From small home grows to large commercial operations, more people are growing weed than ever before. There’s a high demand for pot in legal states, and growing cannabis is becoming (almost) as common as other crops. Growing anything might seem like one of the “greenest” activities a person could engage in, you are growing a plant after all. Here’s the thing though.

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Cannabis cultivation can take a serious toll on the environment. Check out the following green growing practices to lessen your environmental impact when cultivating cannabis, because whether you’re growing one plant or one-hundred…there are easy ways to grow marijuana in an environmentally conscious way.

Growing Green Outdoors

Close up of an outdoor marijuana farmIf you’re looking for the greenest way to grow, the best choice is to grow outside. Your plants get the natural light of the sun and are in their natural element doing what nature intended.

One of the biggest environmental concerns of growing outdoors is obviously water consumption. Fresh, clean water is a limited resource and depending on the size of your garden and the strains you’re growing, you could end up using a lot of water. Conserving water is one of the most important impacts we can all make on the environment.

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Be water wise by being conscious of the times you water. Watering in the early morning or later in the evening will help reduce water evaporation, in turn cutting down on water consumption. Once plants are established (think 3-6 weeks), start to only water them twice a week ensuring that you water deeply.

The environmentally conscious grower chooses strains that are drought-tolerant and can thrive when there’s a need to conserve water. Super Critical, for example, is a well-loved hybrid that is extremely tolerant of dry weather and hot conditions and an excellent strain for growers who want to incorporate green growing practices in the garden. Super Critical is even known to produce up to 1200 grams per plant when grown outside, making it an awesome decision for the outdoor grower who cares about the environment and wants to maximize their harvest.

Another way to grow greener ganja is to use natural nutrients and pesticides. Any excess nutrients or pesticides not absorbed by your plants will cause run-off and can potentially contaminate nearby waters. Using natural nutrients and natural pesticides will ensure you’re not causing any excess contamination when growing outside.

Growing Green Indoors

There is a large upfront cost to running a growGrowing indoor weed is considered environmentally worse than growing outdoors. One study found that indoor cannabis farms have up to 370 times larger environmental impact than outdoor farms. Some estimates maintain that the “average” indoor marijuana grow uses 18 times more energy than the single-family home.

Check this out. Some researchers estimate that indoor cannabis cultivation across the US is using 1 percent of total US energy per year. While this might not sound like much, it is. It’s approximately the same amount of electricity used by every computer in every home and apartment in the country each year. Indoor weed needs high-intensity lights to grow. And fans, dehumidifiers, heating and vent systems, and more. All this power adds up, zapping precious resources that we’re already running out of.

There are a few things you can do to lessen your indoor environmental impact. Switching your lights to full spectrum LED grow lights will cut the energy you use almost in half. LED lights also stay cooler than traditional grow lights, cutting down on ventilation and the energy needed to constantly run a fan.

There are also strains that will take less time to flower, which can considerably cut down on the energy these plants need. Choose strains like OG Kush and Early Girl, both of which are known for short flowering times and high yields.

What is the Environmental Impact of Growing Weed?

As environmentally conscious as many ganja farmers are, many will readily admit they know growing weed isn’t the most sustainable business to be in. There definitely are ways to grow green, but that doesn’t mean every farmer is doing so. Here are some of the ways growing cannabis has a negative impact on Mother Earth.

Degradation of the Natural Environment

According to a 2017 study, marijuana planting for commercial production in remote locations is taking its toll on the environment. Forest fragmentation, stream modification, soil erosion, and landslides are all common in remote areas where larger grows are commonly cultivated.

Excess Water Use

Pot plants need water to thrive. Exactly how much water weed needs during its lifecycle is dependent on several variables including plant size, soil, climate, strain, and more.

Growing during a water shortageThere are some estimations (especially in areas like the Emerald Triangle in California) that large-scale grows can deplete more than 100,000 gallons of water each day. Water loss is increasingly common in streams where water is taken from to feed thirsty marijuana plants.

Small-scale growers might use 1-5 gallons of water per plant each day. While this might not seem like much, there are countless small-scale grows in legal (and non-legal) states across the country. Small-scale home grows often tap into city water when growing their garden, which further depletes this finite resource. City water isn’t exactly the healthiest to give your plants, either.

According to Jake Brenner, co-author of the study and associate professor at Ithaca College Department of Environmental Studies and Environment,

“Cannabis leaves a small spatial footprint but has potentially significant environmental impacts. To mitigate these impacts, policymakers and planners need to enact specific environment and land-use regulations to control cannabis crop expansion during this early stage in its development.”

We live at a time where it’s vital to take the steps towards greener practices in our cannabis gardens. Environmentally conscious ganja growers are not only preserving our planet for future generations but also the future of this plant.