The legal marijuana movement continues to build momentum as more states update their laws to allow for the industry. However, a deficiency of eco-friendly regulations imposed on it is enabling the rise of unsustainable marijuana cultivation and packaging procedures. Unfortunately, cultivation for this burgeoning industry will destroy the planet if left the way it is, and measures are needed to make weed a more sustainable crop.
This post discusses some sustainability issues with growing marijuana, followed by six ways to reduce your carbon footprint while farming it. This way, you can live responsibly and help protect the environment while still being successful in this industry!
Sustainability Issues with Marijuana Crops
Even though the legal marijuana industry is in its nascency, recent sustainability studies like the one published in the journal Nature that was conducted by the University of Vermont keep track of the growing trend and outline the adverse effects of weed production on the environment.
The researchers studied how much energy, fertilizer, water, and land were utilized for different crops, including marijuana. Then, they examined how much pollution each crop produced as a by-product as they grew.
Once they compared all these factors to each other, they determined that growing cannabis is more harmful to the environment than any other crop cultivated in the U.S. In fact, weed topped all the categories, releasing an alarming 17 million pounds of greenhouse gas emissions nationwide.
Another study by Colorado State University examined the relationship between cannabis cultivation and greenhouse gas emissions. Their results showed high amounts of nasty emissions baked into marijuana during processing.
6 Ways to Reduce the Carbon Footprint of Marijuana Farming
Although there is a great deal of unsustainable cannabis cultivation and packaging practices happening, the news isn’t all bad. For instance, many leaders in the industry are doing their part to help minimize the negative effects of marijuana cultivation in the air and on wildlife and waterways. Here are six innovative ways cannabis companies are making a difference that you can employ too:
1. Cutting Water Consumption
It takes about six months to grow enough marijuana plants to produce just one pound of pot. Plus, cannabis plants are very thirsty, and their cultivation leads to around 18-27 trillion gallons of water being guzzled by them annually.
In response, eco-conscious cannabis growers are tapping into ways to conserve water. Some outside-of-the-box thinkers are using Aeroponics technology to cut down water usage. Aeroponics grows vegetation in a soilless medium and uses air or mist to thrive. The process leads to more sustainability, as it produces 30% more plants three times faster while using 98% less water.
2. Reducing Energy Consumption
Growing marijuana plants out in the open or in greenhouses reduces energy consumption. Other ways marijuana cultivators can lessen their carbon footprint include:
- Adopting solar panels and wind turbines to power lighting
- Using energy-efficient evaporative cooling systems (swamp coolers) for cooling instead of air conditioning
- Switching to LED lighting for grow lights. LED bulbs aren’t as hot as traditional lighting and consume less energy. They also reduce the water that is lost to evaporation
3. Minimizing the Need for Harmful Chemicals
While the outdoor cultivation of marijuana is an energy-efficient solution, with it comes the need for chemicals to contend with pests that want to munch on your weed. Fortunately, there are actions you can take to keep people and the world we live in from harm:
- Only use natural pesticides and fertilizers
- Extract pure water by using aquifers
- Supplement water for the plants by collecting rainwater
- Use CO2 extraction methods vs. less eco-friendlier ones like ethanol and hydrocarbon
4. Be Mindful of Plastic Use
It’s essential only to use plastic when necessary. Rather than packaging items in petroleum-based plastics, consider eco-friendly alternatives to plastic, such as bioplastics, recycled cardboard, glass, hemp and durable and recyclable glass bottles that help maintain the cannabis’s purity without harming the environment.
5. Use Regenerative Farming
In cases of marijuana cultivation, regenerative farming works in the environment’s favor. For example, the technique utilizes seed-to-seed growing practices, and marijuana cultivators can oversee the whole life cycle of their plants. In addition, regenerative farming also offers two benefits: 1) It promotes the biodiversity of the soil, and 2) it doesn’t require the use of chemical-laden fertilizers and pesticides.
6. Effective Waste Disposal
There is a lot of marijuana-related garbage generated annually in the U.S. alone – somewhere in the range of 150 million tons of it! This waste includes leaves, stems, cannabis packaging and more. As with any other agricultural or retail business, the bulk of it winds up in landfills where it emits polluting gases such as CO2 and methane.
To promote sustainability, cannabis companies are employing better waste disposal processes like those used in Compliant Cannabis Disposal Programs. Additionally, companies like GAIACA Waste Revitalization work with the cannabis businesses to only compost cannabis plant waste.
As you can see, the environmental impacts of cannabis cultivation have been vastly underestimated by the general public. Also, there's a lot of work involved to go green while growing your green. Nonetheless, we hope you enjoyed reading this post about how these issues will only become more pressing in years to come and how the cannabis industry is working to reduce its environmental impact. If you are involved in the cultivation of legal marijuana, you can see why it's important to do your part and work hard to reduce the negative impacts of your growing practices.