Cannabis is undoubtedly a fast-growing industry, earning billions as legalization continues to grow across the U.S. However, despite the lucrative qualities of marijuana, the sector as a whole struggles heavily in terms of sustainability.
Due to laws prohibiting outdoor growing, large amounts of electricity are burnt indoors, sacrificing sustainable practices for streamlined, legal cannabis harvesting. As Scale Microgrid Solutions founder Tim Hade told the Cannabis Sustainability Symposium, “The cannabis industry has an energy problem … But the problem is solvable.” Certifiably Green Denver is looking to solve that problem.
How Denver is Working to Make the Cannabis Industry More Sustainable
A program of the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment, Certifiably Green Denver assists the region’s community of businesses with sustainability advice completely free of charge. With the help of top advisors, the program looks to help Denver businesses reach their sustainability goals. Additionally, the program helps companies lower costs while improving environmental efforts by advising reduced spending in transportation, waste, water, business management, and energy.
The program has collaborated with a large number of businesses in the area, including restaurants, salons, nonprofits, retail stores, and much more. With the great strides the program has made in assisting Denver companies, it makes sense that Certifiably Green Denver would assist the ever-growing cannabis sector with its current sustainability struggles.
However, strategies that have worked for other companies might not be applicable to this burgeoning industry, which can present somewhat of a challenge. As Certifiably Green Denver Sustainability Advisor Emily Backus said in an exclusive interview, “The cannabis industry is unique because it’s so new, there were no established standards or best practices for efficient operations that we could use as resources to guide these businesses. They also have operating conditions that are very different from the other types of businesses we work with, so there has been a big learning curve.”
The Continued Cannabis Energy Conundrum
As mentioned earlier, one of the major problems affecting Denver cannabis sustainability is energy usage. Backus explains that, due to Amendment 64 rules, growing is required to be kept indoors, which is putting quite a strain on energy consumption: “Energy use by marijuana facilities is growing at a much faster rate than the growth of energy use across the city. While we only have a few years of data, if this trend continues, it could impact the city’s ability to meet our energy and greenhouse gas emissions reductions goals.”
In fact, Colorado Public Radio News reported earlier this year that almost four percent of Denver electricity is currently being used for marijuana, showing that the growing industry is also growing in energy needs.
However, there might be a bright future when it comes to the crossroads of marijuana and environmentalism. According to Backus, “I think sustainability will improve as the cannabis industry continues to mature. As prices continue to drop, my hope is that business owners will invest in energy efficiency to improve their bottom line. I also think there is fantastic innovation happening in this industry, and that over the next few years we will see more high-quality, energy-efficient equipment come to market.”
With the guidance of people like Backus, who helped to create the Cannabis Sustainability Work Group in 2016, there looks to be positive days ahead for the world of environmentally friendly marijuana in the Mile High City.
Featured image courtesy of Pixabay.