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Balancing the Environmental Costs of Cannabis

The Story of Cannabis: What Investors Need to KnowAnatomy of a Cannabis PlantA Quality Cannabis ProductThe Rise of OrganicA Sustainable Cannabis ProductComing soonComing soonComing soon

Balancing the Environmental Costs of Cannabis

Balancing the Environmental Costs of Cannabis

Economic development comes with a massive environmental cost.

Since 1980, heavy industrial activity has caused the doubling of CO2 emissions. As scientists warn of the lasting negative impacts this will have on the planet, nearly every industry is committing to sustainable practices to try to counteract this effect.

Today’s infographic comes from The Green Organic Dutchman, and it demonstrates that while the business of cannabis isn’t always eco-friendly, there are several tried-and-tested ways to reduce its massive footprint.

A HEFTY PRICE TO PAY

Energy is the second-highest cost driver in cannabis cultivation after labor.

There are two main culprits – lighting and HVAC systems (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning). Combined, they make up a whopping 89% of energy use in cannabis cultivation operations.

Last year, legal cannabis cultivation was responsible for consuming 1.1 million MWh of electricity, and producing 472,000 tons of CO2 emissions. That’s enough to power 92,500 homes, and produce the same emissions as 92,660 cars per year. As legal cannabis production scales, this will only escalate.

Much of this data can be attributed to how the plant is grown.

Growing methodPower consumption (kWh/g)Carbon intensity (lbs CO2e/g)
Indoor1.271.24
Greenhouse0.940.72
Outdoor0.070.05

Indoor cultivation is roughly 18 times more energy-intensive than outdoor cultivation, and produces 25 times the carbon emissions. On the other hand, outdoor production produces lower overall yield per square foot. Since it’s difficult to control the environment, impurities can also end up in the final product.

That’s why many companies opt for a hybrid approach instead – balancing the benefits of precise control, with the use of natural light to lower production costs.

A GAME PLAN FOR SUSTAINABILITY

Many licensed producers are adopting a suite of strategies to relieve this environmental footprint.

  • Renewable energy
    Diversifying the energy sources for cannabis cultivation can reduce carbon emissions. Solar and wind are top choices among cultivators.
  • LED lighting
    LED light bulbs are more than 60% more efficient than other types. They also produce barely any heat, lowering ventilation requirements.
  • Water efficiency
    A single cannabis plant can use up to 23 liters of water per day. Water can be recycled and re-used through innovative techniques such as reverse osmosis.
  • Packaging
    The plastic packaging often associated with cannabis products is a considerable contributor of waste. There are several alternatives, such as paper, glass, and tin. Each of these have their own benefits and drawbacks, depending on what they are used for.

Maximizing energy-efficiency has a domino effect not only on the planet, but on reduced operating costs. These savings can then be passed on to the buyer, which could prove to be a strong competitive advantage as the cannabis industry matures.

Stay tuned for part 6 of this series, where we’ll delve into the scientific evidence for medical cannabis compounds.

The Story of Cannabis: What Investors Need to KnowAnatomy of a Cannabis PlantA Quality Cannabis ProductThe Rise of OrganicA Sustainable Cannabis ProductComing soonComing soonComing soon

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