Thursday December 30, 2021
By Paul Barach
Of all the industries out there, one would expect a business like cannabis to be the most “green.” After all, it’s just putting seeds in the dirt and growing them, right? How much more natural can you get?
Unfortunately, that hasn’t turned out to be the case. Growing marijuana commercially means drawing on a lot of resources, from the water to sustain the plants to the electricity needed to keep optimal growing conditions. It also produces a lot of waste — from grow houses to plastic packaging — that for the most part ends up in landfills.
Luckily, most cannabis consumers are also pretty pro-earth and there is growing demand for more environmentally-friendly methods to be used in the industry. Some producers are striving for carbon- and waste-neutral grows; some are seeking more sustainable methods of producing concentrates.
Other start-ups are experimenting with setting up recycling collection points specifically for pop top containers and joint tubes (two of the top offenders for plastic waste in the industry). Then there are the packaging companies trying to reduce the use of plastic altogether.
Eco-Friendly Cannabis Brands
Below are some of the top environmentally-friendly brands and products that are working to make the cannabis business more green.
While we all know that it’s important to bring our exit bags to the dispensary every visit (in states that require them), in practice it is often easier said than done. Even if your local dispensary offers you an incentive for bringing it back, it can still slip your mind (keeping any empty one in your glove compartment is a great strategy).
However, even if you are bringing in the same exit bag that you used for your original purchase at the dawn of legalization, eventually it will wear out, break, and become another piece of plastic in a landfill or the ocean.
That’s where HISIERRA comes in. Instead of mylar, HISIERRA’s cannabis-compliant and child-proof exit bags are made from non-GMO sugarcane that’s been sustainably and responsibly farmed. While you should always re-use, once a HISIERRA bag is thrown away, it biodegrades without releasing toxic chemicals into the environment or becoming microplastics in our oceans.
HISIERRA’s commitment to the planet doesn’t just stop with their bags. The factory itself is LEED certified and 100% wind powered.
The majority of waste created by cannabis is in the packaging. Due to some well-meaning but overzealous regulations, the amount of packaging required for cannabis has ballooned. By some estimates it takes 4-70 grams of packaging just to sell one gram of weed. That’s a lot of plastic.
Sana’s cannabis compliant packaging for both flower, concentrates, and pre-roll tubes are made from 100% biodegradable hemp. They also have a plastic option that’s created from 100% reclaimed ocean plastic and is recyclable.
Both options keep more plastic from entering the waste cycle, and hemp production captures carbon from the air as well as revitalizes the soil.
Green for Green
One of the major issues for cannabis consumers looking to care for the earth is that some recycling centers simply do not accept the types of plastics used in cannabis packaging. Luckily, there are companies such as Green for Green.
Green for Green has set up cannabis package collection bins all over the front range and hopes to expand soon. Their efforts mean that packaging is reused or recycled rather than entering a landfill, and eventually the ocean.
Soulshine has gone to impressive lengths to achieve sustainable packaging, right down to the ink (which is vegetable-based). The cardboard to make them is 100% recyclable, and sourced from sustainable forests in the Pacific Northwest (the brand is based in Washington, meaning they’re also keeping it local). You may see the see-through window on the box and think, “hey I see plastic right there, front and center.” That plastic-looking material is actually compostable.
On their website the company stated their goals for packaging succinctly, “it needed to be compostable, recyclable, and non-wasteful, while being unique, efficient, and something we would be proud to see in our retail partners' stores.” The result is something truly impressive. Many other sustainable offerings struggle to compete with their more wasteful counterparts aesthetically, and Soulshine has proven that doesn’t have to be the case. Also, in case you needed another reason to feel good about them, a portion of their proceeds goes to pet rescue.
Based out of LA, THC Design is also striving to create an environmentally friendly and sustainable grow. Starting with a revolutionary closed loop method, where water and nutrients are treated and reused rather than being released. It all starts with an 800-gallon tank inside the 20,000 foot grow that’s filled with catfish, whose nitrogen rich waste fertilizes the plants.
With a UV light system to help decontaminate the water, the system working at peak efficiency can recapture 75-percent of the water used. This adds up to 1,500 gallons out of the 2,000 gallons that THC design uses daily. They also use ground-breaking natural processes, such as using flies to consume waste like plant matter and cardboard, and controlling pests with natural oils and natural predators (this requires a lot more cleaning time and care.)
When it comes to turning the marijuana business green, there’s still a lot of work to be done. While some companies are taking the lead and being truly innovative, cannabis consumers need to demand more environmentally friendly efforts from both the companies where they buy their products and from their local representatives.
Cannabis is a growing industry that shows no signs of slowing down. More legalization means more water and more electricity drawn by the industry, and more waste produced. It’s up to the consumers to make sure it is held to an environmentally sustainable standard.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does the cannabis industry produce a lot of waste?
What are some eco-friendly cannabis brands?
HISIERRA, Sana, Green for Green, Soulshine Cannabis and THC Design are all brands looking to make the industry more sustainable and better for the environment.
Know of any other eco-friendly canna-brands on the rise? Give them a shoutout in the comments!