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Going greener: is cannabis really as eco-friendly as it seems?

Eco-friendliness and environmentally conscious brands are big right now. More than ever before, consumers are aware of the products they’re purchasing, from the origins of each item of clothing to the carbon footprint of the food they ingest. With some states in the USA – such as California – taking eco-friendliness to the next level, in part thanks to the unique culture of the location, going green is more important than ever. From plastic straw bans to industry green promises, eco-friendliness is ever-present across brand messaging and PR campaigns.

Arguably, there’s no greener option than cannabis when it comes to going eco-friendly. While not all sources of the plant meet the high expectations for the industry, as more specific regulation comes into play, marijuana farms are taking the opportunity to go green more often. But when we talk about pot, we’re not just talking about the products designed to be consumed or smoked. For decades, cannabis has been an actively used part of the eco-friendly revolution: specifically in the form of hemp.

Long used as a more sustainable way to make anything from clothing to bags to household items, hemp is a select strain of the cannabis plant that includes minimal THC, the chemical that gives marijuana its psychoactive properties. When harvested and used correctly, hemp can be a hard-wearing and practical choice of product that is often produced locally – making it both ethically and environmentally significant in comparison to fast fashion and similar large-brand product creation.

But the uses of hemp don’t stop at niche fashion items. As marijuana news and products have become more mainstream and readily available, new uses for the popular plant appear all the time, with one of the most popular products being hemp-based packaging. As consumers have become more aware of the products they buy, the cannabis industry is one step ahead, with many brands offering green packaging created from the same plant as their products, to further offset their impact on the environment.

With increasing regulation and requirements for marijuana packaging, including child-proof options, packaging has always been a concern for the industry, similarly to many other age-restricted items. As those regulations become tighter, the ability to make packaging that’s both eco-friendly and suitable for purpose has resulted in the creation of products like hemp plastic. These plastic dupe packaging options provide options that meet regulations without sacrificing what’s important to customers: sustainability, and the ability to compost or recycle the packaging effectively.

Of course, it’s not just cannabis products that benefit from the boom in biodegradable materials derived from hemp. The use of cannabis for the creation of plant-based packaging is ideal for many businesses, especially those that uphold similar eco-friendly values. As a resource whose growth across the US has expanded rapidly, hemp is an available alternative even for companies needing packaging on a large scale. For brands both within and without the industry, this ready availability, plus the eco-friendly properties of biodegradable materials, makes choosing marijuana packaging a natural choice.

Beyond packaging, with the cannabis market set to be worth a staggering $22 billion by 2020, more and more businesses are getting into the industry in the hopes of making a profit. With that expansion comes further need to plant and grow, which in itself can affect the environment for better or worse. One specific consideration about the growth of marijuana is the high level of water the crops need to thrive – something far more of a concern in some areas of the US than others.

For growers in the western US, the water use by marijuana farms is more of a pressing concern. In states like California, where water can be scarce, and droughts are relatively frequent, the amount of water required by cannabis crops can be both prohibitive and less ethical. A recent survey in California found that a yield of just 50 cannabis plants used up 24,000 gallons of water in a single growing season. Environmentally, this is a concern – though, in comparison to other crops, marijuana certainly isn’t an outlier in the amount of water it uses per year.

As regulations are planned for water use with cannabis, in particular, many farms and growers are opting to get in on the process early by improving the environmental impact of their business. This includes regulating how irrigation functions to optimize the amount of water used, as well as using dehumidifiers to collect condensation, which can then be filtered and reused to water their crop. Filtering is a vital part of the process, as reclaimed water may lead to damage or lower quality results.

Beyond the level of water used by cannabis farming, indoor farms also require a steady flow of electricity in large quantities to provide the plants with the ideal conditions to grow. In 2017, the marijuana growing industry pulled in total 4.1 million MWh of power

, an unsustainable amount in the long-term unless additional, more eco-friendly measures are introduced. But many growers are now starting to invest in alternative energy to offset both the costs and the sustainability of the amount of electricity the average farm requires.

Installing solar panels is a particularly popular option, especially in states such as California where there is plenty of sun to power just about any part of the operation. While the up-front costs for businesses may be high, in the long run, the process pays off. By becoming self-sufficient, brands can not only advertise themselves as such to consumers but also live up to their eco-friendly promise by committing to cleaner energy. Eco-friendliness is a big trend that only looks to be getting bigger, and making those promises can make all the difference to brands wanting to maintain their popularity in the long term.

As a product that’s more and more targeted towards the health and wellness industry, producing high-end options that are organic, eco-friendly, and sustainable is more important than ever. With the target market of cannabis increasingly concerned about the source of the products they use and consume, choosing to go ‘clean’ can be hugely beneficial. This is shown with organizations such as the Organic Cannabis Association, proof that more and more dispensaries and cannabis businesses are committed to seeing that change.

For many consumers, taglines and buzzwords are what help them choose one product over another. With food items, free-range, organic or wild-caught are all examples of products that consumers see as superior, not because of how the food tastes – but because of where it has come from, and what impact it has had. The culture of marijuana has long been associated with sustainability, green living, and similar concepts – so it makes perfect sense that those who buy these products will be concerned about similar things.

As regulations are put into place and how cannabis is farmed changes over time, it’s likely that the marijuana market will only keep getting greener. In a world that’s more invested in eco-friendliness and living sustainably, failing to embrace that change is only likely to leave businesses behind. In an already saturated industry, being able to stand out is vital – and providing high-end, sustainable products in biodegradable packaging is an excellent way for brands to get a bit of that attention for themselves.

The post Going greener: is cannabis really as eco-friendly as it seems? appeared first on Marijuana Experts.

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