Cannabis producers aren't as green as you think

Published Dec 1, 2021 02:00 p.m. ET
iStock / Ryland Zweifel

We tend to view greenery as a good thing for the environment, after all, it cleans the air that we breathe, and without it, all would be lost, but unfortunately adding the cannabis industry to an already out of control emissions output hasn’t done anything good for the earth. In fact, it’s contributing to the crisis by adding more emissions and consuming a whole lot more energy than most people realize.

Cannabis farms and greenhouses consume tonnes of energy

According to government researchers, cannabis farms, greenhouses, and other production facilities account for more than 1% of all US energy consumption, and when this final tally was revealed, it led many to wonder how it could be possible. The reality is that the cannabis industry today has come a long way from its roots, as consumer and quality demands were once non-existent, but now all consumers expect the best of the best.

They want consistency, affordability, and good products, and the only way to give that to them is by cultivating in controlled environments that require energy to run. Using lights, times, watering and nutrient systems, and computer monitoring software to ensure that every crop is as productive and powerful as the last, and though they do it as efficiently as humanely possible because they do have to pay the electrical bills, it’s difficult if not impossible for many producers to alleviate the need for large amounts of hydro.

Is growing marijuana outdoors any better?

An outdoor cannabis farm isn’t going to be as big of a drain when it comes to power, but it’s still going to need a whole lot of water to flourish, and that takes massive systems to accomplish. Though some of them work from gravity, slopes, and carefully carved ditched to move the liquid to where it needs to be, much of this watering is done through automatic systems while generally taking power to function. In fact, they take more water than indoor grows, and so point to this trend as a massive waste of resources that isn’t very good for the environment.


Why isn’t the green industry greener?

Cannabis culture is generally associated with a natural green way of life, so it’s surprising for some when they learn just how bad the industry is for the planet, but there are many things that we can do to ease the burden, and some companies are already taking that initiative. A few are growing marijuana using fish poop and water as nutrients while farming fish that feed people, while others are improving automation to the extent that systems are simply more efficient.

Is change possible?

Sadly, this shift is going to be expensive for producers to make, and with an industry so new, it might take a while before we have enough technology and knowledge to figure out how to do this whole farming cannabis thing as efficiently and well as possible. Still, change is possible as long as consumers and industry professionals continue to push and educate the world and each other about how important it is.

How to be a more environmentally friendly cannabis user


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