One of the biggest problems in growing cannabis is the legal status which forces large indoor grows. This means costs of electricity and water per square foot matter, and it’s not just financial. The ecological effects are important too.
Replacing natural sunlight and rainwater with generated versions creates greenhouse gases, acid rain, and other forms of pollution. This puts the devastating environmental effects of cannabis on the level of almond milk for ironic purchases made by sustainable-minded people.
So how much of an effect does cannabis have on the environment, and are there companies out there working to be more green?
The environmental cost of growing cannabis
We’ll start by analyzing how much it costs to grow cannabis. According to Wikileaf, an indoor grow costs $75 per square foot versus $17 per square foot in an outdoor grow.
Electricity used for lighting, water pumps, and climate control alone costs approximately $0.147/kWh. For a 7700 square-foot warehouse, that equates to $55,000 per grow season.
According to the Environmental Defense Fund, solar, nuclear, wind, geothermal, bio, and hydropower all produce significantly less pollution than coal, oil, and natural gas plants. The agency also reports that the electric power sector generates almost 40 percent of total U.S. greenhouse emissions.
By these figures, approximately $58 per square foot of the cost of a grow operation could be replaced with the sun. But, since grow operations aren’t federally legal, this is unlikely to happen in many places. In fact, a lot of municipalities won’t allow outdoor grows.So what are cannabis companies doing to go green in this unstable environment?
Reducing the carbon footprint of cannabis
There are plenty of ways to reduce the carbon footprint of a cannabis grow. Southern California-based cultivator OutCo, for example, switched from commercial HPS grow lights to LED.
LED lights use less energy than HPS, take less time to warm up, and are omnidirectional, providing more light per square inch. Also, because LED lights produce less heat, less climate control is needed to keep plants healthy.
Then there are environmental savings we don’t consider, like packaging. Packaging and labeling is strictly regulated in cannabis, and one gram of prepackaged product can include twice its volume in packaging materials.
Sana Packaging and Sun Grown Packaging are among the cannabis companies creating biodegradable and compostable materials. This reduces the amount of garbage that ends up in landfills due to the cannabis industry’s childproof packaging requirements.
And let’s not forget about Hemp Wick, which brings sustainability down to the user level. Using Hemp Wick saves lighter fluid, making disposable lighters last longer. Also, lighting your product with Hemp Wick is cleaner on your lungs.
These companies are doing what they can, but it’s everyone’s responsibility in the cannabis industry to go as green as possible. Monitor your entire supply chain for inefficiencies – you’d be surprised how many you find.
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