The cannabis community has come a long way in some respects, by breaking down barriers and stigmas surrounding the drug for decades. However, in today's times, there is a new issue with cannabis at hand. The weed community isn't as green as you'd think, with several sustainability issues plaguing the industry that they must address before pushed further into the mainstream.
While cannabis can be very beneficial to the surrounding ecosystems, there is also a dark side to how weed can alter our environment. Because this industry is still in its infancy, there is a lack of regulations surrounding it, which is only going to hurt Earth in the long run if we don't change.
The black market for cannabis is still heavily persisting, even though there are fifteen states with legal recreational cannabis. Because the black market for cannabis not only accounts for a massive chunk of cannabis sales with lower, more competitive prices, but the black market also brings a large portion of the environmental damage. In 2018 in Humboldt County, California alone, researchers found that nearly 14,000 sites on public lands were using harmful pesticides and chemicals. Most illegal grows operate on lands with high wildlife and in areas that need protection, not depletion.
It is no secret that cannabis is an extremely thirsty plant. Each plant requires 6 gallons of water a day, meaning that one square mile of marijuana plants consumes nearly 1 billion gallons of water during growing seasons. Cannabis can also contribute to air pollution because it emits organic compounds that contribute to ground-level ozone, otherwise known as smog. Weed also has a relatively large carbon footprint, consuming enough electricity to power 92,500 homes a year. In Denver alone last year, cannabis consumed 4% of the city's electricity.
People typically ignore the implications that Cannabis has on the environment as a whole, this industry (whether legal or black market) has interfered with the restoration of distressed habitats, while draining and polluting streams, degrading watersheds and also killing wildlife. Legalization could put an end to most of these issues because it would bring a sweeping notion of regulations. A future of sustainable cannabis is possible, but there need to be many steps taken to achieve this idea.
Environmental sustainability has never been more paramount, as many scientists have placed a ticking time bomb on when Earth won't be able to come back from the damage that we have done. Millennials often get a bad reputation for so many things, but their desire to save the planet is not one of those things. In fact, 70% of millennials say they'll pay more for sustainable goods and products. With that being said, let's take a look at how the cannabis community can ensure a more sustainable future.
For the home-grower, this is something that should take precedent over almost everything else. Avoiding the use of pesticides, synthetic nutrients, fungicides and herbicides is best for not only the environment but also the consumer. Outside of that, cultivation practices, in general, need to stop altering our beloved ecosystems, which means not overusing water resources or clear-cutting forests.
The amount of single-use plastics in use are in the hundreds of billions, and the cannabis industry is no different. Initially, many states had strict label requirements that produced a need for excess packaging. Today, companies are trying to further themselves as far away from that as possible. Not only are many companies looking to switch to hemp, glass and other bio-degradable packaging, but dispensaries are also getting creative as well. Many are creating recycling programs, offering customers a small discount to bring back excess plastic packaging.
Using a hemp wick lighter is a better, safer and more natural alternative to a traditional lighter. Instead of inhaling chemicals or flint dust, when inhaling your cannabis with a wick lighter there are fewer carbon emissions while giving you a more authentic smoking experience. The wick will burn at a lower temperature, allowing a smoother hit and a better chance to taste those yummy terpenes.
Whenever purchasing cannabis products, it's best to keep the single-use things at bay. Avoid disposable vapes; they are often not the best product on the market and only put more batteries in landfills. Be a responsible, ethical consumer and check out your local battery recycling center to make sure those things are getting disposed of properly. After all, lithium is hazardous waste in most cities, so you cannot just dispose of it anywhere.
You always want the best for your cannabis, so keeping your accessories squeaky clean is a must to keep the high going smoothly. We've all heard of cleaning hacks for your bowl or bong with rubbing alcohol or acetone with Epsom salts. While they may make your piece look brand new, they aren't great for the environment. These types of products could not only sit on your accessories if not cleaned properly and then inhaled, but they are also not ideal for pipes or the water supply. There are some products that are eco-friendly on the market, like ResGel, but household ingredients such as lemons, baking soda and vinegar will always do the trick.
Everyone has probably flicked a joint onto the ground at least once in their lives. Even though this is something everyone has done, it's a practice that needs to stop. Not only is it unpleasant to look at when you come across a dead "roach", but it's also littering. When in the wilderness, there is the mantra of "if you pack it in, you pack it out." It only takes a few more moments to dispose of something properly.
With so many products out there, it's hard to find honest and eco-friendly companies, because not every cannabis company or grower thinks the same. As we now know that cannabis has a pretty massive carbon footprint, especially when grown indoors. It may be better to look for companies that are using greenhouses or outside operations to grow weed.
There is so much power given to the consumer, which is something that we often overlook. Sustainable living is better within our reach than people think. Slowing down and looking into what you're purchasing day to day may be the key to help preserve our planet.
What are you doing for a more sustainable future? Do you have any tips or tricks for being a more eco-friendly marijuana consumer? Let us know in the comments below!