How to be a more environmentally friendly cannabis user

Published Sep 29, 2020 11:00 a.m. ET
iStock / Chinnapong

When we inhale a puff from a fat blunt, it doesn’t typically cross our minds that this habit could be a problem for the environment, as we focus more on the good that it can do for us, but cannabis, like any other industry, isn’t always environmentally conscious, which is why we as consumers need to be responsible about how we choose to partake.

It might seem like a big job, especially if you’ve tried to incorporate other environmentally friendly initiatives into your day to day life, but once you get the hang of it, it’s really not all that hard to be a responsible cannabis consumer. You may not want to try every single suggestion on this list, but if you want to do your part for the health of the entire world, then this is an excellent place to start.

1. Grow your own cannabis

Since the biggest problem with the cannabis industry as far as the environment is concerned is the fact that cannabis products are wrapped in way too much packaging, one of the best ways to become an environmentally-conscious consumer is to grow it. If you grow instead of buying your cannabis, then you can control every step of storage along the way, cutting down on unnecessary excess materials that end up in landfills.

2. If you must buy it, then support local

We know that not everyone has the option of growing their own weed, as we don’t all have the time, space, environment, and knowledge needed to make it happen, and that’s ok because even if you can’t grow it, you can stick with a more sustainable option by supporting local producers. If you source your cannabis products from nearby, they will need less packaging and transportation, which is good news for the planet.

3. Be selective and encourage green businesses

It’s really easy to get drawn in by fancy wrapping or well-known names, but if you want to be an environmentally conscious cannabis consumer, then you should be paying attention to the companies that are actively making changes. Some have begun to use recycled plastic in packaging, and others have designed ultra-efficient cultivation systems that reduce the need for electricity or an excessive amount of water. This sort of forward-thinking action can become the norm if you make it a requirement of your pot products.

4. Advocate for exchange programs

As we’ve mentioned, one of the biggest struggles that we face as a planet is reducing the amount of waste that keeps piling up because it’s terrible for the environment and we’re slowly running out of places to put it, as overages leak into the oceans and lakes contaminating just about everything they touch. Luckily one idea is catching on, and it’s similar to what we use for alcohol containers by encouraging consumers to return them to get back a small deposit, but it needs consumer support to become a reality everywhere.

5. Use and grow organic or clean, green, certified cannabis

Growing your own cannabis plants can help reduce pollution by erasing the need for a ridiculous amount of plastic, but it’s also the most environmentally friendly option because you can choose to grow it organically. Most people don’t realize how many chemicals can be used to cultivate a cannabis crop, and those harsher chemicals can leech out into the earth, contaminating the soil, but if you stick to organic or US clean green certified cannabis, you will no longer encourage this devastating practice.

6. Pay attention to packaging

Some cannabis packaging is designed to get your attention, but once you unwrap the several layers involved, it doesn’t take long to see that this isn’t a good thing because it is not environmentally friendly or sustainable. When you look at the amount of waste that each cannabis product has, try your best to choose brands that don’t go overboard or those that use wrapping materials that can be taken to recycling centers rather than landfills.

7. Opt for a more natural spark

It might not seem like that big of a deal, but if you’re still using combustible cannabis products, then you can make the switch to a more natural and sustainable option in place of a regular butane lighter. Each time you spark a lighter, a small amount of fumes goes into the atmosphere, but if you use something like Hempwicks, an all-natural alternative instead, you can significantly reduce your carbon footprint over the course of a lifetime.

8. Recycle cannabis plant waste

Most cannabis enthusiasts enjoy the potent benefits of the buds that are harvested from the plants, while the rest of the materials are simply tossed away, but in many cases, pot plant materials that are typically viewed as worthless can be great sources of cannabinoids and nutrients. Though they aren’t as strong, you can still make things like tea from the trimmings and a nutrient-dense super soil by adding the remaining bits to a well-maintained compost, which is much less wasteful and better for the environment.

9. Steer clear of solvent-based extraction methods

The problem with fuel-filled lighters is similar to this one. Only these methods release those harsh chemicals that we talked about into the atmosphere at a much larger scale. We know of so many incredible ways to make all of the cannabis concentrates and extracts that you can imagine, so there is no need to contribute to the problems of the planet by buying or making solvent extracts.

10. Recycle containers and packaging

When it comes right down to it, most plastic is recyclable to at least some extent, so if all else fails and you still find yourself stuck with a handful of plastic, then the best environmentally friendly solution is to recycle as much of it as you can as often as you can. It is currently estimated that people, in general, recycle less than 40% of waste that would be accepted by recycling centers, so this one change alone could make a huge difference.

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