Sustainability

Celebrating the Winners of the 2021 Sustainable Leadership Awards

Sustainable cannabis has the potential to save the world. While it grows, it takes pollutants out of the soil. When harvested, it can serve as fuel, food, or fiber. From hemp textiles to biofuels to building materials to medicine, its versatility is virtually unmatched in the natural world.

Yet, despite its wonderful properties, the legal industry is gaining a reputation for being “unsustainable.” It is Cannabis & Tech Today’s mission, in partnership with Regennabis, to prove the cannabis industry can be sustainable, eco-friendly, and a valuable tool in the global fight against climate change.

To showcase the brands embracing these ideals, Cannabis & Tech Today launched the Sustainable Leadership Awards. Now in its second year, these awards serve to highlight the great work happening in the industry.

Sustainability is possible. Even one small step in the right direction can inspire a cascade of followers. The companies profiled below are acting as leaders, demonstrating that responsible growth is attainable.

The Sustainable Leadership Awards include nine categories. This year, there were three categories for which Cannabis & Tech Today and Regennabis did not award a winner: SDGs, Social Impact, and Event.

While the applicants in these categories are doing good work in their respective fields, the advisory board was not presented with enough data to support their applications.

Both Cannabis & Tech Today and Regennabis look forward to receiving more inspiring applications from industry innovators next year.

Energy Conservation

The cannabis industry is energy intensive. Cannabis farmers must reduce their energy use through innovation and incorporate renewable energies into their practices. With this in mind, the 2021 Sustainable Leadership Award for Energy Use is awarded to California-based Glass House Brands

The company began using DYNAGLAS panels in its 350,000 square-foot Padaro greenhouse, reducing energy consumption by 20%. Further, the company’s Dutch Greenhouse design and ideal geographic location in California allow for a lower total environmental impact. 

To demonstrate their current energy efficiency and find areas for improvement, the company commissioned a study of their operations from cannabis energy consultancy group Seinergy. The consultancy compared energy use at Glass House with average greenhouse and indoor cannabis cultivation operations. The study found the average indoor grow uses 262 kilowatt-hour per square foot of flower (kWh/SF). The average greenhouse grow used 134 kWh/SF. Glass House’s average was 13 kWh/SF.

BDS Analytics reported Glass House Group’s consumer brand, Glass House Farms, was the top-selling flower brand in California in July of 2021. For a brand of such immense size to demonstrate such clear and remarkable energy savings sets a powerful example for the rest of the industry to follow. 

ESG Standards

ESG stands for Environmental, Social, and Governance. ESG metrics are often analyzed by investors as non-financial factors that play a role in a company’s opportunities for growth (or failure). These factors are usually not required in financial reporting, but are important considerations in sustainability reporting.

Environmental metrics can include carbon emissions, air and water pollution, energy efficiency, and waste management. Social factors can include data privacy, diversity reporting, human rights practices, and labor standards. Governance standards can include reports on executive compensation, political contributions, and lobbying practices. 

In 2021, Green Hygienics Holdings Incorporated published its first annual ESG report. It is the first industrial hemp company in the United States to publish such a report using the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) framework.

The report looked at economic viability, eco-responsibility, and social equity. As the largest USDA-Certified Organic Hemp for CBD farm in North America, Green Hygienics Holdings commitment to ESG is a monumental step toward creating a more sustainable cannabis industry. 

Sustainable Packaging

Diamond Packaging is being recognized for its commitment to sustainable leadership in the field of packaging. The company’s Greenbox Sustainability Initiative was created to research, design, and implement more sustainable packaging solutions for the cannabis industry.

In 2020, 97% of all the company’s packaging was created using renewable or recycled paperboards. 

Diamond Packaging is Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Chain of Custody certified. Further, the company uses wind energy for 100% of its electrical energy requirements.

As of 2021, the company began a multi-year commitment to purchase carbon-offsets to the extent that the company is carbon neutral in regard to Scope 1 and 2 emissions. As of 2014, the company achieved “Zero Waste to Landfill” status. 

The company also set a series of targets to reduce its energy and water consumption, plus emissions, by 2% per year for the next 10 years.

