The cannabis industry is one of the fastest-growing industries on the planet. By 2022, it is estimated that this industry will be worth around 22 billion dollars. The cannabis industry has taken off partly due to hemp/cannabis becoming more widely accepted and understood, and partly due to legislation which has helped to make it available to people who were limited because of the law.
Due to both its recreational effects and potentially medicinal qualities, hemp and cannabis have become a super popular choice as opposed to other remedies such as prescription drugs and the like, contributing to the boom in growth.
But despite its progress in terms of acceptance and stimulating the economy, cannabis has taken a toll on the environment. Environmentally friendly cannabis, therefore, has become a concern of rising popularity in the very green and earth-conscious mindset of today’s generation.
What is environmentally friendly cannabis? And is it even possible to grow cannabis in an environmentally friendly way? In this article, will be taking a look at what environment-friendly cannabis really means and if it’s even possible to produce such a thing.
Growing Hemp and Cannabis
In terms of the biology of the hemp plant, it generally requires a lot of water to maintain and to have a lush harvest. One single marijuana plant can easily use up to 6 gallons of water per day. That means that for producing 12,800 units of cannabis that are each an eighth of an ounce in size (which is the most common size sold), it would require about 24,000 gallons for 50 cannabis plants per growing season – from the initial planting to the final harvest.
When compared to other fruits, vegetables, and nuts, hemp requires significantly more water to produce from start to finish. All-in-all, each eighth of an ounce would have required 1.9 gallons of water to grow. This is a lot, but add that to the unregulated growing practices and you have a completely different set of problems. This can definitely have an impact on how much water is used, which is uncontrolled and unregulated.
Furthermore, most of the hemp production states in the United States is located in an area where water is more scarce and which is often subject to droughts and other water shortage problems. This leads to many governments and communities looking for a way to regulate water usage when it comes to marijuana farms due to the plants’ capability of consuming up to 6 gallons a day.
Luckily, there are ways that people can reduce how much water is used when growing marijuana/hemp plants.
Reducing Water Consumption During Cannabis Growth
To reduce water consumption, drip irrigation and water systems can be used, both of which are automated in nature. If you are growing indoors, people have also found that you can use water from dehumidifiers, which are often used in the greenhouses and grow rooms to keep the climate nice and dry for certain strains.
By using the water from dehumidifiers, you are taking water out of the air and not using any water from the supply system, so it’s a definite plus in terms of environmental sustainability. The water from the dehumidifiers must be filtered, however, and it can often be viewed as a nuisance, so many people do not look to this method although it is very eco-friendly. Growers do not like using recycled water unfiltered and directly from the dehumidifier because it can potentially damage their crops, but as new methods continue to be unearthed, there will hopefully be less hassle in the filtering process, which will turn growers to using recycled water without hesitation.
Energy Consumption of Cannabis
In addition to the water problem, there is also the problem of energy. If you are growing cannabis indoors, you have to create a perfect environment so that the cannabis plant will thrive. Often, this can consume a lot of energy.
Constant running of dehumidifiers, artificial lights, fans, air conditioning units, and nutrient machines, as well as heating in some cases during the colder months, leads to a combination of very high electricity being used and detrimental effects on the environment. About 1% of the energy used in America is directed towards the cannabis industry. That’s about 4.1 million Mwh of electricity a year. So without a doubt, the energy in producing cannabis is extremely high in nature, but there are ways to reduce this energy consumption.
One method is through solar panels, which can reduce the amount of electricity being used to power the fans and other devices involved in maintaining a proper cannabis growing environment. It is often costly, however, to start investing in these devices and machines, so it is very uncommon for growers to start up with these eco-friendly ways of producing cannabis. But that doesn’t mean that it can’t happen and that it doesn’t happen.
Environmentally friendly cannabis, in terms of energy, would be grown and harvested using solar or wind power in its greenhouses as opposed to standard electricity – but maybe that’s optimistic.
