These days, cannabis consumers have more than one reason to celebrate in April. Beyond 4/20, Earth Day has emerged as a significant date in the cannabis calendar: it’s a time to take stock of the ways the industry is embracing new technologies and strategies to negate or eliminate its significant contributions to the warming, dying planet.
The holiday also presents an opportunity to consider the work that remains to be done. From an innovative process of converting cannabis packaging to diesel fuel, to seven-figure energy rebates and hemp-infused concrete, the industry is chock-full of positive change and exciting developments. Read on to learn more about the businesses on the cutting edge of cannabis sustainability.
Raking in the Rebates
Since entering the market last year, the Massachusetts retailer and producer Solar Therapeutics has set the gold standard for sustainability in large-scale cannabis. The 67,000 square foot facility has over four acres - yes, you read that right - of solar panels, as well as its own super-efficient power grid, on-site.
Solar Therapeutics has partnered with the LED lighting company Fluence and the sustainability advisors urban-gro to help guide their equipment choices. By avoiding more energy-intensive equipment, Solar Therapeutics has been able to rake in more than $1 million in rebates from their local utility providers. They are funneling much of that cash right back into more sustainable tech and gear.
The partnership with Fluence helps Solar Therapeutics avoid relying on high-pressure sodium (HPS) lights, which can require enormous amounts of electricity, which is often generated from fossil fuel-burning plants. “I'm thrilled we chose Fluence. It was more upfront per unit, [but] now we buy from them all the time,” Edward Dow, the CEO of Solar Therapeutics, told Wikileaf. The company continues to look for new ways to be even more sustainable. As battery storage continues to become more efficient, Solar Therapeutics is now “looking to embrace the solar aspect in a much bigger way in the next year or two.”
Recycling Product Gets Weird and Wonderful
Here’s one you don’t hear every day: converting plastic packaging into diesel fuel. The California dispensary Airfield Supply Company has hooked up with recycling wiz kids Resynergi and the Sonoma County producers CannaCraft to help, literally, fuel the latter’s delivery vehicles.
According to Airfield CMO Chris Lane, in California, two million single-joint tubes end up in waste streams and landfills each year. “Plastic is a solution when you don't have a better solution,” Lane told Wikileaf. “[Cannabis] comes from a green background, but as it has continued to commercialize...it has built up a reality around waste,” he added., Resynergi’s process breaks the plastic down to the molecular level, and can recapture energy from up to five tons of plastic each day.
Each ton of plastic can be converted into roughly 200 gallons of diesel oil. And this April, Airfield has been doing something special: through April 20, customers that bring in any quantity of plastic waste get some free pot (well, almost free; it technically costs a dime). “We welcome some 1,300 customers each day, so could conceivably capture as many as 4,000 to 5,000 plastic items before they enter the waste stream daily,” added Airfield CEO Marc Matulich in a press statement.
Packaging Gets Smarter
Just as companies are getting smarter about limiting the waste associated with packaging, they’re getting better with the packaging itself. The Colorado-based Sana Packaging, for one, sets a high bar; they recently launched a line of jars made completely from reclaimed ocean plastic. "With the help of our incredible customers, Sana Packaging has already removed more than 58 tons of plastic waste from our oceans.
For reference, the average car weighs about 2 tons," co-Founder & CEO Ron Basak-Smith said in a recent statement. Nor is Sana the only company taking steps to create more sustainable packaging: STO and the completely plastic-free Tin Canna are both making bold advancements in the field.
EPA Awards $100K for Hemp Brick Development
Earlier this month, the Environmental Protection Agency announced a $100,000 grant to the Washington-based company Earth Merchant to help develop their OlogyBricks, which are made from “hempcrete.” In a report, the Agency noted that the bricks are “durable, lightweight [and] carbon-negative.”
The EPA further noted that the breathable material offers “superior thermal resistance and mechanical properties” that improve indoor air quality without compromising their ability to retain heat. The cement used in conventional concrete, on the other hand, is responsible for a whopping 8% of all CO2 emissions.
Sustainable Farming is on the Rise
Lastly, we’ve got to give it up to the cannabis and hemp farms across the country that are embracing organic and low-impact farming techniques. Among others, the California powerhouse (and my old neighborhood go-to) SPARC has largely embraced biodynamic farming, which harnesses biodiversity and fully eschews non-organic processes. “[All the] activity on the farm is guided by principles of caring for the soil and listening to the land,” SPARC CEO Erich Pearson told Forbes last year.
Hemp companies are taking big steps, too. This year, Colorado-based Onda Wellness made history when they became the first certified biodynamic CBD company in the country. USDA-certified Organic hemp companies, like River Organics, in Virginia, are upping the ante as well. To be sustainable means considering the future as much as the present. Few companies embody that truth as explicitly as Moon Mother Hemp, a biodynamic and organic hemp company based in Boulder, Colorado.
In order to fulfill their commitment to the 1% For the Planet campaign, the company has partnered with Earth Guardians, a global youth-based organization focused on advancing environmental and social justice, to host a series of virtual events centered on the ways hemp can help us beat the climate crisis. The collaboration isn’t merely an embodiment of good practices, but a way to ensure that future generations do the same.