Diamond Packaging’s continued commitment to making cannabis packaging more eco-friendly sets a high standard to which every cannabis company should hold itself.

Sustainable Stewardship

Recipients of the Sustainable Stewardship Award should demonstrate a commitment to sustainable practices that serve to better their communities and create a stronger cannabis industry.

Ilera Holistic Health (IHH) is helping create an industry in the Deep South that can endure changing regulations and become foundational to the local economy.

Despite the region’s reluctance to embrace medical cannabis, IHH has worked with local lawmakers to create programs that will help the cannabis industry survive and thrive into the future.

The company, led by CEO Dr. Chanda Macias, is one of only two cannabis companies in the state of Louisiana. IHH launched the first THC and CBD products in the state, in conjunction with license partner Southern University.

Dr. Macias has advocated for more treatment options in the state, which is now allowing inhalable cannabis in addition to tinctures and topicals. The company is incorporating recyclable packaging and compostable potting materials into its business model, as well as water reduction strategies. 

IHH has developed a multiphase Emergency Preparedness Plan to accommodate the region’s erratic climate. This planning allowed the company to continue to serve patients without interruption during Hurricane Ida and Hurricane Delta (with the exception of closures due to mandatory evacuations).

IHH is also identifying new treatment modalities for patients with autism spectrum disorder, adding to the increasing body of research around medical cannabis.

Dr. Macias’ work in collaboration with IHH is creating a more resilient, robust, and sustainable cannabis industry.

Water Conservation

As fresh water becomes increasingly scarce in light of global droughts and erratic weather patterns, water conservation is an essential practice for every sector.

Cannabis cultivation is water intensive. However, the Resource Innovation Institute reported cannabis uses much less water than most major agricultural crops

In the cannabis industry, irrigation and sanitation account for the majority of its 2.8 billion gallons of annual water consumption. Sanitation, such as rinsing grow tables and sterilizing equipment, uses a lot of water which is often allowed to drain untreated into the environment.

Geomat, a water recovery system, is helping curb that waste. Its EPA- and OSHA-approved system collects waste water from the sanitation process and filters it through aerated holding tanks to be reused during the next cleansing process. 

Geomat systems can be tied into the sewer after the water is cleaned or set up as a closed loop for later use. A Geomat water case study from an indoor cannabis cultivation facility in Florida offered some powerful data.

Of the 35,100 gallons of water used each year to clean and sanitize the grow’s equipment, the company’s Geomat system recycled 31,590 gallons of water for later use.

As regulations around resource use become more strict, water-recycling systems can help growers stay ahead of the curve. More importantly, systems like Geomat help preserve Earth’s most precious resource for future generations. 

Innovation in Sustainable Technology

One area begging for innovation in this sector is drying and curing.

If you’ve ever toured a craft cultivation facility, you might marvel at all the impressive machinery only to find yourself dumbstruck when entering the drying room. Plastic storage tubs, rudimentary hanging racks, a rotation of glass jars and timers — and most importantly a robust HVAC system to dehumidify and provide precision temperature control. The process can take weeks or months, depending on location, and is energy intensive. 

Cryo Cure, a cannabis technology company, is offering an innovative alternative. Its proprietary technology freeze-dries flower in 12-14 hours.

In contrast to weeks of drying in a dehumidified, temperature control environment, Cryo Cure offers an energy-efficient substitute.

Mildew, mold, and degradation can be a devastating occurrence during the drying process, leading to crop loss. The natural resources wasted from crop loss are huge.

The Cryo Cure process has been lauded by some of the industry’s most respected growers as preserving desirable qualities and offering a high-quality finished product without the risks associated with traditional drying.

For the global cannabis industry, this type of innovation will save countless kilowatt hours as well as other natural resources which might have been wasted on improperly cured crops.  

Patricia Miller

Patricia Miller is the Managing Editor for Cannabis & Tech Today. She covers science, technology, and policy shaping the legal cannabis industry. Miller is also an avid kayaker with a proclivity for picnicking. Follow her work on Twitter @_PMiller.

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