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Growing Cannabis Sustainably

Growing cannabis sustainably

Cannabis growing, regardless of scale, requires a lot of energy and water, and it generates waste that must be managed carefully. Fortunately, you can take numerous easy actions to make your growing area more sustainable, all of which will help you reduce the environmental effect.

Understanding sustainable cannabis cultivation

You may believe that sustainable agriculture is solely essential to large-scale commercial producers. Even with small-scale systems, the expense of running high-powered grow lights, exhausts, and fans may soon pile up. Furthermore, small-scale cultivators require fertilizers, and the brands that contain them produce harmful runoff into the environment. This is where sustainable cultivation comes into play. Also, cannabis legalization has demonstrated that cultivation has a negative impact on the environment.

Moreover, a growing network of people and businesses are attempting to make cannabis cultivation “green” in a new way. Sustainable cannabis cultivation is focused on minimizing your grow’s environmental effect. This might range from adopting alternate power sources for your lighting to entirely employing all-natural fertilizers. All these alterations are available to you whether you are growing inside or outdoors, a professional grower, or a casual gardener.

Common principles of sustainable cannabis cultivation

Producers may employ sustainable approaches in four significant components of cannabis growing.

Energy utilization of lights

Cannabis thrives in the sun; the more light a plant receives, the more flowers it produces. As a result, indoor gardeners must invest in strong light sources to guarantee their plants reach their maximum potential. Growers will typically utilize at least 50-80 watts of light per square foot of canopy. Many will, however, end up employing larger wattage setups to enhance yields. Running this type of strong lighting consumes a lot of electricity. Running a modest 250W light for 18 hours per day for four weeks of growth, then 12 hours each day for eight weeks of flowering, for example, consumes around 315 kilowatt-hours of power.

Furthermore, it’s crucial to remember that when used for extended periods, the majority of grow lights—even LEDs—emit heat. Growers frequently use fans, ventilation systems, and air conditioning systems to regulate the environment in their grow rooms to mitigate that. This energy cost is not included in the preceding computation, and you can guarantee that it adds up.

Energy utilization of climate management

Cannabis enjoys warm temperatures and appropriate humidity just as much as it enjoys light. As a result, equipment to monitor and modify the environment of the grow room should be purchased by indoor growers. In most situations, the climate control equipment you’ll need in your grow room consists of fans to maintain the air moving around the space and an exhaust system to remove heated air from the room and restore it with fresh air.

Additionally, running this equipment requires much electricity, like grow lights do. For instance, your exhaust fan runs continuously and typically uses roughly 30W of power (this obviously varies among models). Your other fans will likewise run continuously and often using 20W each (bigger grow rooms require several fans). Also, environmental controls are your growing operation’s second-largest energy consumer after grow lights. Any money you can save will add up quickly in this situation.

Water utilization

Naturally, cannabis plants cultivated indoors for personal use need far less water. However, cannabis production can significantly impact the environment, mainly when done on a commercial basis. The amount of water your plants need might vary greatly based on the temperature of your grow room, the strain you’re cultivating, and the size and health of each plant. In either case, optimizing water use in your grow space is essential for sustainable growth.

Waste management

Like any other agricultural or gardening activity, cultivating cannabis generates waste that is both organic and non-organic. No matter how big or small your grow-op is, it is your duty to manage this trash properly. This frequently entails turning to outside sources for commercial producers operating in legal marketplaces. Fortunately, controlling cannabis waste is much easier for home growers. You may put any organic waste directly into your compost bin, such as post-harvest plant debris. There are other straightforward methods for recycling old soil.

Conversely, managing nutrient runoff can be a little trickier. If there is only a tiny quantity of runoff, you should dilute it and apply it to other garden plants. Reverse osmosis and desalination devices can assist you in recovering some of that water if the problem is more serious.

Strategies for sustainable cannabis growing

Sustainable growing techniques are beneficial to everyone, whether you’re a commercial provider or a rookie home gardener. Here are some tips for making your cannabis grow more ecologically friendly.

Organic growth mediums

Cannabis may be grown responsibly using organic and no-till techniques. Establish a healthy food web in the soil to aid with the requirement for fewer container changes between plants. You only need to re-transplant and cut out the ball root. Organic farming is also more affordable since good, healthy soils don’t require you to add nutrients since they are already present in the soil. Moreover, reverse osmosis water is practically the only feeding regimen required for entirely organic cannabis growth.

