There’s a reason that the rising cannabis industry is called the “Green Rush.” 29 U.S. states already allow medical use, with eight (plus Washington D.C.) having legalized recreational adult use. This has brought enormous economic boosts for states like Colorado and California. The cannabis industry brought in $6.7 billion in 2016, and it’s growing fast – according to Forbes, the market could reach $20+ billion by 2021.
In today’s socially conscious world, the size of an industry’s carbon footprint is as important as that of its market. From electric cars to “Meatless Mondays,” it is clear that we are now looking at our world and wondering what it is we’re leaving behind. The quicker sustainable practices are picked up, the better our chances of having a beautiful place for our great, great grandchildren to live. Sustainable practices in the cannabis industry are good for the earth, no doubt – but more microcosmically, they benefit local communities, cannabis business owners, and the industry overall.
The cannabis community already embraces health on a holistic scale, making it a natural transition for cannabis producers to favor sustainable practices. One initiative is to reduce cannabis growers’ carbon footprint by lessening the amount of strain they are putting on the power grid. There has been a surge in the usage of LED grow lights in the past few years, now that LED technology has more than caught up in performance to traditional (and energy-wasting) grow lighting. As LEDs progress in popularity, less energy is consumed and community brown outs and black outs can be better avoided in areas that have legalized cannabis. Of course, more well-known energy conservation practices also can and should be implemented in cannabis production: solar panels, wind turbines, and other clean energy sources.
Another way that the cannabis industry can remain sustainable is to use organic nutrients that do not pollute water systems or leave chemical residue inside the plants. Chemical nutrients must be “flushed” from a flowering cannabis plant for several weeks, meaning gallons upon gallons of toxic waste water per grow.
Even the hemp industry (which remains closely tethered to cannabis) shows initiative toward sustainability, such as in the construction industry’s adoption of hempcrete – a lighter, energy-efficient, and carbon-negative alternative to concrete.
Sustainable practices may cut carbon footprints, but they don’t cut jobs – in fact, they create them. For example, many sustainable companies (ourselves included) build their wares here in the U.S. and conduct most of their business in North America, creating jobs and commerce. Organic nutrients are also often manufactured onshore and not only create a better environment, but also create production, distribution, and testing jobs. With the U.S. and Canada rapidly introducing new legislation and becoming a global hotspot for the cannabis industry, the domestic economic growth potential is very promising.
Sustainability initiatives don’t just keep communities clean – they keep them valuable. Replacing fluorescent and incandescent bulbs with more sustainable light sources increases property values, and clean energy sources also provide an enormous boost in real estate value. Solar panels and wind turbines are already here, paving the way to a sustainable future and maximizing value where they are implemented. The cultural movement toward environmental consciousness can already be clearly seen in progressive areas like Portland, San Francisco, and Brooklyn – with the skyrocketing property values to prove it.
These ethical business models prompt investments. Energy-conscious initiatives such as switching lighting brings potential for tax incentives, depending on where you live and local legislation. Sustainable protocol also allows for businesses to continue operating with a lower overhead cost. When cannabis production requires less energy and water, natural resources are preserved; when natural resources are preserved, production continues and companies stay in business.
Stressing sustainability impacts the cannabis industry in numerous other ways, most notably positive public opinion. Environmentally sustainable businesses are lauded, and as cannabis becomes even greener, its reputation swells to that of an earth-friendly, beneficial crop. This can lead to forward-thinking legislators to approach the cannabis space with reasonability, while legalization is prompting more business expansion opportunities.
As the cannabis industry grows and best practices are put into place, the movement gains respect and does its part to not misuse precious natural resources. As with all industries moving toward more sustainable practices, the initial investment and potential difficulty has the potential to deter some business owners – but at the end of the day, sustainability is everyone’s issue. It’s no secret that natural resources are dwindling, and sustainable initiatives become easier and easier to implement as society recognizes the importance. With sustainable practices gaining in popularity and notoriety, the future for greener cannabis is bright indeed.
Mary Schumacher is the Social Media and Web Content Manager for BloomBoss, a designer of high-efficiency, high-performance LED grow room lighting and related accessories. BloomBoss’ mission is to revolutionize home cultivation with modernized, energy-efficient products and provide growers of all experience levels with the tools they need to be successful.