Earth Day Considered: How Cannabis Consumers Can Help Save Vermont – And The Planet

plant growing on hand with sunshine
Heady Vermont Staff 22 Apr 2023

Earth Day is a perfect time to check in with yourself and think about what you can do to better love and care for this planet whose resources we all share (er, abuse). On an individual level, this can mean anything from taking the time to compost and recycle correctly, to using public transportation – we know, laughable in Vermont.

One conscious way to help sustain the Earth is to support locally cultivated cannabis brands that value environmental sustainability and stewardship. Businesses right here in Vermont achieve this through regenerative farming, reusable packaging or – even better – a combination of planet- and community-friendly practices.

Plastic packaging, like the pouches, tubes and jars shown here, is commonplace in many recreational  U.S. states – but not allowed in Vermont.

Fortunately, we’re off to a great start – the state’s legalization law requires that all cannabis products be sold to consumers in sustainable packaging, and as compelled by statute, regulators issued plastic-free packaging guidance for licensees last June.

This alone, however, isn’t enough. To develop a truly sustainable cannabis industry in the Green Mountain State demands commitment on every level, from lawmakers to regulators to licensed businesses – all the way down to the consumers who fork over cash at the counter.

Curious about the other ways this glorious plant can uplift our planet’s well-being? Check out some of the ways you can make a positive difference as an individual. In this article, we’ll explore how cannabis – from cultivator to consumer – can help make the homeworld of humanity a more sustainable and beautiful place.

Use Your Consumer Spending Power

First of all, we’d do well to remember that for years, corporations spent unimaginable amounts of cash on advertising campaigns that manipulated images and feelings to put the onus of climate action on the individual. Baby boomers might remember the famous Keep America Beautiful campaign featuring a weeping Indigenous man, meant to convince Americans that home recycling would fix the problem (hint: it didn’t).

You, the consumer, have power – spending power – in terms of what you choose to buy or not buy.

The infamous Keep America Beautiful campaign in 1971 featured a weeping Indigenous man, an early effort by corporations to shift the burden of recycling to consumers.

And in an area like emissions, governments and corporations are the ones with the most power and agency to bring sizable cuts quickly. With that being said, you the consumer also have power – spending power – in terms of what you choose to buy or not buy.

Companies can practice sustainability in many ways, and consumers can make sustainable choices –  eco-friendly products from brands built on a commitment to a cleaner planet. Avoiding single use vapes is one example – another is finding out what cultivation methods are used to grow the cannabis products you’re buying.

Budtenders at your local dispensary are a great source of information, or you can hit up the brand online to find out how they make their stuff – and whether they take the time to not just talk about, but practice their sustainability values. A reputable, trustworthy cultivator or manufacturer should have zero issue with telling you exactly what they put in their product.

What Should I Look For In Cannabis Brands?

There are many sustainability elements you can consider for when you’re shopping Vermont cannabis brands, including regenerative agriculture practices to build healthy soils, organic methods and inputs, zero environmental impact packaging, integration of renewable energy and more.

Test Results and Batch Info

An example lab report from a Vermont manufacturer. You can usually access these through the grower or manufacturer’s website. Look for a QR code on the product or a section on their website dedicated to lab results.

Forthright cannabis companies will make it easy for you to look up the batch information about their testing and products. They’ll often include a QR code on the packaging or a link to it on their site. You can then check out lab results, which will offer information about cannabinoid and terpene content, heavy metals and more.  In Vermont, cannabis products must be tested for potency (cannabinoids), microbes, heavy metals, pesticides and residual solvents.

So… What Are Inputs?

First, it helps to understand what inputs are going into the plant. Inputs, in cultivator speak, are the crucial components for cultivating robust, consistently high-quality pot plants. Primary inputs include temperature, soil, light, nutrients, water and humidity. Looking through a sustainability lens as a consumer, the three to pay attention to are light, soil and nutrients.

Sun-Grown and Greenhouse vs. Indoor

As you may have already guessed, outdoor, or sun grown, cannabis uses up far less resources than its indoor counterparts. The same goes for greenhouse-grown. In spite of this obvious difference, the intensive energy use that comes with indoor light setups can be mitigated a few different ways. For example, indoor growers might reduce energy consumption by using cooler outside air exchange to lower the temperature in their grow rooms and greenhouses.

Organic Inputs and Methods

Because of federal restrictions that remain in place, much of the cannabis industry and its products can’t really be labeled organic – at least, not USDA organic. However, cultivators can still utilize organic inputs and methods during cultivation. That means they don’t use any inputs, pesticides or fertilizers that have been found to be harmful in humans in any way.

Licensed cultivator and manufacturer Family Tree, for example, produces organic sun-grown botanicals with water fed by Sheldon Springs. Over in Windham County, Lovespun Homestead grows its small-batch products in organic living soil using regenerative cultivation practices.

Regenerative Practices

A video from Old Growth Vermont shows a regenerative farming method in practice: Compost tea, which is full of microbes and beneficial organisms. Source: Instagram

Cannabis cultivators looking to take their cultivation sustainability methods to the next level may look to regenerative farming. Its core principle is “closing the loop,” or trying to reuse or recycle resources in as many stages of the cannabis plant’s life cycle as possible.

Examples of ways farmers can implement regenerative farming practices include the use of living soil, capturing wastewater for reuse, outside air exchange to cool greenhouse and indoor, and natural pest management. Windsor County cultivator Old Growth Vermont uses living soil, a biodiverse growing medium that centers on beneficial microbes rather than relying on fertilizers.

Though labor-intensive and costly, the active biodiversity of regenerative farming includes things like worms, arthropods and a healthy fungi bacteria ratio, all of which contribute to a healthy microbiome in which cannabis thrives.

Professional Certifications

Looking for certifications that set high standards is yet another way to screen for sustainable companies. In the absence of broader federal regulation, other programs have sprung up – for example, Clean Green, launched in 2004, requires full inspection of cannabis farming practices, equipment and processing to ensure a clean and pure final product.

The next time you’re at a Vermont dispensary, hopefully you’ll take a closer look, not just at the label but at the business behind the product and whether they follow through on their sustainability principles. Armed with these handy tips, we hope you can better leverage your consumer spending power in a way that heals and sustains our pale blue and precious dot.  🌎

Thanks for reading!

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