping cannabis companies such as Prime Harvest Inc. to make their operations as eco-friendly as possible, given the growing trend of consumers scrutinizing the ESG practices of the company from which they buy products.