Cannabis cultivation requires tons of logistics, planning, and equipment to get right. However, if you’re trying to be a responsible and successful grower, you may wonder how to reduce your waste and overall environmental impact. After all, since you’re growing natural plants, it makes sense to want to limit your footprint as much as possible.
Fortunately, sustainable cannabis cultivation doesn’t have to be out of reach. As we’ll discuss in this article, there are many ways to enhance your production and limit most of your pollution and waste. By utilizing these tips, you can aim for a net zero operation, meaning you can feel good about thriving within this industry.
Why is Sustainable Cultivation Important?
On a macro level, sustainability is crucial for preserving the environment and ensuring the planet stays green and habitable for generations to come. However, on a more personal level, sustainability is just good business. When breaking down your overhead spending, reducing waste helps you increase your ROI. Basically, the more you can conserve resources and ensure renewable practices, the easier it will be to increase your profit margin.
That said, sustainability often comes with a pretty hefty upfront price tag. So, as long as you’re willing to invest extra capital to make your operation as “green” as possible, you can reap considerable rewards later. Also, the planet will thank you for doing your part to reduce adverse industrial impacts on the ecosystem.
How to Create a Sustainable Cultivation Operation
First and foremost, your sustainability practices will differ depending on whether you grow your plants inside or outside. As a general rule, outdoor operations are already relatively sustainable because they use the existing ecosystem instead of replicating it indoors. That said, there are some methods to help improve efficiency and reduce waste, so we’ll highlight those in the following sections.
Step One: Focus on Energy Usage (i.e., Lights)
If you’re growing cannabis indoors, you need to use a lot of electricity to power various elements like:
- Fans and Blowers
- Humidifiers (and Dehumidifiers)
- Temperature Control Systems
Before you can figure out where to cut costs and reduce waste, you need to know what you’re working with already. Data collection should be an integral part of your operation, but if it’s not, now is the time to start. Pay attention to when your machinery kicks on and for how long. These numbers will help you understand how much electricity each piece is using, allowing you to make adjustments as necessary.
Some ways to improve your energy efficiency include:
- Upgrade to High-Efficiency Appliances – While it’s tempting to buy affordable equipment, you’ll wind up losing a lot of money in the long term. Instead, it’s better to invest in higher-quality machinery that can deliver better results with less energy.
- Utilize Automatic Systems – If you’re turning devices off and on manually, you’re likely wasting a lot of electricity in the process. Automatic sensors and systems ensure your plants experience optimum growth conditions with less waste.
- Add Solar Power to Your Operation – The sun is an abundant source of energy that will never run out. Solar panels on your grow room can help you generate electricity without relying on fossil fuels. If you can’t install panels on the building itself, try using solar-powered generators. This way, you can still get green energy without investing in tons of infrastructure.
Step Two: Utilize Natural Methods When Possible
Since cannabis grows in nature, there’s no reason to restrict the natural balance of things when growing these plants. Some natural methods that can help you stay more sustainable include:
- Sunlight – Instead of growing indoors with no overhead windows or skylights, why not try creating a greenhouse? If the sun can provide natural light for most of the day, you don’t have to power as many indoor lights for as long.
- Natural Pest Control – Cannabis attracts its share of pests and diseases. Instead of relying on synthetic pest control products, you can release natural predators into your grow room and let nature take its course.
- Collect Rainwater – Rain will be the best water source for your plants, so you should collect and reuse as much of it as possible. Alternatively, you can use an opening roof and let the rain water your plants automatically.
Step Three: Conserve Water Whenever Possible
Did you know it takes up to 22 liters of water per day to grow a single cannabis plant? That figure is for outdoor growers, but it’s still pretty much the same for indoor operations as well.
One way to conserve water usage is to rely on hydroponics. At first, this setup may look like it wastes water, but you can simply recycle everything, so you wind up using less. Also, hydroponics allows plants to absorb nutrients faster, meaning they don’t need as much water to thrive.
Another method to try is laying hay at the base of your plants. Hay traps water well and doesn’t release it through evaporation very quickly. So, you can keep your plants hydrated without wasting so much unseen water vapor.
Finally, since cannabis plants like humid environments, you can collect the dew that forms on the plants. Using special netting, you can cause moisture to condense and reuse the water on the roots to help the plant grow faster.
Step Four: Recycle Cannabis Waste
Once you’re done harvesting your crops, you’ll wind up with lots of wasted elements. Cannabis waste is primarily organic (i.e., unused stalks and leaves), but some components are non-organic. If possible, partner with a recycling company that can take your organic materials and reuse them for farming or composting.
When it comes to water runoff, you’ll need to test it to see if it contains too many nutrients. If so, you’ll have to desalinate the water to reuse it for the next crop.
The Bottom Line
While reducing waste from cannabis cultivation is challenging, it’s not impossible. Although you may not wind up with a net-zero operation, you’ll do much better than before. Also, you’ll notice some immediate results, such as a smaller utility bill. If you’re ready to switch to sustainable agriculture, check out our site to get the right seeds for your next crop.