Finding a Better Way: Sustainable Leadership Awards

August 02, 2021


Finding a Better Way: Sustainable Leadership Awards by Ebby Stone

What does sustainability mean to you?

For Cannabis & Tech Today, it means fostering an industry that will thrive while preserving the natural resources necessary for continued growth.

For 2020’s Sustainable Leadership Awards, we chose three applicants setting the standard for sustainable energy consumption, packaging, and stewardship.

Graham Farrar, president and chief cannabis officer for Glass House Group, discusses why environmental stewardship is central to his company’s mission.

Brain Domann, sales and marketing director for Humidi shares solutions to the industry’s packaging problem.

And Derek Gould, director of marketing and communications for Solar Therapeutics invites you to join him in creating a more eco-friendly future.

In this special feature, we’ll shine a spotlight on how they’re leading the charge, what’s most important to them, and how all companies, big or small, can work toward more sustainable operations.

Glass House Group President and Chief Cannabis Officer: Graham Farrar

Cannabis & Tech Today: What is Glass House Group’s approach to sustainability?

Graham Farrar. Photo courtesy of Glass House Group.

Graham Farrar: We try to really advocate for this low-touch agricultural approach we practice.

Cannabis in agriculture is a bit of an outlier, in that it’s a highly-regulated business with a lot of friction, a lot of costs, but you’re not in the single-digit margin percentage like a lot of ag is — where they’re really struggling to stay alive — which allows us to do things like invest in using beneficial insects instead of pesticides.

There’s a positive circle that starts with that, which is, if we spend twenty grand a month with the beneficial insect’s guys, and then some other companies do, and then the [insect company] can scale up.

As they get bigger, the price comes down, and then maybe now it’s available to the tomato guys because they can afford it now — and then the tomato [industry] is 1000 times bigger than cannabis.

So if that industry can take even just a little bit, the size of it makes it that much bigger, and then the insect’s price comes down and then more people can get access to it.

So you can start this virtuous cycle. I think cannabis can help blaze that path for the rest of agriculture, which will end up making a lot more difference than we do.

Humidi Sales and Marketing Director: Brian Domann

Brian Domann. Photo courtesy of Humidi.

C&T Today: How is Humidi helping tackle some of the industry’s environmental issues?

Brian Domann: What we really sought for and our ultimate goal has always been, how can we have a net positive impact on the environment?

And while we initially wanted to incorporate hemp into our packaging, we also really needed to have a strong product that would be durable and have the shelf life of a traditional product and provide that same protection, integrity for the cannabis, or any of the products that are stored in our packaging.

And that’s why, ultimately, we went with canola-based bio plant materials.

It is the only product on the market that can be fully compostable in a home compost heap.

There are no microplastics leftover and the product will act as a food source for bacteria that are naturally occurring in the soil.

C&T Today: How do you envision the future of cannabis packaging?

BD: I’d love to envision the future being a net-zero impact on environmental production, which it’s always hard to get there.

But I think if the cannabis market can lead the charge against plastic pollution and show what’s possible and what can be done for some of these mass packaging markets or consumer packaged goods in general.

There are sustainable products out there that are not truly as sustainable as folks think.

And the one biggest thing that we’re really trying to articulate, from an education standpoint to an end consumer or a distributor, is that this is the first product that has 0% plastic.

There’s not a trace of plastic in these products.

Solar Therapeutics Director of Marketing and Communications Derek Gould 

C&T Today: How does Solar Therapeutics incorporate sustainable practices into its ethos?

Solar Therapeutics CEO Edward Dow. Photo courtesy of Solar Therapeutics.

Derek Gould: The way we’ve incorporated and implemented green infrastructure into our entire facility and its operations is huge.

We’re a full-blown power plant. We’re generating about 5.4 megawatts. One megawatt can power about a thousand small homes.

Our vision and mission is to replicate what we have here in Massachusetts and demonstrate that in other States.

It’s a very arduous process to source these sustainability components, especially when you’re talking about the size of the facility that we’re working in.

But, I think being a responsible corporate citizen is crucial.

When you are looking at the statistics, indoor cannabis cultivation is trending towards being the second most unsustainable industry in the country — and that’s behind data storage centers.

I think, to take a conscious approach, to make changes even though it costs more upfront, to start implementing those things and demonstrate how to be a leader in the space — and it’s not too late, it’s actually very early and we can make this happen — is major for us.

We really want to plant our flag and be the first multi-state operator that’s touting these carbon emissions percentages that are above and beyond.

If we could be at 90% emissions-free, that would be huge; 50 to 60% is where we’re operating right now.

I think it’s key, if this industry is to continue to operate and be responsible, you really have to start pivoting and implementing these sustainable approaches.

C&T Today: What advice would you offer operators looking to become more sustainable?

DG: You don’t have to go all-in on sustainability right off the bat.

There’re a lot of low-hanging fruit and very easily implemented, inexpensive ways, and procedures that can make your facility at least start to be a little bit more sustainable.

It’s imperative we start really considering this approach to cultivating cannabis.

We’re going to start seeing more states crack down on thresholds for sustainable practices for indoor cultivators because, again, it’s such an energy hog.

So, I think to have that foresight and understanding, that this is where we’re headed in this industry and for us to be a stalwart of this movement, is paramount for us.

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