Fossil fuels, landfills, deforestation, and water pollution are the most significant environmental threats. So, whenever someone talks about pollution and promoting a green environment, we listen only to solutions for these specific problems.
However, there are many other threats to the environment from the industries that are often overlooked. One of them is the Cannabis industry.
But how is it possible? Marijuana is green, after all! Even though we are dealing with a ‘herb’ or ‘grass’, etc., it takes a considerable amount of energy and resources to grow them.
Cannabis production requires a hefty amount of land, water, and artificial lighting. In addition, they mostly come in single-use plastic packaging, which means they are adding vast chunks of polluters in both land and water. On top of that, the energy requirements for indoor weed growth demand continuous electrical backup.
This backup is generally provided through generators that run on diesel or petrol, i.e., fossil fuel.
A Solution to Environmental Problems from Cannabis isn’t Too Far Away
Even though the threats to the environment from the Cannabis industry are alarming, there are some straightforward methods to help get rid of these issues and make Cannabis an environmentally friendly product. It’s only fair to turn this green ingredient into a contributor to the environment, given that it has proven its medical benefits.
Leafly discusses how we can make Cannabis an eco-friendly agent in four simple ways in a recent post.
1. Less Energy Consumption Means Less Fossil Fuel
Outdoor growth is illegal in some states. It forces the growers to arrange for indoor growth equipment, and it comes at a heavy price. Firstly, there is more cost on indoor equipment, and secondly, indoor growth requires more energy.
As there is no access to natural sunlight, the indoor plants need intense grow lights for nearly 18 hours a day during the vegetative state. However, as they progress, the need for light reduces to about 12 hours a day.
Moreover, the plants need a controlled environment when growing indoors. So, the growers need fans, air-conditioners, dehumidifiers, and heating equipment to provide a growing natural atmosphere to the plants.
Understandably, it requires a considerable amount of electricity to meet the requirements because a lack of resources can cause complete crop damage.
According to a study, the total electricity consumption for indoor weed growth is about 1% of the total electricity used in the US. The same energy can power up to two million average homes in the country.
As the primary fuel source for these “growth plants” is gas and electricity, the carbon footprint is substantially large and alarming.
To help reduce the carbon footprints, there are a few things to consider.
- Growers should look to produce outdoor options instead of indoor growth.
- Switch to chilled water systems instead of traditional ventilation and air conditioning systems
- Switch to solar and wind-powered electricity solutions to prevent further use of fossil fuel.
- Use LED grow lights because they consume less power.
2. Reducing High Levels of Waste
There is a scarcity of eco regulations for marijuana cultivation. So, some states, which allow marijuana production, have opted for a more sustainable mode of production. For them, outdoor cultivation is the way forward because it’s more energy efficient.
However, regulated markets prefer indoor and safe marijuana, but it has a clear disadvantage: it requires hefty energy.
Furthermore, safety regulations for marijuana demand childproof packaging and warning labels. Unfortunately, it gives rise to single-use plastic, which is a dangerous threat to the environment.
Thankfully, the cannabis industry is now looking at more eco-friendly solutions to tackle waste management problems. However, it requires both awareness and analysis on a large scale to understand the effects of waste in the marijuana industry.
So, growers and consumers need to work together to promote safer and eco-friendly weed production and consumption methods.
3. Use Less Water
Marijuana is a water-thirsty crop, which means that you need to ensure consistent watering throughout the growth cycle. Especially outdoor production is more taxing in terms of water consumption. Outdoor growth also gives rise to pesticide usage.
Because of the high water demand, there can be a severe water scarcity in nearby areas. On top of that, there are acres of illegal weed crops in many parts of the country, which consumed up to 2.8 billion gallons of water in 2020. Analysts suggest that this number will double itself by 2025.
Also, the use of pesticides and harmful chemicals to protect crops is a serious concern. Generally, there are hidden pesticides and chemicals that are sprayed on the crops. These chemicals are often orally ingested by consumers, which can lead to serious health problems.
So, if health regulatory bodies can ensure a few strict measures, it can help improve the situation as far as water retention and use of pesticides are concerned. Here is how we can start:
- Switch to all-natural fertilizers
- The use of natural pesticides must be promoted
- Use aquifers for pure water
- Use methods like CO2 extraction to ensure eco-friendly extraction methods
- Use rainwater for irrigation
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4. Discourage Plastic Use
Marijuana packaging can be a significant contributor to environmental pollution. However, even though it’s a legal requirement to use single-use plastic for packaging, it is important to consider alternatives. Annually, marijuana packaging contributes to 150 million tons of Cannabis waste.
Given that the cannabis industry is on the rise, these numbers can increase at an alarming rate, devastating impacts on our environment. Therefore, eco-friendly measures like the following must be introduced at the earliest.
- Initiate recycling projects and initiatives. For instance, ask the consumer to bring reusable plastic containers and give them a small discount.
- On-site composting
- Grow your weed if possible
- Go for bioplastic, glass, cardboard packaging.
The current trends in the Cannabis industry are pretty alarming and dangerous for the environment. So, eco-friendly measures seem to be the only way forward from here on.
The USDA can start by introducing sustainable product certifications. At the moment, Clean Green Certified provides inspection and approval services for Cannabis producers who use sustainable options.
So, as consumers, we can discourage non-sustainable cultivation practices by opting for brands that use certified green methods of producing and packaging marijuana.