By Katherine Wolf, Chief Marketing & Operations Officer, Malek’s Premium Cannabis
As the commercialization of cannabis grows, so does the industry’s environmental impact—and since today is Earth Day, it’s never been a better time to talk about how we can work together to “green” the cannabis industry.
Luckily, from cultivation to packaging, marketing, and even consumption, more sustainable practices can easily be implemented from seed to sale in cannabis. Let’s get rolling into it.
How Sustainability Can Play a Role in Cannabis Marketing
As cannabis marketers, we’re always looking for ways to differentiate our brand and better connect with our customers—and shifting to more sustainable business practices and showcasing them in your marketing can be a valuable competitive advantage.
Deloitte research found that 23% of consumers will switch to purchasing products from companies that share their values on environmental issues, and 21% have encouraged others to do the same. This is an opportunity for cannabis brands to reduce their environmental impact while also making a memorable impact on consumers that leads to word-of-mouth recommendations. Here are a few ways to showcase sustainability in your marketing strategy:
Differentiate Your Brand With Sustainable Product Packaging
Did you know the average cannabis product is wrapped in packaging that weighs four to 30 times its contents? More brands than ever are working to change these norms and improve sustainability in our industry by choosing more eco-friendly packaging.
While you’ll definitely need to keep any child-proof regulations and compliance standards in mind, consider using more sustainable materials like hemp plastic, ocean plastic, recycled cardboard, or recycled glass in your packaging. You can also add a QR code on your labels that drive to your website or socials and teach consumers about the product instead of putting extra paper with educational info in your packaging. This is also a great way to get consumers to visit your website, follow your socials, and engage with your brand across numerous channels, creating another touchpoint after picking up your product in the dispensary.
Shifting to more sustainable packaging doesn’t just help the environment—it helps your bottom line and brand reputation, too. A recent study found that 70% of consumers in the U.S. and Canada think it’s important for a brand to be sustainable or eco-friendly, and 34% of consumers globally said they’d be willing to pay more for sustainable products. By effectively marketing your use of sustainable packaging materials, you can reach these customers who are seeking out more eco-friendly products while building a reputation for being a socially conscious brand.
Build Long-Term Brand Loyalty Through Recycling Programs
Rather than designing packages to be discarded after they’re opened, numerous industry leaders are now encouraging their customers to recycle used cannabis containers.
For example, Trulieve recently started its TruRecycle program in Florida that allows patients to return select container types to any Trulieve dispensary location. Since the program launched in Florida in October 2021, over 3,500 pounds of packaging waste have been recycled instead of going to the dump! Some retailers in Canada even have programs where disposable vape pens, vape batteries, and cartridges can be recycled in the dispensary.
If you’re a retail location, consider starting up a recycling program of your own. Some even have rewards programs that offer discounts on future purchases after recycling a certain amount of containers. This can also be used as a marketing tool to keep customers coming back to your dispensary long-term for rewards and points. If you’re a cultivator, make it a point to put your products in dispensaries with recycling opportunities and encourage your customers to shop from those stores. Showcasing your sustainable practices and building relationships with other eco-friendly partners throughout your supply chain can attract modern, eco-conscious consumers to your brand!
Tips for Improving Sustainability in Cannabis Cultivation
Cannabis cultivation in Colorado alone is responsible for 1.3% of the state’s total carbon emissions each year, on par with its coal mining and trash collection numbers. With more states joining the legal market, what can we do to keep the carbon footprint of commercial cannabis from getting out of control?
Cannabis cultivators can reduce their environmental impact while still prioritizing plant quality and yield through:
- Fertigation automation: Modern automated technologies use data and advanced sensors to dial in the exact amount of water plants need at each phase of the growing cycle. This eliminates wasteful over-watering which can also affect plant quality.
- Growing media: Use a renewable resource rather than peat-based substrates as a growing media, such as coco coir. This is one of the simplest ways to make your cultivation facility more eco-friendly.
- Proper waste disposal: Did you know that over 150 million tons of cannabis waste are created each year in the US alone? Cultivators can ensure their waste is disposed of safely by turning to compliant and sustainable waste disposal solutions such as Gaiaca Waste Revitalization.
- LED lighting: LED fixtures don’t require bulb replacements and use much less energy over time compared to traditional CMH and DE grow lights. While they are more expensive to purchase up front, they can reduce your five-year operating costs by 5% thanks to long-term energy and HVAC savings.
Source: Malek’s Premium Cannabis
How to Sustainably Consume Cannabis
Making the cannabis industry more eco-friendly doesn’t just fall on cultivators and brands—end consumers can help, too! Here’s how to make your smoke more sustainable:
- Use sustainable smoking methods. Smoking out of a glass pipe is the most eco-friendly smoking method as it eliminates all paper and plastic waste. If you prefer to roll up, you can use alternatives to traditional rolling papers made with renewable resources like hemp or rice.
- Buy from dispensaries with recycling programs. Seek out dispensaries that offer recycling programs and support them with your business! Don’t have a dispensary nearby that takes recyclables? Pro tip: flower jars can be recycled and repurposed to hold pens, loose change, hair ties, makeup, and more around the house.
- Buy legal cannabis. Unregulated grows often use dangerous pesticides and growing practices, and illicit outdoor operations can cause pollution and other environmental issues. If you live in a state with legal cannabis, buying from a licensed grower can help ensure you’re putting your money towards products that have been cultivated safely with mandated environmental standards.
It’s Time We Go Greener in Cannabis!
While a lot of us will probably celebrate Earth Day by sparking up outside or getting stoned and enjoying nature, remember we have an opportunity every day as cannabis marketers, brands, and consumers to help make our industry more sustainable. Here’s to keeping things green.
Katherine Wolf is a marketer, writer, and branding specialist with a passion for helping cannabis companies grow and thrive. Katherine is the Chief Marketing & Operations Officer of Malek’s Premium Cannabis, a small-batch Colorado cultivator focused on flavor-first genetics.
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