The cannabis industry has a sustainability problem, but you can help solve some issues in eleven simple steps.
It’s no longer a secret that cannabis production is contributing to harmful greenhouse gases. That’s why sustainability is a buzzphrase among cannabis growers these days. By reducing carbon emissions in cannabis production, you’ll not only save the planet, but you’ll also save money.
So what steps can a cannabis business take to become more sustainable?
It starts with data collection.
Start collecting data now on pesticide usage, growing medium(s), nutrients, inputs, electricity, gas or oil, packaging materials, and even labor.
By keeping detailed records, a cannabis business can establish benchmarks to start making sustainability-focused changes. From there, you can start to reduce, recycle, or reuse – and save money!
11 Simple Steps to Sustainability in Cannabis Cultivation
So here are some concrete steps you can take to grow cannabis more sustainably. It’s not something you’ll achieve overnight, but it’s a good start to reduce the inputs that are putting our planet – and your pocketbook – at risk.
Can you grow more products with the same inputs? By producing more products with the same inputs, you can save thousands of dollars and conserve energy. You can achieve this by increasing the number of crop cycles per year and growing denser plants. Non Photoperiod genetics, aka auto-flowering plants, require less time and hence less energy to produce. However, some may argue that the yield and THC percentage isn’t as great as photoperiodic plants.
Companies are literally reaching the ceiling by adding 2-3 shelves onto their grow rooms. This requires a substantial investment, but it may be worth it in the long run.
Evaluate your energy usage
Keeping track of your light and heating bills could go a long way in reducing energy usage and saving money. For instance, upgrading to a high-performance HVAC and lighting system could save as much as 30%.
Join the Sustainable Cannabis Coalition (SCC)
Last January, a diverse group of cannabis cultivation experts got together to form the SCC. These folks will be working with industry peers to identify ways to become more sustainable in this burgeoning industry.
Use a sustainable growing medium like coco coir.
Coco coir is a waste product of coconuts, and it’s a sustainable growing medium. However, not all companies that manufacture coco coir do so sustainably. For example, Riococo WorldWide is committed to sustainable manufacturing practices, including relying on the energy from the sun to dry and sterilize products rather than using carbon-generating heaters and lights. In contrast, growing media such as Rockwool doesn’t break down in the environment and, as a result, isn’t the most sustainable option.
Keep a clean greenhouse
Proper sanitation, in most cases, means less pesticide use. Cannabis growers should already be using organic pesticides. Switching to organic fertilizers is also a way to be more sustainable. Generally speaking, it takes more energy to produce chemical pesticides and fertilizers than it does its organic counterparts.
Here comes the sun!
Like High Life Farms in Michigan, some growers are adding greenhouses to their facility to take advantage of the sun. Greenhouse cannabis growers can time their growth cycles to absorb the sun’s rays, turning off the lights during peak solar periods.
Reduce water usage
If you’re not already taking steps to curb your water usage, you should be. The lack of water, particularly in the Southwest, is only going to get worse. Traditional growers have been capturing water runoff for years now and recycling it into their plants. Trail Blazin’, out of Bellington, WA, designed a system to recapture water from air conditioners and dehumidifiers, reducing water usage by 90 percent.
Pay attention to packaging
You only have to think of that fast-food item you recently bought to understand the waste involved in packaging. Cannabis is no exception. Seek out packaging companies that offer biodegradable options or consider using recyclable products, such as glass or tin.
Consider natural ventilation for growing cannabis in your greenhouse.
Greenhouses that draw air through the ceiling are much more efficient at cooling than side vented greenhouses. Of course, all greenhouses should have automated controls that can achieve optimum heating and cooling efficiency to save energy.
Most cannabis production takes place indoors, gobbling up about 1% of the national electricity use, or $6 billion each year, and sends up 4600 kg of carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere, or the equivalent of the emissions of 3 million automobiles, according to one study. So for obvious reasons, solar power is becoming more appealing to cannabis growers.
Climate change, resource availability, and business costs will be the driving force for change in the years to come. Cannabis growers must meet the challenges ahead to diminish their environmental impact and please a public that cares about the environment and cannabis