Many Americans are now taking a closer look at their lives and wondering how they can be more environmentally conscious. The label “green” came into use as part of this renewed focus on environmental issues. But now it can sometimes feel like just a marketing buzzword to boost sales.
Still, things like buying products with minimal packaging, remembering to bring reusable bags to the grocery store and switching to nontoxic cleaning supplies are all small ways everyday Americans can do their part. For cannabis consumers, there are sustainable decisions to be made when buying cannabis, too—being a conscious shopper shouldn’t end at the grocery store.
It’s a simple truth that not all cannabis products are created equal. Some marijuana brands go the extra mile to create truly sustainable options for cannabis consumers and medical marijuana patients. These brands think critically about the way they cultivate cannabis, the ingredients they add to the marijuana and the materials they use to package the final product.
If you’re interested in becoming a green cannabis consumer, here are some helpful tips to find these kinds of brands and marijuana products.
Being a truly green cannabis consumer takes some due diligence. It’s not always easy to identify a sustainable product unless you know what to look for. No matter what type of product you’re in the market for, chances are there’s a green brand out there working hard to keep its products as sustainable as possible.
Hopefully, it’s paying close attention to farming techniques, pesticides, recyclable packaging and more. But it can take research to find out who’s walking the walk and not just touting sustainability for marketing purposes.
Before you head into a dispensary or make your next online order, spend a few minutes researching cannabis brands that place an emphasis on sustainability. Read through company mission statements and make sure the process used to make its products backs up that mission; take the time to understand the brand’s cultivation, extraction and pesticide policies.
When it comes to being a green consumer, start with the outside and move your way in. It’s important to pay attention to the ingredients you’re putting into your body, but it’s also important to pay attention to the packaging.
We can’t overlook the impact that packaging alone has on the environment. Humans consume more than two million tons of packaging every year, and only a miniscule percentage of recyclable packaging actually makes its way to a recycling center—estimates are as low as 14%. Packaging waste floats in our seas, lines our beaches and landfills, and plastic microparticles even make their way into the fish we eat.
So, when you’re looking for a cannabis product to bring home, find one with minimal packaging, preferably made with biodegradable materials. Keep an eye out for recyclable cardboard or hemp packaging, and always choose glass over plastic.
This isn’t a hard and fast rule, but generally speaking, when a company spends the time and money on sustainable packaging, it’s a good sign that the product inside was made with the same values.
Now to move one level deeper. It’s important to consider what materials are used to make the actual cannabis product, considering these materials are likely to end up in a landfill eventually, too.
Take, for example, shopping for a new vaporizer pen and cartridge. Most vaporizer and concentrate companies use nonrecyclable materials that are cheap and easy to manufacture, not thinking twice about the environmental impact. Instead of going for the easiest option, look for a vaporizer pen made of recyclable steel, ceramic or plastic.
If you love single-use, disposable vaporizer pens, find a company that has a recycling program or at least uses upcycled materials. And when it comes to cartridges, avoid those made from cheap plastics completely.
Go another layer deeper still to consider the ingredients in your marijuana product. Perhaps it doesn’t need to be repeated, but it’s vitally important to take inventory of what’s going into your body.
While the cannabis industry is advancing quickly, and new cannabis laws put quality restrictions and testing requirements in place, not all products are created equal. Taking a moment to look over the ingredient list before purchasing can save you from inhaling or otherwise consuming solvents and potentially harmful chemicals.
There’s no federal organic designation for cannabis. This would require the federal government to provide cannabis growers with best practices for cultivating sustainable marijuana. And as we all know, the feds still see marijuana as a dangerous, illegal drug.
So instead of looking for a USDA organic label like many shoppers are used to doing at the grocery store, cannabis shoppers can look for keywords like:
Just because cannabis itself can’t receive an organic designation doesn’t preclude other ingredients in the product from being certified organic. When buying a marijuana edible or topical, look for those that use natural and organic ingredients. Avoid products with hard-to-pronounce chemicals and additives, opting instead for ones with real, organic food ingredients and essential oils.
As the saying goes: Trust but verify. State cannabis programs make it easier than ever to find out exactly what’s in marijuana products that are sold. This way you can make sure during cultivation and processing, no chemicals harmed the environment—and none will harm your body, either.
Under California’s recently enacted Adult Use law, all marijuana products must be lab tested for:
Even quality, hemp-derived CBD brands, which are available nationwide, will test their products for these things and more. Most brands make the results of these tests available on the product packaging itself or on their website.
Some even employ a QR code on the packaging that, when scanned, will take you straight to the test results of that specific batch. If you want to know exactly what’s in your cannabis, check the lab tests first.
Being a more conscious and sustainable cannabis consumer is possible with just a few simple steps. Before you buy another cannabis product, take time to research sustainable marijuana brands, consider the packaging, scan the ingredients list and always ask for lab test results.
Photo credit: Sharon McCutcheon
If you’re new to cannabis and want to learn more, take a look at our Cannabis 101 index of articles. HelloMD can help you get your medical marijuana recommendation; it's 100% online, private and efficient.