Staying green may prove difficult for budding marijuana producers, but we found a few tips to lessen the load on Mother Nature.
The state hired the Botec Analysis Corporation out of Berkeley, CA in early 2013 to evaluate the environmental impact of legalizing recreational marijuana production. Botec produced a long study which shed some light on how production might affect the state’s carbon footprint.
The largest take away the study provides is that most of the marijuana production dangers to the environment arise from its clandestine history and can be lessened with producer education. In the words of the study, “many of the most environmentally harmful practices in cannabis cultivation arise from a lack of information among regulators and the secret nature of cultivation.” The study found the largest factors that impacted the environment included water disposal, pesticides and electricity use.
The study also meant to act as a resource for the whole country. If the swelling of pro-pot sentiment continues to spread legalization, Botec wanted to provide information to lessen the potential environmental impact.
“If legal cannabis production moves toward national acceptance, the importance of developing environmentally sound production practices will grow, and policies made now in Washington and Colorado, the early adopters, may shape practices in the new industry nationwide,” the study reads.
So what should beginning marijuana producers know about keeping their cannabis carbon footprint low?
Got a Light?
For indoor grows, the largest impact and cost, comes from lighting. The study says lighting can add up to almost one third of the total production costs and that doesn’t include the strain it places on coal burning utilities.
LED lights will provide the most bang for your bud buck and play nice with nature in the meantime.
“LEDs offer not only high overall light output-per-watt efficiency but also the potential to “tune” the emitted spectrum to plant needs,” the study reads. “This adaptability, along with lower waste heat production, means that LEDs have the potential for very large energy savings in comparison with existing lighting technologies.”
Although the nature of a marijuana producer’s grow depends heavily on the space available and the various permitting processes, the Botec study says using a greenhouse method to grow will have the least negative impact on the environment.
“We find that the predominant environmental concern in marijuana production is energy use for indoor production (less importantly for greenhouse production) and in particular the climate effects of this energy use Greenhouse cultivation of cannabis entails lower energy consumption, GHG production, water consumption, wastewater production, fertilizer application, and toxic risks than indoor cultivation,” the study reads. “[The state Liquor Control Board] should promote greenhouse cultivation of cannabis, including cultivation in eastern Washington where the climate is more favorable. Allowing production in standard greenhouses, rather than requiring new construction of high-security greenhouses, would encourage substitution away from environmentally problematic indoor growing.”
Climate Conscious Branding
The study calls for the state to promote a labeling of marijuana grown with environmentally conscious methods. Though the state hasn’t yet made that push, producers should actively promote whatever efforts they make into growing green weed. It serves both a purpose to differentiate your product from other producers who might take their carbon footprint into consideration, and helps spread education.
“[The Liquor Control Board] should consider branding cannabis that excels on environmental grounds, similar to the ENERGY STAR program,” the study reads. “Such labeling programs, which affix a readily identifiable label among the most efficient products, can drive environmentally responsible purchasing and encourage a “race to the top” among producers.”
There is no reason why producers should wait for the state to take this initiative. Rather, new producers should be the leaders in a green movement to define Washington-grown marijuana as environmentally conscious. It’ll help the earth and help sell a good product.