For most, being environmentally conscious is important. We tend to think deforestation, fossil fuels, landfills, and agriculture are the main issues. However, harmful practices in many industries require scrutiny, yet most remain shrouded in secrecy. We fail to consider the environmental effects of growing enough weed, enough to supply all the folks searching “weed delivery Los Angeles” in Google.
The impact of the cannabis industry on the environment and on climate change is huge. Despite all of its “green” monikers, staying green while growing green requires significant effort. Cannabis is not environmentally friendly. It uses enormous quantities of water, lighting, land, and packaging, most of which is sadly single use. If producers are not careful, growing weed can leave too large a footprint.
1.Reduce Regulations Causing High Waste Levels
Regulations governing the cannabis industry are a direct cause of its unsustainability. For example, most states only allow growers to grow indoors. Very few permit outdoor growing, which is far less energy intensive. States mandate indoor growing for safety and security reasons, but the major disadvantage of this is the exorbitant energy needs required for this type of cultivation.
What is more, there are strict requirements for cannabis packaging. All products must be childproof. All must have warning labels. All this single-use plastic is choking landfills and contributing to waste on a grand scale. Fortunately, the industry is improving itself. Cannabusinesses are exploring more eco-friendly alternatives countrywide. It is time for lawmakers to follow suite.
2.Decrease Consumption of Energy
In states that do not allow outdoor growing, cultivators have no choice but to squander energy. These rules force growers to use much more energy than is necessary to grow weed. Plants need light. If they do not get it from the sun, they must get it from energy-heavy grow lights. During their vegetative phase, they require at least 18 hours of light every day. When flowering, they need 12 hours. Lots.
There is also the energy required to power all other systems too, such as the heating, the fans, the dehumidifiers and air-conditioners. The energy required to power all this is excessive, yet growers cannot operate indoors without it. According to the New York Times, one study found indoor grows using around one percent of the national grid, enough to power around two million average homes.
In the end, the only real way to reduce energy consumption and lower the carbon footprint of cannabis cultivation is go outside. The industry would fare better if it moved production from inside to greenhouses and the wild outdoors. For now, growers must comply with indoor regulations. However, there are still ways to grow more sustainably and with more care for the environment:
- Use LED grow lights wherever possible. They use less energy, maintain lower temperatures, and decrease the quantity of water lost to evaporation.
- Make use of wind and solar energy to power grow lights.
- Replace traditional heat, ventilation, and air-conditioning, or HVAC, systems with chilled water systems. These cool and dehumidify without having exorbitant energy requirements.
3.Lower Exposure to Chemicals and Water Usage
While growing outdoors is more energy-friendly, it still has a major environmental impact. Firstly, it depletes water resources and, secondly, it requires the use of pesticides. Cannabis loves water. These are thirsty plants. Large-scale grows can deplete water at alarming rates. According to New Frontier, a cannabis analytics firm, these crops drank around 2.8 gallons of water in 2020. This will double by 2025.
What is more, besides worrying about water usage, there are chemicals and pesticides to consider outdoors, as well. Consumers do not want hidden chemicals in the products they ingest, regardless of the industry. From a health and environmental viewpoint, there are ways that both big and small growers can reduce these negative impacts:
- Use natural pesticides.
- Use natural fertilizers.
- Collect rainwater wherever possible.
- Source water from aquifers.
- Utilize environmentally friendly methods of extraction, such as CO2 extraction technology.
4.Use an Alternative to Plastic
Since single-use plastics mandated for childproofing and labeling pollute the environment with so much waste, it is important to explore solutions. The way we package weed matters too, not just the materials we use. Plastic waste associated with the cannabis industry proves its biggest challenge. While the law requires clear labels and childproof packaging, the waste it alone generates is very, very concerning.
In fact, the cannabis industry manages to generate 150 million tons of plastic waste all on its own each year. As this sector grows with each person searching Google for “cannabis delivery near me,” the need for safe packaging solutions has never been more urgent. Fortunately, there are ways that cannabusinesses and users can de-emphasize the use of plastics. Everyone should:
- Initiate recycling incentives, such as discounting customers that return reusable plastics.
- Actively choose eco-friendly plastic alternatives, such as glass, recycled cardboard, hemp, or bioplastics.
- Compost on site.
- Grow their own weed.
Support Sustainable Companies
Consumers have a duty to support environmentally sustainable companies. It does not help to support those that do harm. The cannabis industry has a responsibility to certify sustainable products, much the same way that companies certify food. If looking for “weed delivery Los Angeles” in Google, expand your search to include those investing in environmentally conscious practices.
Luckily, it is possible to create a sustainable industry for cannabis. It starts with growers and producers, but consumers will ultimately be the ones to drive meaningful change. Growing your own buds is still the friendliest way, since it eliminates the need for packaging and large-scale energy consumption. While everybody everywhere loves green, we can all do much to make it greener. Together.