February 17, 2021
In 2018, Americans sent 292.4 million tons of waste to the landfill, and that number is growing each year. America is far above the average of 1.6 pounds of waste produced per day per person, creating an average of 4.9 pounds of trash daily, an 8 percent increase from 2017. Hive Mendocino sees this as an opportunity to do better and inspire change in others. Each of our farms approaches sustainability with passion and intensity, and by working together, we tackle this problem with combined brainpower, innovating new ways to remain successful, efficient, and one with the earth.
Although purchasing new supplies is a regular occurrence for commercial cultivators, our farms always start by evaluating what we already have on hand. "Every new project starts with surveying our property and looking to see what we can reuse versus buying new," says Giving Tree Farms. They reuse their plastic plant tags for each cycle, use cracked pots from cultivation for organization and storage, and find other purposes for cultivation items once removed from production. Trellising can be an incredibly wasteful part of cannabis cultivation, so Wildercraft utilizes easily reusable metal caging rather than plastic trellising for plant support. For the farms that choose plastic trellising for its flexibility, they roll it up at the end of the season and reuse it in the following. Fire Flower has reused their trellising for three years so far and their concrete re-mesh cages for seven. They tackle the waste that accompanies compliance by reusing tie-wires to attach METRC tags, a practice they started two years ago. They additionally recycle their paper amendment bags, clean and reuse the 5-gallon buckets their nutrients arrive in, and when possible, have their bulk amendments mixed at the yard so they come in a single bag instead of multiple. For some of the farms, plastic tarping is utilized for light-deprivation or to protect plants during harsh weather. We choose high-quality, long-lifespan greenhouse covers for this so that they last for many years to come. When they can no longer fulfill their original intent, we repurpose them for covering soil piles, waterproofing sheds or barns, winterizing around the farms, and more.
We combat water waste through the efficient operation of irrigation systems and the creation of a healthy growing medium. The farms rebuild the soil they cultivated in the previous year with inputs from the land, home compost, and bulk-purchased amendments to create a robust soil that retains water and nutrients efficiently. Wildercraft's Hugelkulture cultivation technique is excellent for water retention, and they couple this with the application of mulch or a cover crop around their plants. To manage energy waste, all the farms use on-property solar panels as their primary energy provider. Giving Tree Farms is the exception, but they're in the process of setting up their solar panel this year. During the transition, they are enrolled in Sonoma Clean Power so that all of their grid power comes from renewable sources. Choosing energy-efficient alternatives for irrigation equipment, household needs, and other electronics is another way to limit energy waste. We use LEDs on our farms for supplemental lighting because they consume 75 percent less energy compared to incandescent lighting.
For the dry and cure, Wildercraft employs a custom collapsible and reusable dry room hanging system to make good use of space and limit single-use equipment. For trimming, Fire Flower purchases biodegradable nitrile gloves, reuses turkey bags, and has nixed plastic bin liners altogether. "We power wash and spray with Isopropyl alcohol all of our storage totes yearly so we don't need to use bin liners," Fire Flower says, adding that they purchase their Isopropyl alcohol in bulk 5-gallon containers to re-fill their smaller day-to-day jugs. Giving Tree Farms utilizes cardboard boxes for their bulk storage. "I can always find another application for these, and they are used for a few runs before they are composted and used in the veggie garden," Giving Tree Farms explains, mentioning that they additionally use glass bottles they collect for building garden beds on their property.
Some waste production isn't a direct result of cultivation operations. Giving Tree Farms points out, "Farm labor contractors bring bottled water to the farm, and it has been a challenge to reduce the number of single-use plastic bottles. We started buying contractors we see regularly reusable water bottles. This way, they can fill it up with the 5-gallon water jugs supplied. Water bottles with logos are always a hit and seem to help stop the use of single-use plastics." Giving Tree has also encouraged team waste-sorting by providing on-property signs indicating what products need to go in which containers for trash, recycling, and compost. This year, they plan to add up the total pounds of waste they created in 2020 and set a lower goal for 2021.
In an industry that makes a lot of waste due to trellising, irrigation lines, bulk storage, pots, and more, we hope to see the regulations shift in favor of sustainable cultivation. "The regulations from a cultivation perspective push cultivators to be some of the best land stewards in agriculture," Fire Flower says, noting the rules around pesticide use and the monitoring of heavy metals in the soil. "However, the regulations down the line also push us to be tremendous waste makers, like with the shift back to individual one-pound turkey bags even for large batches due to fees the BCC is now charging distributors."
What are you doing to limit waste around your farm or home? Let us know! We take sustainability very seriously and understand that idea sharing is one of the best ways to push this industry forward in the right direction. If you're a wholesale buyer passionate about sustainable cultivation methods, reach out to us, and we'll send you our inventory of bulk craft cannabis right away.
Cover photo by: MabelAmber--1377835 from pixabay via Canva Pro