Our world is quite literally on fire—between the ongoing fires in the western states (where Rebel Spirit is based), to the “Eye of Fire” in the Gulf of Mexico in early 2021, to the Australian bushfires, to Greece and Turkey. To protect our planet, we need to invest our time and energy in pivoting to more sustainable practices.
This applies not just to the cannabis industry, but we at Rebel Spirit are taking the problem to heart. We’ve seen (and breathed) the impact of not doing so, and we want better for our consumers and our planet.
As a consumer, you can work towards a sustainable future by making small changes in your lifestyle and by supporting businesses that are working to sustain our future.
For us, sustainability is part of our ethos and ties into this series about our best business practices to protect our consumers and our planet.
This series is broken into three parts:
This piece will cover “Sustainability. You can (and we recommend that you should) read about “Soil health” and “Organic growing” by clicking the links in the list. We recommend that you read them all. Knowing about these aspects of cannabis will inform not only your cannabis consumption choices but also your choices as a produce (fruit & vegetable) consumer.
We’ll do our best to answer all your questions about sustainability but if we missed something, please leave a comment below and we’ll add your questions and our answers to this piece to make it a more comprehensive resource for you.
What is sustainability?
Sustainability is defined as the “avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance.”
Every individual and business have the ability to exist in a way that is sustainable. For instance, as individuals, we focus on choosing reusable or recyclable products, buying locally-sourced goods, and eating organic foods.
Businesses can have a huge impact on the environment based on the quantity of resources they consume, by the ways they dispose of their waste, and by choosing to use chemicals vs. organic ingredients.
How does sustainability relate to cannabis and the land?
Many cannabis farms use incredible amounts of electrical energy.
Sustainability in the cannabis industry is about taking and using the sun that nature offers freely instead of producing electricity by extracting fossil fuels and damming waterways.
The cannabis industry has the potential to degrade the Earth environmentally. For instance, law enforcement has discovered illegal grows just by noting their outsized electricity consumption. All that energy has to come from somewhere, and it is usually from fossil fuels, whose extraction and use are incredibly environmentally damaging.
In addition, growers are often responsible for wasting precious water supplies because they aren’t conservative in their irrigation methods.
Indoor vs outdoor grows for sustainability?
Indoor cannabis grows are not sustainable. The sheer electrical demands for light, cooling/heating, humidifiers/dehumidifiers, HVAC systems, make full indoor grows unsustainable with today’s technology.
Rebel Spirit starts our clones indoors to protect them from the environment’s vagaries while they’re fragile; however, as part of our commitment to environmental sustainability, we don’t bring plants to maturity indoors.
The benefits of growing outdoors are immense when it comes to sustainability.
The sun provides natural full-spectrum light, which is what indoor grows lights attempt to mimic. Using the sun for full-spectrum light is the most cost-effective and most environmentally sustainable option for cannabis grows. The environmental cost of the electricity needed for full-spectrum indoor lighting and air conditioning is immense.
Growing outdoors also provides natural and energy-efficient airflow, which is important for cannabis crops to be able to avoid pest problems and mold caused by stagnant air.
Outdoor grows also have natural access to various gases like CO2, which are abundant outside but need to be introduced in monitored amounts for indoor grows.
To get the benefits of an outdoor grow while having some of the control of an indoor grow, Rebel Spirit uses greenhouses.
Growing in a greenhouse has the benefits of both indoor and outdoor grows. Plants grown in greenhouses can be protected from too much sun or rain or wind while still benefiting from those elements.
Greenhouses can be opened or closed depending on what nature is doing. Is there too much rain or a cold night? Close up the greenhouse. Is it a warm, sunny day with a gentle breeze? Open up the greenhouse and let the plants enjoy.
As with indoor grows, greenhouses allow growers to practice light deprivation cycles, increasing the number of harvests per year per and yield per square foot of greenhouse space.
The impact of prohibition on sustainable growing practices
People often expect cannabis flower to look a certain way when they go into a dispensary; that is, with a very tight bud structure. That structure is the result of growing indoors and the limited light and air that those cannabis plants received while growing.
Ironically, the expectation for super tight buds is the result of the many years of indoor growing practiced as a means of hiding cannabis from the eyes of the law. Unfortunately, the somewhat outdated tight-bud expectations encourage cannabis growers to continue to produce plants in unsustainable environments.
Does Rebel Spirit grow only outdoors?
While our mother plants live indoors during the winter to protect them, all of the plants we harvest for consumption live their entire lives in our 23 greenhouses and our outdoor grow spaces. These greenhouses enable us to grow cannabis that is nearly indistinguishable from indoor plants, and that has a relatively miniscule environmental impact.
We leverage nature’s bounty in the sun, the soil, and the wind. When the weather is great, which it is much of the time, we open up our greenhouses to allow the plants to benefit from nature. When the weather is bad, we close them up to protect the plants.
Using greenhouses allows us to produce great cannabis flower without damaging the planet.
Is growing in greenhouses all Rebel Spirit does for sustainability?
Of course not. Rebel Spirit is committed to sustainable business practices and that ranges from how we manage our plants to how we make our soil.
After harvesting a marijuana plant, a super fibrous stalk akin to bamboo is left over. We put our stalks through a wood chipper so that fibrous material can be composted and return to our soil to help nourish next year’s plants. Thus all of those natural amendments that we put into the soil in the first place are naturally recycled and reused to enrich our soil again.