Study: Legal cannabis has an 18 kilogram carbon dioxide footprint
Legal cannabis has grown into a $ 13 billion industry in the United States and is only expected to grow in the years to come. Yet researchers at Colorado State University have discovered that this industry could create a big problem for our environment.
Study finds that one-eighth of legal cannabis can have a carbon footprint of 18 kg
Researchers analyzed the energy and materials required to grow cannabis indoors and quantified the corresponding greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions using a life cycle assessment methodology for a cradle system boundary. at the door. The study looked at the variability of emissions that depended on where a product was grown and its emissions on the power grid.
According to the study published Monday in the journal Nature Sustainability, one-eighth of legal cannabis comes with a carbon footprint of 18 kg (41 lbs), reports Gizmodo. Colorado State University researchers found that the cumulative greenhouse gas emissions created by an indoor grow warehouse amounted to between 5033 lbs and 11428 lbs of carbon equivalent for each and a half pound of dried flowers. . Simply put, the results revealed that indoor cannabis cultivation operations resulted in greenhouse gas emissions of between 2283 and 5184 kilograms of carbon dioxide per kilogram of dried flower.
According to Jason Quinn, associate professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Colorado State University and lead author of the study, there are little to no emission regulations for growing cannabis indoors. Consumers also ignore the environmental effect. This industry is growing and developing very quickly regardless of the environment. "- Quinn in Gizmodo
Greenhouse gas emissions from indoor cannabis production in the United States
Last year, a panel of experts from the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners suggested that the energy bill for the legal cannabis industry in the United States could reach around $ 11 billion.
Another report released last year by Evan Mills, Ph.D. of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and Scott Zeramby, claimed that indoor cannabis production uses 20 billion kilowatt hours, produces up to 15 million metric tons of CO2 and resulted in a monetary expenditure of 6 billion dollars per year.
Indoor farms are a "hotboxing" for the planet
The CSU study design mimicked a typical cannabis growing warehouse, with HVAC, grow lights, pesticides and fungicides, and water applied by drip irrigation "at an average rate of 3,8 liters. per plant and per day ”.
The researchers suggest that if indoor cannabis cultivation were fully converted to outdoor operations, Colorado would "see a reduction of more than 1,3% in the state's annual [greenhouse gas] emissions," either the equivalent of 2,3 million tonnes of carbon.
Hailey Summers, Jason Quinn and Evan Sproul - the graduate students responsible for this research, have discovered that the production of cannabis generates a large amount of greenhouse gas emissions. Most of these emissions come from indoor growing operations.
Factors such as controlling the indoor environment, the intensity of grow lights, and the supply of carbon dioxide (which accelerates growth) all contribute to cannabis's huge carbon footprint.
“We knew the shows were going to be big, but since they hadn't been fully quantified before, we felt it was a significant research opportunity,” Summers noted. “We just wanted to embark on the adventure. "
One of the challenges is the regulations that each state puts in place for its cannabis industry. For example, in Colorado, cannabis cultivation has to be done near retail stores. This is a problem for businesses located in dense urban areas, like Denver, and the only way around it is to produce cannabis in warehouses. As we mentioned, it is these indoor operations that lead to an increase in CO2 in the atmosphere.
Given that the cannabis industry is still very new, it remains to be hoped that we can make rapid changes that will not be as damaging to the environment. "We would like to try to improve environmental impacts before they become part of the way of doing business."