People have been growing cannabis outside for thousands of years. Before the days of LED lighting and air regulation systems, cannabis was cultivated in the great outdoors.
Today, outdoor grows are in the minority. A lot of legal states don’t even have an ideal climate for growing cannabis outdoors (and thanks to federal prohibition, they can’t import cannabis products from other states).
But are indoor grows really the best option for the environment?
The carbon footprint of cultivating cannabis indoors is shockingly high.
In fact, according to research in the Journal of Energy Policy, indoor cannabis grows consume 1% of the entire United States’ power consumption. While that might not seem like a lot, that’s enough power for two to three million homes!
Sungrown cannabis can reduce the industry’s electrical consumption significantly.
To give you a better idea, here are 6 notable environmental benefits to sungrown cannabis…
#1) Sungrown cannabis doesn’t require high-energy lighting
Did you know indoor cannabis grows use eight times the amount of energy per square foot as commercial buildings?
Sungrown cannabis, meanwhile, doesn’t require artificial light. Cannabis grows naturally (and freely) with sunlight.
To reproduce this effect indoors, growers must rely on high-intensity light bulbs. These light bulbs are the primary culprit behind the massive energy consumption of indoor grows.
To make matters worse, each light bulb is estimated to contain up to 20 mg of mercury. Mercury is associated with a number of detrimental health and environmental effects. High concentrations of mercury also pose a massive risk to fish and other wildlife. In addition, mercury is also linked to toxic effects on the nervous, digestive, and immune systems in humans.
While some growers do use sustainable lighting options to reduce their carbon footprint, there’s still no comparison to the real thing. Artificial light cannot compete with the environmental benefits of natural sunlight.
#2) Sungrown cannabis grows without air regulation
Sufficient airflow is key to high-grade cannabis. In fact, growing cannabis in an environment with great airflow is shown to:
- Strengthen plant stems
- Prevent mold, mildew, and plant rot
- Support maximum plant growth
- Defend against gnats, mites, and more
In an outdoor grow, the natural environment provides ample airflow. Indoor grows, on the other hand, are forced to use artificial ventilation.
What are the drawbacks to using artificial air regulation systems?
Artificial airflow burns a shockingly high amount of energy. According to staff scientist at Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory, Evan Mills, air is changed 60 times more often in an indoor grow than in a modern home.
This may explain why the energy bill alone for indoor cannabis operations can account for 1/3 of total production costs.
#3) Sungrown cannabis is less susceptible to mold and mildew
Did you know outdoor cannabis cultivators tend to use fewer fertilizers, fungicides, and pesticides?
In the right environment and with the proper technique, cannabis cultivated outdoors is more resilient to the outside elements. This is because when cannabis is grown outside it becomes part of the natural ecosystem.
Cannabis, like any plant, interacts with its environment.
Over time, plants can develop a natural resistance to potential threats. Cannabis interacts with elements in the natural environment to build resilience against temperature fluctuations and pest invasions.
So while indoor grows could provide a near-perfect environment, it also can stunt the plant from building natural resistance.
As a result, indoor farmers are often forced to rely heavily on fertilizers and pesticides to keep plants healthy.
#4) Sungrown cannabis can preserve natural soils
Organic farming techniques are key to preserving the natural ecosystem.
Sungrown cannabis allows farmers to implement more sustainable methods of cannabis cultivation. While it is possible to apply organic farming techniques indoors, farmers are limited in comparison to an outdoor grow.
Outdoor cannabis can be cultivated in a manner that preserves the complex and beneficial nutrients of the earth’s soil.
Permaculture techniques such as companion planting (growing different crops in the same proximity) and planting ground cover (planting to maintain natural soil moisture and nutrients) can be integrated with an outdoor grow.
Farmers using sustainable farming practices outdoors can preserve the natural soil content to retain carbon and offset global warming.
#5) Sungrown cannabis supports the plant’s natural life cycle
Plants since the dawn of time have thrived under natural sunlight. Using the process of photosynthesis, plants have harnessed the sun’s energy to flourish.
Outdoor cannabis cultivation supports this natural process.
Natural sunlight is significantly more complex than artificial lighting systems. Interacting with the sun and moon, cannabis grown outdoors is exposed to a full spectrum of natural lighting. Even the best light systems in the world cannot compare to the sun’s rays.
While few studies exist on the complexities of this relationship, we do know that artificial lighting does not produce as strong of rays as the sun.
Outdoor cultivation enables plants to operate in their natural environment (no lighting or ventilation necessary) It is impossible to duplicate mother nature’s capabilities even with a top-of-the-line indoor grow system.
#6) Organic and sustainable farming practices are key
To reap the full environmental benefits of an outdoor grow, sustainable farming practices must be implemented.
Outdoor grows do not have the energy requirements of an indoor grow. However, that does not automatically mean they are a more environmentally friendly option.
Farmers must rely on organic outdoor growing to minimize impact.
What do organic cannabis farming practices look like?
It’s important to note that cannabis cannot legally be called organic in the United States because the term is federally regulated. Nevertheless, organic farming techniques can still be incorporated.
Cannabis is an industry born out of activism, and we must apply these same ethics and values into our operations. This plant has the potential to make a massive positive impact on our planet. However, we must be mindful in our approach.