Growing Green: How To Keep Cannabis Sustainable

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Growing Green: How To Keep Cannabis Sustainable

If done incorrectly, growing cannabis can be very wasteful. Especially when it comes to water.

With marijuana legalisation sweeping across the globe, it is more important than ever to ensure that it is cultivated responsibly, with as little impact on the environment as possible. Without proper foresight, the cannabis “gold rush” threatens to undo all of the hard work cannabis campaigners have striven to achieve.

This is no more apparent than in California, which is currently undergoing a drought. The grey nature of cannabis regulation has caused a boom in cannabis cultivation, often with detrimental impact on the surroundings – siphoning off what little water there is, and flooding forests with pesticides. Not only is this a travesty for the environment, but it casts legalisation in a bad light when it so sorely needs to look as good as it can. Naysayers watch on with extreme scrutiny, and unregulated and harmful growing practise gives them all of the ammunition they need to slow progress.


While the true key to a sustainable cannabis industry is proper and structured regulation, conscious and informed decisions by growers can make a huge difference – especially where water is concerned. In fact, of all the sustainability points to be raised in the scrutiny of the developing cannabis industry, it is water consumption that tends to be the focus, making it doubly important.

So it made us think, how can all cultivators make their grows more sustainable? Well, according to Ed Rosenthal of American Cannabis Consulting, once major way to reduce water waste is to water more frequently with smaller amounts. As things stand, most outdoor growers will water their cannabis plants a couple of times a week, dumping large quantities of water into the soil. However, a cannabis plant will only use a finite amount of water, and the water that isn’t held in the immediate root area quickly becomes runoff.

“Once [water] goes below root level it is lost,” Rosenthal said. “Then you’re wasting water.”

Watering with a smaller amount does mean it needs to be done more frequently, as less water is held in the immediate surroundings of the root, but it can save a lot of water in the long run. And if you are skilled enough to find that sweet spot – where you use just enough water to hydrate the plant and soak a bit of the surrounding soil – you can still prevent a lot of runoff without really having to increase your watering frequency.


For hobby growers wanting to cut their water usage right down, growing with hydro, aqua, or aeroponics can save huge amounts. We are talking in the region of 80-90 percent – taking sustainability above and beyond expected levels.

This is especially true of aeroponics, which mists exposed roots with a nutrient water solution. The mist created by these systems is so fine that the roots of the cannabis plant can absorb nutrients directly out of the air! It results in greater efficiency, bigger bud, and minimal water use. A win-win situation, if you have the skill.

A great example of these conscientious growing techniques being used comes from Colorado, where Stephen Raisner, a professional cannabis cultivator, has rolled out an adapted aquaponics system for growing all of his weed on a commercial scale. What makes it such a revelation is that it is almost 100% self-sustaining!

Raisner’s system involves having two water tanks set in a loop. One tank contains fish, whilst the other is used to grow cannabis. Bacteria in the water convert any fish waste into nutrients. This water is then pumped to the cannabis tank, where the water feeds the plants and is in turn cleaned by the plants before returning to the fish tank. Water loss is minimal, being estimated at roughly one percent a day. All that is required are additional micronutrients and food for the fish.

It has turned out to be an extremely effective, cost saving, and environmentally friendly method that still manages to produce large amounts of high-quality bud.

It just goes to show, cannabis cultivation doesn’t have to be destructive, even when grown on a large scale. With thought out processes and techniques, it can be very ecologically friendly – probably one of the most of any large scale industry. It is all about regulation, and encouraging such methods to be used. Doing so can save both the environment, and the grower, a lot of bother.