Cannabis plant with text CBD Cannabidiol, non-psychoactive superimposed

Agriculture is the one of the largest contributors to global emissions and climate change, and this includes the growing of cannabis. Hemp is a variety of the cannabis plant that is high in CBD, the highlighted ingredient in products swarming the commercial market with claims about their medicinal properties.

If cannabis taxes Earth, and hemp is an arm of the cannabis genus, it begs the question: Are CBD products eco-friendly or just causing more problems for the environment?

CBD 101

Cannabidiol — CBD — is a chemical compound that comes from both hemp and marijuana. But hemp-derived CBD is legal while marijuana-derived CBD is not, even though they’re from the same plant family — cannabis.

Hemp has a negligible concentration of THC, the psychoactive element in marijuana, and is cultivated to have a high concentration of CBD, a compound that affects the receptors in your body that are responsible for regulating pain, inflammation, and body temperature, among other functions. Hence, there is a market swarming with CBD products, from oils and dog treats to gummies and bath bombs.

But how is the cultivation of hemp and CBD — and the growth of the CBD industry — affecting the environment?

How Hemp Grows

Marijuana is an agricultural crop, much of which is grown indoors to control variables like soil nutrients. These factors mean that water is needed in abundance to nurture the plants as well as light, which creates heat, which creates a need for HVAC to regulate temperature. For any type of cannabis that is grown indoors, energy is used in far greater amounts that outdoor cultivation.

Where does CBD fit in? Turns out, hemp-derived CBD may prove to be the most eco-friendly crop among cannabis farms.

“Hemp is an ancient plant that has been farmed for centuries. It is a hardy crop and relatively easy to grow, especially for small family farms, which is one of the reasons growing and selling hemp-derived products was part of the 2018 Farm Bill,” says Martha Van Inwegen, president and founder of Life Elements, Inc., a company based in Atascadero, California, that produces nature-based topical body care that contains CBD.

combine harvesting hemp crop
Combine harvesting hemp crop. Image: Adobe Stock

Farmers usually grow hemp outdoors to maximize the size of the plant quickly. Hemp requires minimal water compared to the most popular commercial farm crops, according to Joseph Nunez, founder of EcoGen Laboratories. “The plant needs roughly 25 to 30 inches of rainwater to thrive. We collect rainwater within our reservoirs and use drip irrigation. Hemp is essentially zero-waste and we utilize all aspects of the plant,” Nunez claims.

Nevertheless, the carbon footprint left by the unavoidable trial-and-error for the mass-production of industrial hemp could leave a major stain on the environment. It takes a lot of hemp to make a little CBD. While some hemp farms have their methodology well-established, agronomists say that growing hemp now is generally inefficient and expensive.

The answer to CBD’s environmental footprint is still being worked out, but it has the potential to be a sustainable industry. The best producers have already established transparent and accountable sourcing, giving consumers environmentally friendly options when shopping.

Eco-Friendly CBD in the Marketplace

The CBD business is on track to be a multi-billion-dollar industry. It’s no surprise that CBD products are available in multitudes of forms and concentrations from hundreds of companies. Some incarnations rise above the rest because of how the CBD is sourced, how friendly the packaging is, or how sustainable their operation.

Every consumer of CBD will identify their favorites in the marketplace, but there are brands that stand out for their practices and unique products.

  • The hemp CBD-infused craft coffees from Subduction Coffee+Hemp include Keurig-compatible coffee pods that are 100 percent recyclable or compostable, from pod to packaging.
  • Hempure’s organically grown, full-spectrum CBD balms and oils come in glass packaging accompanied by guides on finding the right product and dosage.
  • The pain-relieving products from Vital Body Therapeutics include the convenient CBD On-the-Go Pain Relief Balm as well as a cream with a satisfying wood lid and glass jar.
  • CBD skincare and topical company Clean Coconut packages body scrubs and muscle rubs in recyclable materials and avoids extra packaging to maintain a minimal waste standard.
  • The eco-friendly skincare products from emerginC’s Rawceuticals use the antioxidant and antibacterial properties of CBD to protect and regenerate skin, with paper packaging imprinted with nontoxic, vegetable-based inks.
  • Plant People offers organic hemp and herbal supplements with CBD and, for every product sold, plants a tree. Similarly, Evopure in the UK, which produces an organic CBD oil, has partnered with 1% for the Planet, working with Trees for Cities to offset carbon emissions.
  • Alive Market has made a name for themselves with their no-till living soil practice and therapeutic products like Infused Body Butter in a petite tin.
  • Extract Labs offers a comprehensive menu of CBD products, with stand-outs like their CBD lip balm, CBD shatters, and CBD crumbles.
  • The hemp used by Flora + Bast is grown through regenerative agriculture practices alongside fruits, vegetables, and medicinal herbs.
  • The plant-based wellness company Luna Volta produces organic hemp oil that uses 100 percent plantable, biodegradable packaging beneficial to the declining bee population.
  • Honest Marijuana Company utilizes nanobidiol technology for an ultra-quick and clean onset of effects in their honey, gummies, and pain relief hemp cream.
  • Color Up Therapeutics produces a glass-bottled Soothe Scalp Serum infused with CBD that is intended to reduce flaking and alleviate dry, itchy scalp.