Earth Day Archives - Green Market Report

Julie AitchesonApril 22, 2021


Earth Day 2021 is upon us, and cannabis companies across the industry are mobilizing to take “sustainability” from buzzword to business practice by the time April 22nd rolls around. Earth Day was founded in 1970 by Senator Gaylord Nelson as a national teach-in on the environment to raise awareness about issues like pollution and pesticide use. While the cannabis industry has long been associated with the word “green”, the environmental impacts of production, packaging, distribution and materials sourcing for products like vape pens are often anything but.

Today’s consumers have grown up with the annual tradition of Earth Day and the heightened environmental awareness it promotes. Studies show sustainability is a factor driving customers’ buying decisions. Recent research by IBM revealed that nearly six in 10 consumers surveyed are willing to change their shopping habits to reduce environmental impact, and nearly eight in 10 indicated sustainability is important to them. Many will be looking for cannabis products that align with their cleaner, greener values.

A diverse group of North America’s leading cannabis cultivation and manufacturing experts formed the Sustainable Cannabis Coalition (SCC) earlier this year. The SCC will work proactively with industry cultivation and manufacturing peers and vendors to promote proven sustainability best practices that can be implemented at scale across the cannabis market. The SCC will be a resource providing foundational best practices to further promote the economic benefits of sustainability as the industry continues to grow. 

The SCC founders include Cohn Reznick, Anderson Porter Design, Valiant, Wholly H2O, Cloud Farming, Argus Controls, Gro iQ, Trulieve (OTC: TCNNF), Byers Scientific, 365 Cannabis, GMP Collective, Omega Equipment, and Supply, Simplifya, PathogenDx, Grow Generation (NASDAQ: GRWG), and Outlaw Technology. These industry leaders are foremost experts in data-driven business strategy, facility design, facility construction, water use, pathogen detection, energy consumption, waste disposal, economic and social impact, vertical farming, ERP and seed to sale systems, lighting, air emissions, extraction, packaging and data-driven monitoring and optimization of environmental control systems. 

Brands Tackling Sustainability

Eco-conscious cannabis consumers make up a large percentage of the marijuana-consuming population and their preference for buying environmentally-friendly products has motivated many businesses to clean up their act. Other companies have made sustainable practices a cornerstone of their business model. Nugg Club, a cannabis subscription box company, employs a model that is 90% more efficient than on-demand delivery services, resulting in over 250,000 pounds of carbon emissions saved each year. On top of that, Nugg Club’s boxes are 100% recyclable, made out of 80% recycled materials, and printed with nontoxic soy-based ink.

If you want to make sure that the contents of your subscription boxes have a similarly small carbon footprint, several companies have stepped up their sustainability game to meet the rising demand for greener products. California-based Summerland, which sells premium hand-made bongs and pipes, makes its smokeware in small batches made from pure clay. Stone Road grows its biodynamically-grown cannabis on an off-grid, family-run farm using only solar power and artesian water sourced from directly under the farm. All Stone Road products come in 99% recyclable packaging made from 100% post-consumer recycled goods. This year the company will start using rice protein isolate to create packing material, sourcing fully recycled glass jars and reclaimed ocean plastic to make their child-resistant lids.

Kin Slips sublingual strips’ new packaging uses 75% less plastic than the previous version. It is entirely recyclable and made from Tinplate (the same material from which soup cans are made), which is easy to recycle and sort due to its magnetic nature and existing infrastructure. ALT’s liquid THC drink mixer is packaged in recyclable glass vials with sustainably sourced aluminum lids, while Marley Natural’s line of elevated smoking accessories features sustainably grown black walnut. Greening the cannabis industry will take more than responsible products and packaging, but Earth Day 2021 will see more focus on sustainable practices than ever before as companies increasingly co-prioritize planet and profit, hopefully to the benefit of both.

Eaze’s private label brand Everyday is an environmentally conscious brand, with recyclable packaging created using wind energy. By partnering with master indoor growers, the Everyday team has curated a range of high-quality flower strains for customers with discerning taste. Everyday starts at $45 for an eighth of flower.

Sana Packaging is working to make sustainable packaging more accessible by reducing the cost of its 100% reclaimed ocean plastic pre-roll tub by 30% and reducing materials used by 25%. The sustainable company also makes packaging from 100% plant-based hemp. The Bureau creates a variety of innovative and sustainable cannabis packaging designs made from biodegradable plastic and paper. Their products are customizable to meet each client’s specific needs and budget.

Julie AitchesonApril 21, 2021


4/20 and Earth Day 2021 are both upon us this week, and with those dates comes an opportunity to take a good, hard look at the environmental impacts of the cannabis industry as well as legislative responses to those challenges. Resource use and extraction, air and water quality, and waste management are just a few of the environmental issues confronting indoor, outdoor, and greenhouse cultivation operations. Worth a staggering $61 billion, the cannabis industry is profiting heavily from its current practices, so it stands to reason that legislators are looking to heightened restrictions, green incentives, and higher permitting and licensing fees to offset some of the environmental costs of production and manufacturing.

Aside from the many negative impacts of illegal grow operations, including the use of banned insecticides, illegal diversion of stream water, and unchecked chemical runoff, legal operations can still pack a devastating environmental punch. Soil degradation increased load on water and energy infrastructure systems, and carbon and volatile organic compound emissions from terpenes all have scientists, activists, and lawmakers scrambling to make sure the cannabis market’s booming profits don’t come at the expense of planetary health.

The Puget Sound Clear Air Agency in Washington State has imposed a requirement that recreational marijuana producers and processors comply with air quality regulations after they have obtained licensing. This involves paying a fee for a Notice of Construction permit that details odor control equipment and solvent usage information, as well as submitting a plan view of the facility, a schematic drawing of the HVAC system, and an environmental checklist among other requirements. In California, state government-run Water Boards require permitted growers to register water rights and follow strict guidelines that include prohibitions on diverting surface water from April through October and irrigating with stored water during the dry season. Any non-consumer wastes produced in cannabis operations manufacturing vape cartridges and pens in the state are required to be managed by electronics recyclers, which puts California ahead of most states in this particular practice.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection prohibits “the emission into the outdoor atmosphere of any malodorous contaminants”, which has shut down more than one processing hemp drying operation in the state while encouraging others to upgrade their generators and air scrubbers to keep business running. Other states such as New Jersey have regulated certain areas as protected lands, such as shellfish habitat, wetlands, and riparian zones, which require special permits or authorization in order to be used for cannabis cultivation. 

In Colorado, Boulder has city codes that require marijuana businesses to utilize renewable energy to offset 100% of their electricity consumption as part of Boulder’s Sustainability and Climate Action Plan.  In addition, several local governments in Colorado, in conjunction with the state, have prepared a “Cannabis Environmental Best Practices Guide”, but as long as adherence to measures such as these remains elective or wildly variable from state to state, both illegal and legal marijuana operations will continue to stymy efforts to ensure that that the cannabis boom is not a bust for the environment.

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