The Packaging Problem
Lastly, there is the question of packaging, which is perhaps one of the biggest concerns in terms of environmentally friendly cannabis. With all the plastic in the ocean that has come to light in recent times via different news outlets and social media platforms alike, many people are very concerned about putting more plastic into the ocean and their carbon footprint.
As a result, many companies have directed their energy toward finding the best ways to package their cannabis products sustainably. This further adds to a lot of companies’ appeal, because people generally like to buy from companies that are eco-friendly and care about their carbon footprint. But due to a lot of the labeling that is required by law, a lot of times the packaging has no choice but to be elaborate and overdone.
Additionally, a lot of cannabis products nowadays are running on the marketing idea of being easy to use and designed for one time use, such as dispensable pastes, bags of CBD-infused gummies with very few gummies (which still use lots of plastic despite the small size), as well as child-proof containers to keep your CBD and cannabis products out of reach of your kids. Due to all of these factors, a lot of plastic and waste is used in packaging cannabis products, but there are many companies that try to reduce this as much as they possibly can.
A lot of companies have developed smart ways to package their products through items such as packaging which can be recycled, and many encourage recycling. They also offer boxes which can hold many items and do not use any plastic wrap in the process due to the box containing different compartments which hold the items securely and snugly.
Final Thoughts on Environmentally Friendly Cannabis
Environmentally friendly cannabis, therefore, is cannabis that is grown, packaged, and shipped in ways that are all taking the environment into consideration.
By having more sustainable and efficient ways of watering, such as through drip irrigation and automated water systems, a lot of the water can be reduced and reused. In addition, you can also use recycled water from dehumidifiers used in the grow rooms. The energy use can also be mitigated by using solar or wind-powered machines for your indoor growing environment, or by simply just growing outdoors and using the power of nature to grow your cannabis. And lastly, and one of the biggest concerns for environmentally friendly cannabis is the packaging.
There are definitely ways to help mitigate packaging by making sure everything is recyclable and encouraging recycling, The use of multi-use packaging and products that are packaged in eco-friendly ways is also another way to help reduce this concern.
Environmentally friendly cannabis is cannabis that is grown with regards to the environment and planetary wellbeing. From the growing process to the final product, everything must be taken into consideration with careful thought in order to have the least possible negative impact on the planet.
Since the industry is largely unregulated, many growers and farms attempt to use as much water as they feel would benefit their plants to produce the most abundant profit. Environmentally friendly cannabis companies, however, would take this into consideration and invest in ways that cut out this impact as much as possible, such as through the water systems and electricity options like solar and wind as mentioned above.
Although not a lot of companies can say that they practice all three of these methods, many can implement at least one, such as sustainable packaging or sustainable growing. The best option, of course, would be a company that incorporates better energy and water practices as well as a sustainable packaging method, but seeing how massive an effect the cannabis industry has had on the environment as of late, we may be in for some good news as governments and communities notice this effect and act for legislation to be passed.
But even if companies are not being as careful as they should in their production and delivery methods, there is still a lot that the consumers themselves can do to help with the environmental impact that the cannabis industry has. The first way is to recycle any possible supplies or materials that are included or leftover from your cannabis or hemp related purchase. By recycling, you alone are cutting out the thousands of products that may end up in the landfill after their one-time use.
There are so many different aspects to hemp products, such as bottles, plastics, syringes for under the tongue pastes, boxes which the products are shipped in (since many people buy CBD products online nowadays), amongst so much more. Another way to help mitigate the effect of cannabis on the environment yourself is to simply buy from companies that are in compliance with being environmentally friendly. This will add to the demand and encourage the companies that are in compliance to produce more, while the other companies will see a decrease in sales and which can further help them to re-evaluate their production processes and change for the better.
But overall, with how things are looking in terms of consciousness about cannabis consumption and the environment, companies will hopefully start to put in place better practices and move the cannabis industry in a direction that is more in line with the environmentally friendly mindset of its top consumers today.