Save energy utilization

Indoor cannabis cultivation requires a significant amount of electricity. According to reports, the cultivation of cannabis accounts for 1% of the energy used in the US. So, the best method to lessen the carbon footprint of your buds is to grow them entirely organically, outdoors in the sunlight. However, given that cannabis plants need a lot of the sun and that indoor growth is unsustainable due to its high energy consumption, many would-be cannabis farmers may find it hard to cultivate their plants outside.

Make grow lights efficient
By positioning grow lights effectively you can be more energy efficient.

Fortunately, there is a fix for this. Because they help you manage the conditions while being good for the environment, greenhouses are a win-win situation. Any greenhouse may be equipped with LED grow lights, which offer the ideal lighting conditions for your buds while consuming significantly less energy.

Cannabis plant protection

One of the major problems confronting the cannabis business is pesticide contamination. Although pesticides can help protect plants, you can also opt to use the safer, more environmentally friendly alternatives. You may also employ natural options, such as companion planting or producing your own garlic spray. Additionally, bird feeders assist in defending plants against insects that could otherwise consume your blooms.

Position plants closely to one another

Producers should plant Cannabis plants near together to prevent evaporation, assist shade the soil, and use less water. Simply add more natural fertilizers to cannabis plants that are grown near together to improve the soil.

Save water

A single cannabis plant cultivated outdoors or in greenhouses needs about 22 liters of water per day. Even though it seems like a substantial volume of water, this is the state of the business. However, because of the various development circumstances in a home garden, plants require considerably less water, and there are specific methods to lower this requirement. Put some hay around the planting beds if you want to water your plant less. Mulch, like hay, keeps water in the soil for a lot longer, which allows it to evaporate much more gradually.

Utilize organic products

Although cannabis cannot yet be labeled as organic, you can take steps to cultivate your product with care and without damaging chemicals. Substitute organic nutrients for any additional ones you use. Use only vegan board-certified items if you want to make your green even greener. These packaged nutrients don’t include components like bone meal, liquefied fish, or other leftovers from the livestock industry.

Train your cannabis plants

Cannabis plants are trained to take advantage of available light using Low Stress Training, Sea of Green, or Screen of Green strategies. As a result, these methods boost yields while lowering your grow’s energy requirements.

Grow outside

Cultivating cannabis outdoors, if it’s permitted in your state, is a sustainable option since the plant is organically designed to thrive in the sunshine rather than under artificial lighting. Even while lights are designed to mimic sunlight, they can’t entirely duplicate it. Daylight will always have a positive impact on cannabis plants. Furthermore, greenhouses offer an alternative if you are unable to cultivate outdoors.

Go modest

Cannabis may be grown most sustainably in small-scale operations. Smaller-scale farming allows you to cultivate healthier, superior plants while having a far lower negative environmental impact.

Pick your strains wisely

For indoor growing, feminized strains are better options. While gendered strains develop more quickly, male plants require about 3-6 weeks longer of nutrients, light, and energy to mature. Additionally, to consume fewer resources, you can select autoflower strains that blossom in a shorter amount of time, such as eight weeks instead of 12 or 14.

Fashion, beef, and oil are generally the first things that spring to mind when you think of businesses that are particularly harmful to the environment. However, one area that is sometimes disregarded in this aspect is the cannabis industry. Being eco-friendly while growing green is difficult, as contradictory as it may appear. Cannabis plants are often cultivated indoors and require specialized lighting, water, and feeding conditions, all of which result in a significant carbon footprint.

Picture of Ed Rushford

Ed Rushford

Ed Rushford’s impact on cannabis growing is undeniable. Though he tends to focus primarily on 2 areas, plant training techniques and dealing with disease, pests, and other problems, he has offered many insights into how cannabis plants live and grow. That’s not to say that Ed is unfamiliar with the complete life cycle of cannabis, from seed to harvest, but he uses his widespread knowledge to hone in on the minutia and niche areas of growing cannabis. Ed’s goal is to spread knowledge and allow for everyone to become better growers. About this Author

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