Sam Milton operates Enlighten Your Grow, a company committed to helping its cannabis business clients become sustainability champions all while reducing their costs and improving their profitability.
The climate crisis isn’t coming, it’s already here—and the time has come for cannabis businesses to start taking their climate risk seriously. The New York Times reports that over the next decade, many billions of dollars will be spent to kick-start a cleaner, more resilient economy in order to minimize the threat of how climate change impacts communities globally.
Local governments are at the heart of the climate fight
Local elected officials are obligated to find solutions to climate-induced crises, which can include heat-stressed infrastructure, rising sea levels, increased flooding, increased droughts, increased wildfires, or other dangerous manifestations of global climate change. In preparation for other climate disasters, many elected officials are taking meaningful actions to protect their communities and asking their constituents to do the same.
As of November 2021, more than 470 mayors within the United States have signed the Mayor’s Climate Pledge, promising to take meaningful actions to address climate change in their communities. While it’s not always clear in practice what this pledge means for businesses in these cities and towns, at the very least it means that municipal leadership is motivated to find ways to reduce the city’s carbon footprint.
For many of the businesses with operations in “climate concerned” or sustainability-minded municipalities, the time may be near—if not already passed—for them to start thinking about their own relationship to climate change. For example, how does a business’s energy use affect their carbon footprint, how will their physical location be impacted by adverse weather events, and how will their customers or employees fare in a climate-impacted future.
Eventually, businesses of all types, including cannabis dispensaries and cultivation facilities, will likely be asked to share the responsibility of reducing their community’s environmental footprint and vulnerability to climate change. What does this mean?
Cannabis cultivation facilities in particular will receive extra scrutiny because of their outsized energy footprint. Dispensaries may also draw attention for their role in contributing to packaging waste, which while not necessarily tied to climate change, falls into the broader sustainability bucket, into which climate action is often put.
How Your Cannabis Businesses Can Thrive in a Climate-Concerned Municipality
When the time comes to renew your permit or apply for a new one, be prepared to answer questions about your sustainability or energy-use plan. Don’t have one? That’s okay. Admitting you may need help is a good first step.
Moving forward, it’s important to hold your own business accountable to sustainability-minded practices. Furthermore, you will want to consider how you fit into your community’s efforts to address climate change. Check out the following checklist for a series of important questions regarding your climate impact and your climate vulnerabilities.
What is your carbon impact?
- Are you using energy-efficient technologies in your facility?
- Have you performed a comprehensive energy performance evaluation?
- Are you incorporating renewable energy sources into your electricity mix?
- What are your policies and procedures to reduce your solid waste footprint?
- Are you using water efficiently?
What are your climate vulnerabilities?
- Is your facility located in a flood zone?
- Are you dependent on a potentially scarce water source?
- Will your employees be able to access your facility after an extreme storm or flooding event?
- Is your supply chain flexible or resilient enough to handle disruptions?
As of late 2021, very few municipalities have taken steps to require specific pledges from cannabis permit applicants. However, there are several instances—most notably Ann Arbor, Michigan and Boulder, Colorado—where applicants are asked to submit their energy plans and/or pay into a carbon offset fund, directly as a result of those cities’ efforts to reduce their carbon footprint.
Unless climate change is solved immediately—and unfortunately, it won’t be—it’s guaranteed that we will see more municipalities ask their cannabis businesses to step up and join the fight in the near future. Will yours be next, and if so, will you be ready to answer the call?