Our Quest to Lessen Cannabis Industry's Carbon Footprint | River Organics

While we are, of course, advocates of CBD, and well aware of its amazing benefits to enhance overall health and wellness, we need to acknowledge that the cannabis industry overall has some work to do in order to be more friendly to our planet, and lessen its impact on the environment. When you think about cannabis cultivation, you would probably assume that the industry is small-scale and sustainable. The truth is that cannabis production has become an industrial-scale venture with equally, industrial-sized impacts on the environment. Yes, the cannabis growing industry is generally not environmentally friendly. We at River Organics, however, are making an effort towards sustainability and more eco-conscious practices by lessening our ecological footprint, while giving back to environmental causes. 

But let’s backtrack for a second. We keep hearing the term, ‘footprint’ in regards to consumption of various earthly resources, but what does that mean, exactly? In today’s article, we will break down what a footprint refers to, ecologically speaking, discuss how the cannabis industry can become more eco-friendly and sustainable, and offer you tips on how you can do your part to lessen your carbon footprint, too!

Ok, let’s dive in.

What is a Carbon Footprint? 

A footprint in terms of the environment, refers to consumption or usage of resources. A carbon footprint specifically focuses on the usage of greenhouse gases released when fossil fuels are burned. A global, or ecological footprint, deals with the total amount of resources people consume, or their total impact on the environment as compared to the amount of land needed to sustain use of resources.

In general, you can think of a footprint as the ratio of how fast resources are consumed and waste is generated vs the speed at which nature can manage waste and continue to generate resources.

What is the Cannabis Industry’s Carbon Footprint? 

Just how environmentally unfriendly is the cannabis industry? 

Growing hemp indoors normally requires the use of heated greenhouses with high-intensity lights burning up to 18 hours per day, with water pumped in for months of growing. A study published in Nature Sustainability in 2021 found that a kilogram of dried flower grown inside a greenhouse could require greenhouse gas emissions ranging between ~ 2.3 and 5.2 metric tons (MT) CO2.1  

Simply put, that is a lot of greenhouse or carbon emissions! Therefore, you can say that the cannabis industry unfortunately, currently has a surprisingly high carbon footprint. 

Yes, in fact this staggering statistic actually came as a shock to many within the cannabis industry, leading companies to re-evaluate and adjust their practices. And we at River Organics, too, have been working to minimize our carbon footprint.

How is River Organics Making Strides to Lessen Its Carbon Footprint?

In contrast, over the last year, greenhouse gas emissions associated with all of River Organics’ farming, production and manufacturing activities totaled just 38.59 MT CO2. We processed 3,636 kg of dried flowers and manufactured over 15,000 finished products. This means that River Organics’ cultivation and drying activities are much more efficient than even the most efficient operation who participated in the above-mentioned study. Just how much more efficient? 30,3000% or 303 times. 

And to break this down for you further, a typical U.S. household has a carbon footprint of 48 MT CO2. This is stil 24% more emissions than River Organics.

River Organics’ Philosophy of Sustainability and Environmental Stewardship 

From our conception, River Organics’ mission has been focused on maintaining entirely organic, eco-friendly practices as well as promoting environmental stewardship. We choose to do most of our growing outdoors, taking advantage of natural sunlight and rainfall. To minimize our environmental impact, we utilize an organic growing plan and regenerative farming practices.  We are in the process of installing an on-farm, wholly owned solar array that will meet all our electricity requirements. This will also drastically cut down on our amount of fossil fuels burned to produce electricity (project waiting on county approval).  

Because River Organics grows exclusively outdoors, the use of tractors—and the resulting fuel consumption—also contribute to our carbon footprint. River Organics recently replaced its old model tractor with a new Tier 4 (abides by strict EPA emissions requirements) compliant tractor which helps to regulate and significantly reduce our exhaust emissions.

Additionally, the River Organics’ team is always focused on minimizing the number of materials we source.  These efforts position us at the forefront of environmental sustainability innovation within the agriculture and manufacturing industries, and even more specifically, within the cannabis industry.

In addition to keeping our carbon footprint small, we have joined 1% for the Planet (onepercentfortheplanet.org). Their members have invested over $250 million to date for environmental causes by giving 1% of their sales.  Many small-scale cannabis operations may tout themselves as being “green”, but River Organics prefers to walk the walk, rather than just talk the talk!

How Can You Contribute by Working to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint?

Cutting down on your carbon footprint is easier than you might think!

Here are some of our top ideas: 

  1. Conduct an energy audit of your home. After all, your carbon footprint has to do with how much greenhouse emissions you use or how much energy you waste. Therefore, your goal is to figure out ways in which you can become more energy efficient. 

  2. Remember to turn the lights off when you leave a room and unplug any electronic devices when you are not using them. 

  3. Lower your thermostat in winter and raise it in the summer. Every little bit helps!

  4. Drive less. Cars give off tons of CO2 emissions. There are so many other ways you can get to your destination. Take a walk and breathe in fresh air (good for your holistic healing!), take public transportation, try rideshares, etc.

  5. Be more savvy in regards to your consumption! Choose brands and retailers like River Organics that are making an effort to maintain organic, sustainable and environmentally friendly practices.

We’d love to hear what you do to reduce your carbon footprint! Let us know in the comments below. 

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