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Sustainable cannabis cultivation: reducing the environmental footprint

The popularity and demand for cannabis products have increased worldwide. 74%, or 248 million Americans, now have access to some form of legal cannabis. Now that many parts of the world have already legalized cannabis, attention turns to its cultivation and how to make it sustainable.

In this article by Nina Julia from the Center for Advancing Health, she explores the sustainability level of cannabis cultivation at present. Let's also see and understand the effects of reducing the environmental footprint of the industry.

Sustainable cannabis cultivation: what does it mean?
Any sustained and upheld activity, including the planting, growing, harvesting, drying, curing, or trimming of cannabis, is referred to as sustainable cannabis cultivation.

Limiting the use of natural resources, looking for substitute supplies like those that are more effective or use recycled materials, and efficiently facilitating and maintaining massive growth with a conscious mindset that will help the industry last far into the future are all part of creating a more sustainable cannabis industry.

The importance of reducing the environmental footprint
Reducing the environmental footprint is crucial for the survival and well-being of humans and other species on Earth. The environmental footprint refers to human activities' impact on the natural environment, including the depletion of natural resources, pollution of the air and water, and destruction of habitats and ecosystems.

Here are some reasons why reducing the environmental footprint is so important:

  • Climate change: Climate change is the result of human activities in the environment. The burning of fossil fuels for energy and transportation releases greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, which traps heat and causes the planet to warm. This warming can lead to devastating consequences, including more frequent and severe natural disasters, rising sea levels, and food and water scarcity. 
  • Biodiversity: Human activities like deforestation, pollution, and overfishing are causing the extinction of species at an alarming rate. This loss of biodiversity not only threatens the survival of other species but also has negative impacts on human health and well-being. 
  • Natural resource depletion: Many of the natural resources that humans rely on, such as oil, gas, and minerals, are finite and non-renewable. The more we use these resources, the more we deplete them, making them scarcer and more expensive. 
  • Public health: Pollution from industry and transportation can have serious health impacts on humans, including respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and developmental issues in children. 
  • Economic stability: Reducing the environmental footprint is critical for the long-term stability of the global economy. Sustainable practices and technologies can create jobs, promote economic growth, and reduce the risk of environmental disasters that can disrupt global trade and supply chains.

Overall, reducing the environmental footprint is vital for the health and well-being of humans and the planet. By adopting sustainable practices and technologies, we can ensure a more resilient and prosperous future for ourselves and future generations.

The environmental impact of cannabis cultivation
Cannabis cultivation has various effects on the environment. For some experts, the environmental impact of its cultivation affects how sustainable the industry is. Let's see the effects of cannabis cultivation on these environmental factors:

1. Energy consumption 
An industrial grow facility normally uses electricity 24 hours a day, mostly for lighting and fans.

The lighting needs for cannabis growth are comparable to those in operating rooms in hospitals, where the recommended reading light is 500 times more powerful than the required lighting.

Also, these facilities' fans frequently see 30 variations in temperature or fan speed every hour, which is 60 times faster than what the average home experiences.

The amount of energy consumed in cultivating cannabis could be reduced if it used renewable energy and more practical means.

2. Water usage and conservation 
When cultivating cannabis from June to October, each plant needs a minimum of 22 liters of water each day. This equates to around 3 billion liters of greenhouse space per square kilometer and 430 million liters of outdoor growing area per square kilometer.

Some growers are looking for environmentally friendly options as a result of these enormous water demands.

3. Waste management and disposal 
The management and disposal of cannabis waste could also have an impact on the environment. There are two kinds of cannabis waste: hazardous and non-hazardous. Hazardous trash is especially dangerous because it can affect the environment by poisoning water supplies, infecting landfills, and emitting dangerous VOCs into the air.

Sustainable practices in cannabis cultivation
Having sustainable practices in cannabis cultivation can help keep the industry progressing and growing. With the high demand for cannabis these days, growers and cannabis businesses need to make sure that their cultivation practices will continue to provide them with the supply they need. Here are some practices that can help keep the cannabis cultivation industry sustainable.

●     Energy-efficient lighting and HVAC systems
●     Water-efficient irrigation systems
●     Use of organic and natural fertilizers
●     Recycling and composting practices
●     Integrated pest management

These practices will require research and proper implementation so they can yield success for the cannabis industry.

Implementation of sustainable practices
Implementation is key to making the cannabis cultivation industry sustainable. To implement and faithfully stick with sustainable practices, growers, farmers, and businesses can follow these tips:

1. Incentives and funding for sustainable practices
Numerous cannabis businesses can take advantage of incentives provided by their local energy provider, and in the near term, changes to these programs promise to give more potent incentives for growers aiming to reduce their operational and capital costs. Additional incentives, such as federal tax credits for implementing sustainable energy or energy-efficient technologies, may become available with federal legislation.

2. Regulation and compliance                         
Legal frameworks can include strict laws and eco-labeling programs in addressing potential environmental hazards.

The use of unsustainable methods for cannabis growing and packaging is mostly because of the lack of environmental rules governing the legalization of cannabis.

3. Education and outreach
Education and outreach will help keep people informed about the importance of having sustainable cannabis cultivation practices. Activities such as an awareness campaign and information dissemination can be done in educating people about the proper cultivation practices. The more knowledge people have, the more conscious they become of practicing only sustainable and efficient cultivation methods.

Challenges and barriers to implementing sustainable practices
Implementing sustainable practices will not be a walk in the park. There will always be challenges and barriers to cross. But when these challenges are crossed and resolved, the cannabis cultivation industry will flourish even more and can sustain the demands of society. Among the challenges and barriers that block sustainable practices are:

●     Lack of resources
●     Climate change
●     Lack of funding
●     Lack of support

Lessons learned from sustainable cultivation
Sustainable agriculture methods aim to preserve and enhance soil fertility. It will also help in protecting the environment and increasing the Earth's natural resource base.

Sustainable agriculture has several objectives, including increasing profitable agricultural income. It also encourages environmental responsibility.

Final thoughts
Cannabis cultivation has high demands on resources. It also has unavoidable impacts on the environment. To make it sustainable, the environmental footprint needs to be reduced. And the best way to do this is to practice sustainable methods of cultivation.

With this, individuals, growers, and farm owners should make an extra effort in making this sustainable cannabis cultivation dream work. Policymakers and businesses also play a vital part in this goal. This is to keep the cannabis industry meeting the high demand from society.

For more information:
Center for Advancing Health 

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