In the early days of the cannabis industry, there was zero thought given to sustainability and eco-friendly practices, both from consumers and producers of the products. But as the number of states that are legalizing recreational marijuana grows—with federal legalization on the horizon—production practices have begun to change in line with the market.
Cannabis, in and of itself, is not an environmentally damaging crop. In fact, it is a fast growing and not overly fussy plant, which makes it a relatively safe bet for growers. But the practices that many growers engage in are not environmentally friendly at all. Indoor grow operations that are not built to be sustainable often use excessive amounts of electricity and water, pesticides and other chemicals, with little thought to waste. Even packaging, in the aim of meeting regulations, is often reduced to the use of non-recyclable, but cheaper, plastics.
The cannabis consumer of today is more discerning and concerned about what they ingest and what impact the growth operations of products they consume have on the environment, which ultimately impacts all of us. Like the growth of organic fruits and vegetables aisles in the grocery stores, along with the increase in consumers who are looking for ethically sourced and grown products, the cannabis industry is being shaped by consumer demand in new and wonderful ways.
“Already in 2015, a Nielsen report found that 73 percent of the Millennial generation was willing to pay more for sustainable goods.” (Source) Generation Z isn’t far behind, with about 62% willing to spend more for a sustainable product. Cannabis producers and retailers are catching on and changing their practices to meet the demands of their customers in a number of ways.
Growers that go with organic cultivation practices are tapping into a market of ready consumers who are very much concerned about what goes into their bodies and what the result of their consumption is on the environment.
Organic growers are devoted to the idea that their operations will not impact the earth the way more basic ones will. In particular, avoiding the use of pesticides and other chemicals, which would otherwise become part of the plant and be ingested in the smoking of marijuana, or with edibles, is a big part of their standards.
Typical industrial farming leverages toxic substances such as pesticides, metals and salts, damaging fertilizers and hydroponics to be able to mass-produce foods, to the detriment of the planet. As waste water drains, it takes along with it the toxins, metals, and salts into the groundwater, and ultimately to its final point of drainage: rivers, lakes, and the world’s oceans.
By using organic soil practices—including leveraging microorganisms that flourish naturally in quality soil—the plant can grow as it was meant to. The soil naturally retains nutrients and water, and the natural biodiversity of the soil, the area and the waterways remain intact. There are no pesticides or chemicals leaching into the ground and the resulting, more balanced soil content is naturally fertile and relatively pest free.
Because marijuana cultivation isn’t legal at a federal level, there aren’t current standards for organic growing of cannabis, but the same standards that apply to other agricultural products translate to marijuana.
The work of organizations like the Cannabis Certification Council (CCC) helps organic growers. The CCC is a non-profit standard-holding advocate for clean and sustainable business practices in the cannabis industry. Through their efforts as a non-profit, companies will be able to use the term “organic” meaningfully. Their efforts to create an industry wide certification standard for organic cannabis will benefit everyone, consumers and producers alike.
Sustainability in Production
A standard producer will use up to 200 gallons of water to get a single plant to the flowering stage. Indoor operations draw significantly on local power resources, municipal sewage systems, to say nothing of practices that waste water and energy, in growing and drying plants, with major potential impacts to the atmosphere from the climate control systems due to carbon outputs. And then there is the packaging!
Good companies want to set a new standard in growth management, with a philosophy that leverages the idea of creating as little impact to the environment as possible while still producing a very high quality (and intensity) product that consumers will want to buy.
Here are a few ways they get that done:
- All plants are air dried with an oven, in which any hexane and butane (bho) created is recycled to minimize our impact on the earth’s atmosphere.
- The light sources used to mimic natural light draw 30% less power than standard lighting.
- Minimize the consumption of local water by using well-established methods of irrigation and high-sediment filtration to clean wastewater.
- Depleted soil is recycled to a landscape company to create compost and reuse in their projects.
- Organic soil—OMRI (Organic Materials Review Institute) listed—and USDA approved organic fertilizers, to minimize the impact on the environment. All of the products used are approved by OMRI for organic production in federal level food processes. It’s good enough for groceries and it’s good enough for cannabis!
- A water chilled climate control system that uses 30% less power than a standard HVAC.
- Finally, in the creation of packaging, some pioneering companies have refreshed old tech—food grade tin canning—to produce safe, tamper and child proof packaging, which can be recycled. An added bonus? The tins prevent the buds from being pressed and crumbled, and eliminate oxidation from air, as well as the damage produced from exposure to light and humidity.
While at one point in time so many of these practices would have been considered niche, for the boutique cannabis consumer only, they are becoming more and more mainstream in all aspects of agricultural production. Cannabis is, as a result, no different. The way forward is with sustainable, ecologically sound practices, in every step of the cannabis cultivation process.
Serge Chistov is Chief Financial Partner, Honest Marijuana Company. With a state-of-the-art growery that launched in late 2015, Honest Marijuana is on a “road to pure,” using all natural methods of growing produce with zero waste and minimal environmental impact. Chemical free for the consumer and for Mother Earth, the company is a pioneer in the industry, using Earth-friendly recyclable tin cans with pure nitrogen to ensure only the highest level of integrity and quality. They launched Honest Blunts, the first organic hemp-wrapped, machine-rolled cannabis blunts as well as inventing the recently patented Nanobidiol™ Technology, which reduces non-water-soluble substances like cannabinoids into a nano-size so they can be added to transdermal patches, topical lotions, and other cannabis products for the cleanest, most efficient, and most discreet form of cannabis consumption. Learn more at https://honestmarijuana.com