As the cannabis industry rapidly expands, it's important to take a closer look at the environmental impact of this growing business. From energy consumption to packaging and waste management, the cannabis industry has a lot of room for improvement when it comes to being environmentally sustainable. With some careful planning and effort, though, the cannabis industry can be a leader in eco-friendly practices. Read on to learn more about the environmental impacts of cannabis and how we can mitigate them!
The energy demands of a grow operation can be quite high. In Canada's harsh winters, if you want to grow year-round, you need to keep your cannabis plants indoors for them all survive! To flourish indoors, plants require high-intensity lights, heating, ventilation, and dehumidifiers - all of which require energy to keep running.
On top of the energy use in these facilities, cannabis plants also require a substantial amount of water every day to stay healthy and grow into the beautiful buds we enjoy in so many ways.
Then there’s the waste issue. While we couldn’t find any stats for Canada, there was an estimated 1.7 MILLION pounds of plant waste from Washington cannabis production in the first three years alone. That’s a lot of plant material!
Finally, we arrive on packaging. This is one that hits close to home for us at Bud Supply because it’s something we see every day. Current government regulations state that packaging MUST have certain details on it. This increases the size of the packaging needed, which means more waste. Some reports have mentioned up to 70 grams of packaging for a single gram of cannabis, and on the first year of legalization, over 10,000 pounds of cannabis packaging was thrown into Canadian landfills.
That’s a lot of not-so-great things that aren’t being talked about in the cannabis industry. So, what should we do? Stop smoking weed? Don’t be ridiculous!
The more these issues are highlighted and talked about, the more changes we’ll see start to happen. We hopped on a call with eco conscious growers to spark conversation and to learn how they are reshaping the industry with sustainable practices. If you want to watch the whole thing, the video is linked below (with timestamps for each grower), but we’ll post the quick details for you to read below.
PS: If you’d like to go straight to what Bud Supply is doing to improve eco sustainability, skip to 48:09 in the video.
From Prairie Grass Cannabis, we heard from Co-Owners Olivia and Rebecca. They talk about how their fourth-generation family farm uses sustainable cultivation methods to push towards a small carbon footprint.
When building, they kept their facility small to lower their carbon footprint and to pay close attention to their small batch, craft product.
Transportation is also a heavy factor in the carbon footprint of cannabis. Many companies will grow the product in one place, process in another, and package at even another facility. Prairie Grass keeps as much of the processes as they can at the same physical location to save on transportation costs and emissions. This also let’s them keep a close eye on the product from seed to finish.
Lastly, alongside their craft indoor cannabis facility, they also grow commercial food and hemp outdoors at a larger scale. To grow these crops outdoors, Prairie Grass uses sunlight and organic soil that’s been composted using their plant waste from the cannabis facility. They rotate crops to keep the soil healthy and use cover crops for pest minimization.
They’ve tried multiple different cultivation techniques but have found that processing by hand yields the highest quality and has the lowest carbon footprint. These ladies really are stewards of the land they cultivate!
These guys are passionate about the environment on both the business and the personal side. Jonas, the Master Grower at Joi mentions how most of them use various methods to compost different things in their day today lives.
He mentions that with use of their automated controls, they can make finite adjustments to cater to exactly what the plants need. This saves on wasted water, and nutrients. If that wasn’t enough, they check their wastewater to see what else they can adjust or cut back on. Saving even more water and nutrients that would have otherwise been wasted.
On the note of water, they use an ozone generation system to clean their city water. They chose ozone generation over reverse osmosis as with most methods, you need to use 2 gallons of water to get 1 gallon of reverse osmosis water which is a lot of waste.
They use compostable products when possible, including their paper towels, cleaning products, and even their garbage bags!
When it comes to compostable products, they use coco coir for their grow medium as it composts well (in contrast to rockwool that many other growers use). They are also switching their processes over to be able to compost their waste plant matter rather than the current standard of mixing it with kitty litter.
To save on energy they’re changing their lights from HID to LED lights and are well underway on that transition.
Lastly, they use glass jars instead of plastic jars. Glass jars not only keep the product fresher for longer, they also can be upcycled by consumers into countless things!
Scott from Sugarbud talks about how the Boutique Grower focuses on customer satisfaction with everything they do. They keep a small facility that efficiently handles cultivation and processing very efficiently. They use LED lighting throughout their grow-rooms which is not only more energy efficient in terms of power, but also a lower overall heat. That means less work venting heat from their facility.
They keep a very lean operating model to use as much of their facility space for growing as possible.
They encourage team members who live farther from the facility to carpool effectively lowering emissions everywhere they can. While it may be a small thing, everything together definitely makes a difference!
Lastly for packaging they use glass jars which can be upcycled. When they need to use plastic, Joi makes sure to use recyclable plastics to follow suit with sustainability.
Coast Mountain Cannabis
This new producer from Pemberton, BC works closely with the wilderness around them to grow their product. Their initial water input is taken from glacial run-off, and their soil is taken from nutrient rich soil near that same run-off. They create a full organic living soil filled with all kinds of biodiverse lifeforms.
To keep biodiversity, they plant basil, horsetail, basil, and other plants for a more natural approach to pest control and nutrient development!
Finally, Coast Mountain Cannabis has pledged to plant a tree for every plant they harvest! This is an awesome initiative that we’re excited to support! They live in the heart of BC where fires ravage the province every year and personally care about forestation and how to grow it.
The cannabis industry is growing by leaps and bounds, but it’s not very environmentally friendly at the moment. We love the creative solutions that companies like Prairie Grass Inc., Joi Botanicals, Sugarbud, and Coast Mountain Cannabis are putting into practice to make their businesses more sustainable. If you’re looking for a great cannabis experience with an eye towards sustainability, we highly recommend supporting one of these companies. Thanks for reading!