From the outside looking in, the marijuana industry might appear very eco-friendly. After all, it involves harvesting plants — what could be greener than that? But there’s a darker environmental underbelly to many cannabis operations and, in a time where legalization is sweeping the nation, something has to be done.
Confronting the Problem
The problem with marijuana production is that most growing is done inside warehouses, greenhouses and other carefully monitored environments. As such, growers have very specific light and temperature requirements. Paul Isenbergh, who owns three cannabis-growing facilities in the hotbed market of Denver, Colo., told The Guardian he pays at least $4,000 per month for electricity. And when you consider that there are thousands of people just like Isenbergh, it’s not hard to believe a New Frontier study that says 1 percent of all U.S. energy is used to grow cannabis.
When it comes to outdoor growing, the situation isn’t much better. The pesticides used to protect the crops often pollute bodies of water and kill creatures.
“A bunch of fish may turn up dead in a creek, so we’ll go look, walk upstream and inevitably run into a marijuana growth site,” Patrick Foy from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife told the International Business Times.
3 Things Industry Leaders Can Do
Clearly there’s a problem. While making the public aware of the issue is one thing that can be done, it’s ultimately up to the leaders of the industry to take charge — and many of them are doing so.
Here are a few specific things that are being done, or can be done, to make the cannabis industry greener.
1. Improve Supply Chain Visibility
For cannabis dispensaries, marijuana growers, and manufacturing and sales operations, visibility is an absolute must. It’s impossible to run a profitable and sustainable business without having a clear understanding of what’s happening within the business. Thankfully, progress is being made here.
Agrisoft Seed to Sale software is one product leading the way. Developed specifically for the cannabis industry, Agrisoft makes cannabis compliance a breeze and ensures businesses can track inventory and remain 100 percent accountable to regulators and lawmakers.
2. Dial Back Energy Usage
Energy consumption is obviously a big deal. In order for growers and harvesters to do their part, they’ll have to discover what it looks like to dial back energy usage without compromising the quality of their product.
According to Amy Andrle, who runs the only cannabis retail store in Denver with official sustainability certification, there are some specific things cannabis-related businesses must do. She encourages the use of LED lighting and avoiding peak demand by staggering when lights are turned on and off. She also suggests hand-watering plants and limiting gray water productions.
3. Enhance Packaging
Did you know that 300 million tons of plastic are produced every year — and that half of it is intended for single use? This might seem like an unrelated problem, but the reality is that almost all cannabis products use plastic in packaging. (In a recent list of approved cannabis packaging types that the Oregon Liquor Control Commission put out, 28 out of 29 options included plastic.)
Believe it or not, the cannabis industry can have a very real impact on the reduction of single-use plastic packaging consumption. Many companies are already working hard to do their part, but it’s important that more join the fold.
Make Marijuana Green Again
As the decriminalization of marijuana continues to happen in more and more states around the nation, it’s important for marijuana growing, packaging and sales to become greener.
Sustainability is what will allow the industry to move forward.
Feature image courtesy of Shutterstock