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Sustainability Starts at the Roots

CATEGORY Learning Sesh

LENGTH 4 MIN READ

AUTHOR Guest Writer

Illinois’ Head Grower Zack Bigg shares his perspective on the importance of sustainable cultivation practices and how Aeriz is leading the charge.

Earth is at a tipping point. Weather extremes, food and water insecurity, and rising sea levels are just some of the many crises devastating our global population. It’s our duty as concerned citizens to learn how to make changes wherever possible and, as members of the cannabis community, to create a ripple effect in our industry.

A desire for sustainability and environmental responsibility has always been a common thread across our team at Aeriz. Aware of the wide-ranging negative effects commercial cultivation can create, we make conscious choices to put our values into practice every day, and ultimately, lower our overall environmental impact.

Reserving natural resources.

According to a study from The Journal of Cannabis Research, both indoor and outdoor cannabis cultivation require heavy water consumption, leading to water pollution and disrupted ecosystems. The study also indicated that cannabis cultivation can contribute to soil erosion and massive energy consumption in indoor grows. As conscious growers, we do not take these concerns lightly.

To combat these environmental effects head on, we use an efficient aeroponic growing system. Our plants are anchored with and grow amongst recyclable clay pebbles, eliminating the need for soil. In addition to saving more than 288,000 pounds of soil throughout our years of operation, it benefits our plants too. Roots are granted direct access to water, oxygen, and nutrients as they emerge freely from the bottom of the netting pots, allowing them to grow more vigorously than if they were grown in soil.

Within the sealed box, roots flourish and water is recycled back into a closed loop system.

 

 

When it comes to water use, we’re efficient as can be. Our watering system is controlled down to the second; we mist plants directly on the roots with a precise mixture of water and nutrients at exact intervals 24/7. Because our plants are fed in a sealed box, none of that mixture goes down the drain. Instead, it goes directly back into the reservoir for us to reuse again and again. All things considered, we use 95% less water than soil-based cultivation.

Action & accountability.

To further our mission to minimize our environmental impact, we’ve partnered with Pachama – a group of scientists and engineers aiming to reverse the global carbon footprint and modernize forest carbon credits. Pachama relies on its team of experts and technology like satellite imaging and AI to keep track of the Earth’s ecosystems. Our operations are vetted by Pachama to make sure we adhere to their standards to help us reduce or remove CO2 emissions. In 2022, we offset over 8,000 tons of CO2; we were set to surpass that in 2023 and look forward to sharing that stat once the numbers are in!

 

Think big, start small.

When you’re used to growing cannabis one way (and it works), it can be daunting to switch it up and try something different. It’s important that cultivators don’t let the sheer amount of information out there overwhelm or deter them from tweaking their setup and striving for something better.

We are big believers in the little things. They really do add up. For example, we buy in bulk whenever possible. We make our nutrients in-house. We switched to reusable biosecurity suits instead of disposing them at the end of the workday. Furthermore, we utilize beneficial insects for pest control in lieu of sprays and chemicals, and our vegetation rooms have been almost entirely converted to LED lighting to keep energy consumption at bay. None of these practices are perfect, but they make a difference, especially at our scale.

Toward a greener future.

While sustainability wasn’t at the forefront of many peoples’ minds when the industry began growing rapidly, it’s evolved into a major concern we can’t ignore. As cultivators, we see our sustainable endeavors as both a necessity and an opportunity to lead the industry in a better direction holistically. Literally growing the cannabis is the first step in any commercial setup; by implementing environmentally friendly processes in the beginning, sequential green initiatives (like recyclable packaging) naturally fall in line.

As it turns out, the market responds to companies making better choices too. The cannabis community is made up of environmentally conscious consumers who want to make ethical choices. This gives mindful companies a competitive advantage that we hope will further the industry’s evolution toward eco-friendly practices.

As consumers demand greener choices, it’s up to each company to shift the paradigm and meet those ideals. I’m so proud to be a part of a team that’s brought together by this ever-important commitment.

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