In the age of climate change, the catchphrase that seems to be on everyone’s mind is “Going Green.” You can see the slogan on signs, in commercials and even on some of your favorite television shows. As companies start to grapple with the responsibility of adopting practices that are ecologically sound and efficient, the individual consumer will start to ask, “is your company green?”
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In some industries, that question’s answer is an easy yes, but some companies in the cannabis industry could answer with an easy no. According to a report published in 2012 by Evan Mills, a research at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, cannabis cultivation makes up approximately one percent of energy use in the United States.
One percent may not sound like a lot, but it is a staggering statistic considering population and common energy consumption habits in our country. To give you a better perspective, that is over $6 billion a year in energy consumption, and that was before cannabis legalization in Colorado.
If you’re left scratching your head as to why cannabis cultivation consumes so much energy, don’t feel bad. To the average cannabis enthusiast, growing marijuana consists of planting the seed, watering it, and providing it with sunlight. To some extent, this is correct.
If you want low-grade ditch weed, then simple seed, water and sun will suffice. However, commercial growers have higher standards of quality, and as such require heaters, carbon dioxide and ozone generators, carbon filters, dehumidifiers, fans, etc. There is more to cannabis cultivation than its surface shows.
In an effort to combat excessive energy consumption many cannabis growers, energy companies and municipalities are working to create efficient cannabis cultivation. Xcel Energy, an electric and gas company, is offering case by case rebates for cannabis growers that turn in their older lights in exchange for newer and more efficient grow lights.
Gabriel Romero, an Xcel spokesman, told the MIT Technology Review that Xcel is currently conducting research on cannabis and energy consumption. “We know that grow-house operations vary tremendously in size and scope and how they run their operations, so we are in the midst of compiling data,” Romero explained. The company is expected to rollout a more comprehensive rebate program in the coming months after it collects more data.
Although research is being conducted, many municipalities have taken it upon themselves to curb energy use that is a direct result of cultivating cannabis. In Boulder, Colorado, the Boulder City Council passed a city-wide ordinance restricting cannabis growers to purchasing energy from renewable sources like wind or solar energy, or buying carbon-offsets.
Within the industry, many cannabis companies are embracing the Go Green mentality and market themselves as such. One such cannabis company is Greenly, a dispensary based in Los Angeles. According to the website, Greenly’s mission is to “minimize any waste and make sure that our company runs in the most optimized fashion.” With such a direct mission statement, Greenly clearly communicates its environmental stance to consumers.
To help cannabis cultivators like Greenly bolster their green claim, organic certification companies have started certifying cannabis crops. Clean Green Certified, an organic certification company in California, has begun issuing green certifications for cannabis growers. With methods modeled after the USDA National Organic Program, Clean Green Certified monitors growing practices, legal compliance and inspects the actual crops.
To many in the United States, Going Green is just a slogan that occasionally appears on their television or water bottle, but to the cannabis industry, going green is a must. Cannabis cultivation consumes too much energy and resources to behave like any other standard industry. Between energy and ecological concerns, cannabis cannot risk its tenuous acceptance by playing fast and loose with the environment.
Financially speaking, and ignoring the environmental aspect, the current model of energy use is simply unsustainable. If the pre-recreational cannabis industry spent $6 billion on energy in 2012, how much more money will the cannabis industry spend on energy this year or when all 50 states legalize cannabis? It may be expensive in the short term, but switching to alternative energy will be better for your bottom line in the long run.