Sun+Earth Certified was founded two years ago on Earth Day by cannabis industry leaders, experts, and advocates with a common commitment to regenerative organic agriculture, farmer and farmworker protections, and community engagement. “The multi-billion dollar cannabis industry has an important obligation to shift away from high levels of energy consumption and chemical-intensive farming practices, and Sun+Earth has the blueprint for how to do that,” said Sun+Earth Executive Director Andrew Black.
Citing little-to-no regulations on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from growing cannabis, researchers at Colorado State University explain in a new academic study published last month that moving the plant from indoor facilities to outdoor farms would dramatically shrink the industry’s carbon footprint. In Colorado alone, researchers say a shift to outdoor cultivation could reduce GHG emissions in the cannabis sector by 96 percent, thereby cutting the state’s total emissions by 1.3 percent.
Reinforcing this latest research, a 2012 academic report from UC Berkeley found that all cannabis grown in the US uses at least one percent of all electricity consumed in the country at a cost of $6 billion per year. Cannabis cultivation generates GHG emissions equivalent to 3 million cars, researchers say. Another report from New Frontier Data found that indoor cultivation in the US produces 2.6 million tons of carbon dioxide or one pound of carbon emissions for each gram of harvested flower. The same report found that growing indoors uses 18 times more electricity and produces nearly 25 times more carbon than outdoor farms.
The Sun+Earth seal sets itself apart from other organic programs by guaranteeing that certified businesses cultivate and manufacture products using cannabis grown under the sun with regenerative organic farming practices. The rigorous standards set by Sun+Earth encourage the planting of cannabis alongside food crops, and the strategic use of cover crops, composting, and reduced soil tillage. Such practices help sequester carbon from the atmosphere, further reducing a farm’s carbon footprint. No chemical fertilizers or toxic pesticides are used to grow cannabis certified by Sun+Earth, whose standards go beyond USDA Organic to set additional criteria that benefit family farmers and farmworkers.
In the two years since it was founded, Sun+Earth has certified 42 cannabis farms in six states—California, Colorado, Michigan, Oregon, Washington, and Wisconsin—whose products are sold at hundreds of retail outlets across the country. This rapid expansion points to a considerable demand for cleaner, healthier, and more ethically-grown cannabis.
Amid the strain on global supplies of food and medicine made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic, Sun+Earth is helping to highlight the benefits and resiliency of local supply chains. Just days before International Workers Day, and at a time when worker struggles have reached a crescendo in the US and around the world, Sun+Earth has allied with labor and social justice movements by insisting on fair wages for farmworkers.