Times are changing, and nowhere with more impact than in industries whose practices have an effect on the environment. Climate change is the problem of the next decade and beyond, and the cannabis industry will be affected like any other. Agricultural products of all kinds are at the heart of discussions on sustainable culture and environmental impacts.
As cannabis is legalized in more U.S. states and becomes a mainstream consumer product, the industry is taking a closer look at growing and manufacturing products. Environmentally friendly production is important to many consumers, and their decision on where to spend their money – given quite extensive competition – will be dictated in part by these interests.
Consumers and the environment
For growers, it’s a chance that cannabis can be grown with a environmental impact, but some do not adhere to sustainable practices for the simple reason that the cannabis business of yesterday was all about profit, with no prospect of commercialization. These growers often set up indoor growing setups that pay little attention to electricity consumption, water consumption, Where waste treatment. Chemicals and pesticides were the norm, and even packaging was reduced to cheap plastics in an effort to maximize profit margins.
The problem with focusing on profit rather than marketability is the aforementioned expansion of the industry to mainstream consumers. The target customer is no longer the guy who buys six joints behind the local store; today’s consumers are more aware of what they ingest and use, where the products come from and the practices of the companies that manufacture them. Organic produce aisles are growing in cities large and small as customers increasingly demand sustainably grown produce to benefit the individual and the planet as a whole. These same consumers shape demand in the cannabis industry, and they do it with their wallets.
Research from Nielsen and others strongly supports cannabis growers and manufacturers who are moving towards sustainable practices in their operations, even if it means a higher consumer price. Millennials – a core group for cannabis companies – are by far the most environmentally conscious, with 73% saying they would pay more for goods grown, produced and sold in a sustainable way. Gen Z is also on board, with up to 62% willing to pay more. Increasingly, consumers want to know that the companies they buy from have sustainable practices in all aspects of their operation.
While a grower unconcerned with maintaining eco-friendly practices will use up to 200 gallons of water to get a single plant to bud, a grower that is sustainable will find ways to reduce environmental impact at all stages of growth. production and management of the plants, up to the packaging. It’s a more expensive operation to set up, but the downstream effects on long-term profitability are worth the investment.
Sustainability is achievable
Creating an environmentally sustainable operation capable of producing a high quality product for planet and health conscious customers is entirely achievable. In fact, quality growers and growers have specific ways to get the job done:
- Air drying plants with an oven, in which the exhaust gases (hexane, for example) are recycled instead of being ejected into the atmosphere.
- Using newer light sources that use less energy than older bulbs and promote plant growth as effectively as natural sources.
- Use less water by improving irrigation methods and installing filtration systems that guarantee the cleanliness of the waste water produced.
- Use of soils listed by the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) and USDA approved organic fertilizers. When the items used are OMRI approved for organic food production, it is clear that they are good enough for cannabis production.
- Replace energy-intensive HVAC systems with water-cooled systems that control the climate just as efficiently using 30% less energy.
Organic producers have taken the next step. After realizing that their operations don’t have to impact the earth, they realized that the consumer is also interested in the cleanest experience possible. By avoiding the use of pesticides, which become part of the structure of the plant and would therefore be ingested when consuming the product, the benefits of sustainable practices extend to end users.
Industrial agriculture, in preparation for mass production, has traditionally used pesticides, fertilizers and other toxic substances, all of which have a massive impact on the earth. Even wastewater is harmful, as it is returned to groundwater sources along with toxins, metals and salts. These springs eventually flow into Earth’s lakes and oceans, potentially damaging them beyond repair.
A growing number of cannabis growers are now adhering to organic soil practices that allow plants to grow naturally, with the nutrients and water naturally present at the grow site. The result? Groundwater and the systems it feeds into are much less affected because no chemicals seep into it. There are currently no formal organic standards in the cannabis industry, as cannabis has not been legalized at the federal level. However, that hasn’t stopped conscientious growers from adjusting their practices to produce a clean, sustainably grown product.
Organic agricultural products were once seen as a luxury for the wealthy, but growing interest from a wider spectrum of the buying population has pushed organic production into the mainstream. The cannabis industry is no different from the food industry in this regard, and players are embracing the idea that sustainable and eco-friendly practices are the way forward.
Serge Chistov is the main financial partner of Honest Marijuana Society, an environmentally conscious cannabis grower who uses an organic and pure approach to growing, production and packaging. The company’s patented Nanobidiol technology nano-encapsulates each cannabinoid molecule, making it much smaller to increase bioavailability and provide an ultra-fast, clean onset of effects.
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