Cannabis companies across the nation are proving to make a very positive impact on their surrounding communities. Tax revenue is being given to schools and local programs, and crime rates are going down due to the decrease in black market activity. But one under-the-radar issue still remains in certain instances; some cannabis companies consume a lot of energy or produce a lot of runoff.
Fortunately, many cannabis companies are deciding to actively make a change in the way they do business, using sustainable practices and taking advantage of energy-saving initiatives to save money and make a positive impact on the environment. CULTURE B2B talked to a couple businesses who are utilizing energy initiatives to help ensure that they’re serving as a positive role model in the industry, being mindful of their businesses’ impacts on the environment.
The Green Solution
Colorado is one of the pioneer states for legalized cannabis, and it continues be a leader in sustainable practices, which other states are now emulating. The Green Solution, one of the biggest cannabis chains in the state, uses the most sustainable practices possible and takes advantage of local initiatives from Xcel Energy.
“We care deeply about the environment, and as such are working day in and day out to ensure we cut every possible waste out of the manufacturing process,” Kyle Speidell, CEO and co-founder of The Green Solution, told CULTURE B2B. “In fact, we have led the charge on everything from utilizing more organic and natural methods for eradicating bugs to only using a growing medium that can be cleaned and reused. At The Green Solution, we are looking each day to cut waste and find new ways to protect the environment. We also work with our government relations team to find ways to partner with government entities in their work toward more efficient business solutions.”
The company takes advantage of rebates that Xcel offers due to efficiencies they installed in The Green Solution’s facilities. Because the company has been transparent and vocal about its efforts, The Green Solution has been able to reap the benefits of local energy initiatives. Dedicated to continuing his business’ focus on energy-efficient practices, Speidell plans to take even more advantage and further improve his company’s carbon footprint during the coming year.
“TGS works with every regulatory agency to do our best around energy consumption, and we have many new focuses in this area that will be realized in 2019,” Speidell added. “From energy saving lights, to proprietary, hydroponic growing systems, reusable growing mediums and a dedication to collaboration with government, we are working hard to find solutions that can be replicated.”
“At The Green Solution, we are looking each day to cut waste and find new ways to protect the environment.”
Eco Firma Farms
Another leader in the cannabis industry, Oregon offers initiatives to businesses with healthy environmental impacts, and local grower Eco Firma Farms takes advantage. The company works with Energy Trust of Oregon to use renewable wind energy to help power its farm.
“They set my account up, and they have a certain amount of electricity they will allocate, and it has to be a certain amount of metering” explained Jesse Peters, CEO. “They went in and audited all of our usage, found that we qualified and set up our accounts, and immediately started us towards being carbon neutral. We have now been authorized a grant to convert to solar as well, so the next phase would be to put a solar grade on the roof of our building.”
Energy Trust of Oregon is well aware that cannabis businesses are taking advantage of its program, and it is happy to assist interested companies.
“In 2017, Energy Trust supported the efficiency of Oregon’s cannabis production industry through 44 efficient lighting upgrades—up from 16 in 2016,” explained Becky Engel, senior communications manager for Energy Trust of Oregon. “Lighting upgrades at cannabis facilities accounted for approximately 21 percent of our overall lighting savings. Energy Trust programs also supported our first three non-lighting projects for cannabis growers, including HVAC, dehumidification and insulation.”
In addition to complying with energy regulations, Eco Firma Farms is aiming to be a zero-impact company, but says the effort is harder than many realize.
“The steps we are taking with the electricity are obviously our largest steps, and the fact that it is an indoor farm,” Peters explained. “We also have our recycling program, and the next step for us is getting into a position where we can eliminate all waste from the farm. When it comes to becoming carbon neutral, the first 90 percent is easy, and the last 10 is hard. You have to consider how you get your nutrients, how you store things, if your employees bring their lunches to work and what happens to that waste. It’s easy to go pretty far down the rabbit hole with this, so our biggest step is figuring all of that out.”
Energy Initiatives Across the U.S.
In light of the success in places like Colorado and Oregon, other states are following suit. California has its own energy initiative for cannabis growers, where cultivators are offered affordable agricultural rates, which are aimed toward eligible growers who have a sustainable environmental impact.
“At this time, there is not a specific rate plan for residential customers who wish to grow cannabis for personal use,” Pacific Gas & Electric’s rate sheet explains. “But we are committed to providing choice for our customers, and you can still choose the rate plan that works best for you based on your changing budget and energy needs. First, make sure you have an online account. Next, log into your online account for a personalized rate comparison.”
Washington State offers a variety of energy saving programs overall, like Seattle City Light, which are intended to help with energy consumption. However, despite these efforts, the cannabis industry was reported to be using 1.63 percent of all the state’s electricity as recently as 2017, according to OPB. Hopefully, more companies are now taking advantage of energy-saving programs.
Nevada also offers energy programs like SureBet, a program that looks at lighting and other power costs, and would be a good fit for the cannabis industry. Alaska does not currently have any energy efficiency programs in place, but it does offer a disruptor program that gives clients a discount if they don’t mind their power occasionally going out. This would not be the best program for growers and other cannabis industry insiders who rely on sustained power.
As the industry continues to grow, it appears that even more companies will begin taking advantage of energy saving programs, and legal cannabis will get even greener.