Growing Green for Earth Day 2022

April 22nd, 2022


Over the course of 72 hours each spring, two of the most important days of the cannabis calendar take place.

If April 20 (“420”) represents an annual opportunity to revel and celebrate in the many joys made possible thanks to weed, Earth Day can be seen as its sister event: one in which we are each invited to act on behalf of our planet’s health. To find overlap between these two staple occasions is today unfortunately as simple as looking at the headlines.

From wildfires impacting cultivators in the West Coast’s famed Emerald Triangle to historic droughts causing water shortages for their peers in Colorado, the urgency of climate change as it relates to the cannabis industry has become a matter of now, not when. As the most recent report issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change made clear, we are quickly running out of time to commit to sustainable solutions.

As a leader in cannabis cultivation, Glass House Farms recognizes that change often starts at home. That’s why we are all about growing our flower in a way that benefits both consumers and the planet we all share.

In a recent blog post on the subject, GHF founder Graham Farrar detailed the ways in which indoor grows are proving to be incompatible with visions for a green future. His cited evidence includes a recent Nature Sustainability study that concluded the emissions associated with growing 1 ounce of cannabis indoors were equivalent to “burning 7 to 16 gallons of gasoline, depending on where in the U.S. it’s grown.”

Farrar also points to another post on the subject — this one penned by Flow Kana CEO Mikey Steinmetz — which cites statistics from New Frontier Data that suggest indoor-grown cannabis to be “the most energy-intensive and environmentally harmful agricultural product in the U.S. today.” As a kicker, Steinmetz’s blog also includes this troublesome revelation: the annual carbon footprint of indoor cannabis production in the U.S. is “equivalent to emissions from 3 million American cars.”

Trot those data points out in a discussion about the environment and you’re sure to see some jaws hit the floor. It’s an alarming situation, but it’s also the exact reason we’re so strongly committed to spreading the word about the enormous opportunities presented by sun-grown cannabis — and especially sun-grown cannabis paired with greenhouse cultivation!

What makes now such a perfect moment to spread the seed of this green gospel?

For one thing, prior to the advent of state-legal medical markets, cultivating cannabis in a greenhouse was pretty much unheard of as it was likely to draw unwanted attention to a then-illegal activity. Fortunately, progress has now ensured such drastic measures are no longer necessary, which in turn means that greenhouses now represent a viable, environmentally friendly alternative to traditional indoor grows.

For specifics, let’s turn again to our founder, Graham Farrar:

“Growing in greenhouses allows us to achieve tremendous efficiency, reducing both our environmental impact and the cost to grow our products, which can then be passed onto consumers. If we understand where we are today, and invest in improving for tomorrow, we can build a cannabis industry that delivers top-shelf quality that is both sustainable and accessible to everyone.”

To achieve this goal, there are still gaps in our toolkit to be filled.

One is more comprehensive and specific data, which would allow cannabis companies to establish accurate benchmarks for acceptable carbon impact. With such benchmarks in place, cultivators can then assess their operations and make sustainability-minded improvements. It was this line of thinking that inspired us to commission the cannabis energy consultancy Seinergy to conduct a carbon benchmarking analysis on Glass House Farms.

Their findings? Our environmental impact was “an order of magnitude smaller” than that of the average indoor operation. Using EPA carbon data, Seinergy also determined that one ounce of Glass House Farms flower generates “90% less carbon than the average indoor grow” and “40% less carbon than the average greenhouse.” Those are numbers you simply can’t ignore.

To be clear, several elements — including the remarkably ideal Southern California climate in which we raise our plants — factor into the final figures above, but the underlying message requires no mathematics savvy. Another issue, unrelated to any research, is the lingering public perception that indoor is somehow superior to sun- and greenhouse-grown cannabis. Despite evidence to the contrary, the so-called “quality gap” is one we nonetheless expect will continue to shrink as innovations in greenhouse techniques advance.

For these reasons and more, this Earth Day, Glass House Farms invites you to join us in pushing for a greener, more sustainable future. To read more about our commitment to the planet, please visit our Sustainability page.