How can you overcome the challenges of sustainability in business grow operations or personal? Keep reading to find out.
What is sustainability?
First, let’s get a clear understanding of what being sustainable means and answer the question – why is sustainability important?
By definition, being environmentally ‘sustainable’ is the act of meeting our own needs, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. AKA, depleting the natural resources Mother Earth so kindly provides. A fact that also addresses the ‘why’ sustainability practices are so vital, especially in cannabis.
For the most part, most growers cultivate cannabis indoors. Which requires a high level of electricity for lighting, and water. Two items, sustainability experts are asking the world to now reduce their consumption in light of preservation.
How can professional or home cannabis growers do their part to reduce energy consumption without negatively affecting their crops? We’ll cover the top tips, next.
Top Tips for Sustainable Growing
Here are the top ways to increase sustainability practices in your grow:
Reduce energy consumption by lights
You know the push you’ve felt from your energy company to replace all bulbs with LEDs? Cannabis lighting is no different. Beyond the variety of benefits LEDs can provide to cannabis plants, one of the biggest perks of them all is they’re highly energy efficient. This isn’t just good for the earth, but good for your pocketbook too. As you’ll see lower monthly electricity bills when using LED lights.
Another trend that’s growing in popularity across the US, is the combination of artificial and natural light. Like the addition of lights in a protected greenhouse, that are only turned on when needed. Or, simply leaving an opening to a window in your indoor home grow to reduce the number of lights used when the sun is out.
Reduce energy consumption by HVAC systems
Implementing LEDs also has another energy benefit – because LEDs emit less heat than other lighting setups, you can reduce your energy consumption from HVAC systems too. Since using LEDs means you’ll be required to cool your room less, overall.
For more innovative operations, industrial use of combined heat and power (CHP) technology is rising too. This is a type of energy-efficient technology that produces electricity and then captures heat byproducts to use as thermal energy. CHP is used in many other industries, and while expensive to implement up-front tends to have a 3-5 year payback.
In smaller grow rooms, rather than using an air exhaust fan that runs on electricity you can replenish the room with fresh air by installing a passive intake system instead.
Improve water usage
There’s no denying that cannabis plants need ample amounts of water, so you may be wondering exactly how to reduce water consumption to improve sustainability.
- One way is you can collect rainwater to repurpose in your grow.
- Another simple way is to minimize runoff by collecting excess water with trays under your plant pots.
Last but not least, you can implement aeroponics or hydroponics systems. Both growing methods avoid using soil, which reduces watering altogether. If you do grow in soil, mixing perlite and vermiculite into your base will help improve water retention to use less water.
Compost for nutrients
When learning how to compost at home you can craft your own nutrient solution that your crops can benefit from. Compost tea can be used as an effective cannabis plant fertilizer and reduces waste from everyday food items.
For plants, compost also helps support microorganism growth in soil-based mediums. This, in turn, protects your plants from harmful fungi and pests and boosts plant growth overall.
Improve waste management
Speaking of waste, like your home, your grow produces a ton too. Especially when defoliating, harvesting, or swapping plots and refreshing soils. In fact, it was recently determined that the cannabis industry alone produces 150 million tons of waste, annually.
To improve waste management in your own operation, you can hire a specialized cannabis waste disposal contractor or begin repurposing leftover flowers and leaves into your own tinctures, topicals, edibles, or drinks.
This may be obvious but it must be stated – if you can grow outdoors, without the use of HVAC systems, or electricity, you’ll automatically be far more sustainable. For areas where climates are ideal year-round, moving your grow outdoors is a simple step to contributing to cannabis industry sustainability.
Consider solar energy
For your home, or grow, adding solar energy to your set-up can help reduce electricity use overall. Even though installing solar energy panels seems like an expensive up-front investment, governments are stepping up to the place to incentivize the switch. By offering a solar federal investment tax credit, along with many state and local municipalities offering their own incentives, too.
Buy recyclable/green packaging
Commercially or personally, by buying recyclable and green products for use in your garden you’re doing a small part towards sustainability. Many cannabis brands are now also packaging their products in recycled or green packaging, and using differentiation as a key marketing point, too.
Ditching single-use plastics will also help reduce nearly 300 million tons of plastic waste that ends up in landfills or oceans.
The Future of Sustainable Cannabis
Even though it might be easy to mistake cannabis as a ‘green’ industry, unfortunately, the process to cultivate high-quality cannabis can be far from sustainable. To help do your part in protecting the environment, and furthering the future of sustainability practices – go on, and start implementing as many of these tips as you can into your home or professional grow operation.
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