Sustainability in cannabis is a broad concept. It can encompass everything from zero-waste packaging to organic heritage farming methods to polycropping. And while plenty of cannabis businesses prioritize environmental sustainability in their own proprietary way, there is not yet a standard to which they are all universally held. But a handful of cannabis companies are aiming to change that.
Cannabis farmers, manufacturers, and retailers all have a unique responsibility as stewards of this relatively new legal industry. Environmental justice is tightly intertwined with legal hemp and cannabis, which is unregulated and under-scrutinized. So much so that when brands announce initiatives involving sustainability, social justice, or comprehensive wellness, it's often seen as groundbreaking rather than default.
But, lucky for us conscientious consumers, several brands are challenging that paradigm. Explore these seven brands that are each, in their own ways, prioritizing a more environmentally viable cannabis industry for all.
Groundworks Industries, the parent company of Oregon boutique dispensaries Serra, Electric Lettuce, and Farma, has partnered with Sun and Earth Certified, the current gold standard in cannabis certification, for Weed Like Change, a campaign highlighting sustainable farms and businesses in the cannabis space.
The campaign aims to raise awareness around Sun and Earth's three core certification pillars: sustainable and regenerative growing techniques, ethical labor practices, and community empowerment. Sun and Earth Certification guarantees organic, sungrown, holistically cultivated cannabis and is a certification cannabis growers of all stripes strive toward.
Interstate cannabis brand Chalice uses sustainable packaging produced by pioneers in the field, Sana Packaging. Sana developed the industry's first pre-roll packaging made entirely from 100% reclaimed ocean plastic. Chalice uses these recycled doob tubes for its curated Elysium Fields brand. Sana's reclaimed ocean plastic is Oceanworks Guaranteed, FDA certified, and — depending on the product — is either #2 or #5 recyclable.
Chalice Brands' use of sustainable packaging with its Elysium Fields product line has helped recover more than 58 tons of plastic waste from our oceans.
Oregon-based Lowd Premium Cannabis founder Jesce Horton is a true cannabis trailblazer. In addition to founding an incubator for BIPOC cannabis entrepreneurs, sitting on Oregon's Cannabis Environmental Best Practice grower panel, and working with the Resource Innovation Institute to create energy efficiency standards for global cannabis, his endeavors with his brand Lowd have made sustainability and energy efficiency a chief priority. His top-shelf cannabis brand was built on sustainable principles, with 50% of the facility's total water usage now coming from its air-condensate reuse method.
The efficacy of Lowd's sustainable initiatives, alongside its founder's commitment to raising standards for cannabis producers, gives the brand significant cache in conversations about sustainability in weed.
Oregon-based edible company Wyld is more than just the producer of the nation's most popular gummy. The company has not only achieved carbon neutrality, now operating at 100% renewable energy, but it's also implementing compostable packaging in 2022, a standard it's currently meeting in the Canadian market.
In true Oregonian fashion, the brand is hardly boastful about its achievement. Instead, it stays challenging its contemporaries in the space to reduce and offset its own emissions, purchase renewable energy, and transition to sustainable, recyclable and/or compostable packaging.
The Botanist — Acreage
Prolific Northeastern boutique dispensary The Botanist is currently undertaking a full-line packaging overhaul with its in-house cannabis brand. This shop's signature products will soon be housed in compostable materials or post-consumer recycled plastic featuring water-soluble, compostable labels.
As the recreation market in the Northeast continues to develop, we hope more brands take after The Botanist to ensure their methods, products, and packaging are distinctly environmentally friendly and sustainable.
Another Northeastern operator setting standards for sustainability is Theory Wellness, a dispensary chain, cannabis manufacturer, and outdoor farm with storefronts in Massachusetts and Maine. In addition to being the first licensed outdoor cannabis farm east of Colorado, the brand is currently working to reduce international freight and migrate its packaging from plastic to all paper, glass, metal, or compostable materials.
But Theory is doing more than aiming for small-scale sustainability. "Our cultivation and production facility in Bridgewater, MA, is powered entirely using renewable wind energy," says Thomas Winstanley, Theory's VP of Marketing. "From pioneering the first East Coast outdoor cultivation facility to investing in green tech, community gardens, and energy-efficient equipment, Theory is committed to minimizing our environmental impact whenever possible."
Interstate dispensary and cannabis brand Trulieve touts that over 70% of its stores are part of its TruRecycle program, which is designed to ship used containers via UPS Carbon Neutral partner to a carbon-emission-offsetting recycling partner. Since launching in 2021, Trulieve has recycled over 3,500 pounds of packaging waste that may have otherwise ended up in landfills.
“We're a purpose-driven company," said CEO Kim Rivers, "and we believe applying sustainable business practices will not only have a positive social and environmental impact, but as one of the largest cannabis operators in the US, it is the right thing to do."