Marijuana Business Magazine November-December 2019

Marijuana Business Magazine | November-December 2019 144 responsible, it’s also the factor most closely tied to a cannabis company’s profit margins. So how does greenwashing work? And how can a company’s green claims ring true? A grower, for example, would be greenwashing if it claims to cultivate with LED lighting when it really uses such lighting only for clones or the vegetative phase—not the entire growth cycle. To curb power consumption, Urso sug- gests tracking energy use before investing in new technology. And after determining how much electricity it’s using, a compa- ny should schedule its equipment to run outside peak demand times. “Industrial gets variable rates based on time of use and intensity, depending on when the grid is at capacity,” Urso said. “Varying equipment scheduling and scheduling around peak demand can have an environmental impact.” She also suggests optimizing lighting and HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) as well as using rolling benches and vertical farming for better use of space. And Urso recommends using fans to better control the climate without resorting to energy-intensive industrial air conditioners. CURBINGWATER USE To reduce water usage, Urso recommends investing in an automated irrigation system that eliminates overwatering and provides precise nutrient dosing. Overwatering also adds humidity to the air, which forces the HVAC system to work harder to eliminate it. And humidity makes plants susceptible to mold and disease. An example of greenwashing would be if a company claims it uses water that’s processed through a reverse-osmosis filtration system when half of that filtered water is returned to wastewater because of the brine it creates. In most places, using regular drinking water, which already has been processed, is sufficient for cannabis plants to thrive, Urso said. Growing cannabis also has a significant impact on air quality. Volatile organic com- pounds (VOCs) from cultiva- tion and extraction contribute to ozone formation, which is toxic to breathe. Measures that can be taken at cultivation facilities include sealing the grow space and controlling air flow through carbon filters, venting greenhouses at night, maintaining temperature and humidity to reduce odors and using plant-based cleaning products instead of those that are alcohol-based. To reduce air pollution from extraction facilities, inspect and maintain all storage devices and equipment to prevent leaks, never dispose of a solvent through direct evaporation or spillage and maintain an inventory of all solvents and calculate annual air emissions. Additionally, implement a robust employee-training program for safety and air-pollution prevention. Any time a solvent such as propane, butane or ethanol, which are 99% VOCs, is exposed to the open air, it rapidly evaporates. “Understanding how to properly use equipment to maximize solvent recovery and minimize leaks is important,” Urso said. For example, extraction facilities should hold training sessions and implement standard operating procedures that prevent employees from short-cycling the process (not waiting for the solvent-recovery process to complete before unloading the machine and reloading the next round). Examples of greenwashing include using odor-masking agents that emit stronger-smelling VOCs that overwhelm olfactory senses instead of a carbon-filtration system that actually captures VOCs and reduces emissions. Regulations Stymie Green Packaging Efforts You can’t escape the news that plastics are destroying many of our planet’s ecosystems. However unfortunate, they are a necessary evil when it comes to cannabis industry packaging, according to industry executives. It may seem excessive to sell cannabis products already sealed in a plastic bag inside a child- resistant plastic container that’s inside a box and finally a bag to exit the store. But because the industry is so heavily regulated by states where marijuana is legal, there’s little businesses can do to avoid it. “There’s an excess of regulation that makes it challenging from an environmental perspective,” said Joe Hodas, president and chief operating officer of Gofire, a Denver-based vaporizer and software company. “There’s so much packaging—the plastic bag inside the bottle inside the box.” Though it may seem obvious that consumers should be able to recycle the containers their products come in at the stores where they bought them, dispensaries cannot accept empty dram containers from their customers for recycling because there could be traces of flower inside. Because of state regulations, recycling the plastic containers is up to the consumer. “I can’t control how much waste is involved in packaging, but what I can do is offer an incentive to folks who bring back their resealable bags,” said Amy Andrle, co-founder of L’Eagle, a grower and retailer that has earned the Certifiably Green Denver designation from the city. “I can do my best to change what we can. “We don’t want this industry being penned as nonsustainable—the ‘ungreen green industry,’” Andrle said. “We have to be conscientious that all of our businesses represent the entire industry.” – Margaret Jackson Kaitlin Urso is an environmental consultant for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Courtesy Photo Greenwashing