Bringing You the Daily Dispatch

A company based in the UK is cultivating cannabis that is carbon-neutral, making it a more environmentally friendly option.
Environment World News

A company based in the UK is cultivating cannabis that is carbon-neutral, making it a more environmentally friendly option.


For 26 years, Olivier Dehon was employed in the business industry, eventually rising to the position of chief financial officer for Xerox in the UK and Ireland. He retired four years ago but recently made his first shipment of potent cannabis.

Dehon’s legal and legitimate product is designed to meet the increasing demand for medical cannabis on prescription in the UK. Additionally, Dehon and his team claim that their indoor-grown weed is the first carbon-neutral one in the world.

Their goal is for their strategy to create carbon-neutral cannabis to serve as a model for ensuring the sustainability of energy-intensive horticulture in the UK. This is especially important as climate change-related weather changes pose a threat to the supply from other countries, and rising energy costs make producing in the UK less profitable.

Although often associated with the counterculture and environmentally-conscious individuals, cannabis, particularly when grown illegally, is not environmentally friendly. According to a recent study by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, it takes approximately 6,000kWh of energy and has a carbon footprint of 1,400kg to produce just 1kg of indoor-grown cannabis.

This indicates that a single joint, made with 1/3 gram of marijuana, has an equivalent carbon footprint as driving an electric hybrid car for approximately three miles.

When expanded, the effect is enormous. In just the Netherlands, around 1 billion kWh of electricity was illegally taken for growing cannabis in 2021, which is equal to the amount of electricity used by all households in Rotterdam, a city with 650,000 residents, in one year.

Under the blindingly bright lights of Glass Pharms’ state-of-the-art £20m production facility nestled in a discreet location in the Wiltshire countryside, it is easy to see why. Hundreds of LEDs shine on to pallets loaded with cannabis plants, which make their way on rails through growing chambers. The air temperature is several degrees warmer than the cold winter air outside. All variables are controlled to produce the most perfectly balanced cannabis crop possible.

However, the entire website operates without needing any electricity from the National Grid. The production facility of Glass Pharms is located next to an anaerobic digestion plant, which supplies all of its energy and heat. Dehon mentions that they aspire to one day capture the carbon dioxide emissions from the methane biogas used by the plant to nourish their plants.

Pink lighting inside Glass Pharms’ production facilityView image in fullscreen

According to Mark Heley, the Director of External Relations at Glass Pharms, their primary focus is addressing a larger issue in the UK related to energy-intensive horticulture, rather than solely focusing on cannabis.

In order to achieve this goal, the entire process is structured based on the concepts of circular economics. “Our approach involves addressing the main issue at hand, which is that when cultivating plants indoors in the UK, in this particular climate, the essential requirements are heat, energy, and especially for cannabis, carbon dioxide,” explains Heley.

“Due to the outputs of a plant using anaerobic digestion, which include power and a significant amount of waste heat (over one megawatt), as well as carbon dioxide, the inputs to our system consist of not only the outputs from the neighboring plant, but also its waste products.”

Glass Pharms utilizes various technologies to minimize the environmental impact of their cannabis production. This includes collecting rainwater, treating and storing it for reuse in closed-loop systems, and recirculating air within the glass house to maintain ideal temperatures and humidity levels.

What is the reason for cultivating cannabis? Due to a legal amendment in 2018, after years of being banned, cannabis can now be prescribed to patients with a legitimate medical requirement.

The demand for cannabis has increased significantly, with 24 tons being imported to the UK in the first nine months of 2023. This is nearly three times the amount imported in the entire previous year, according to government data. However, supply continues to be a problem as all medical cannabis in the UK is sourced from overseas, causing shortages and expired products for patients.

This has created an untapped market opportunity, with a crop that is significantly more valuable than red peppers, providing room for new ideas and advancements.

Dehon, the CFO of Glass Pharms, explains that by opting for [growing peppers], there is a greater area available for experimentation. However, this also increases the level of risk for both investors and our company. It requires more precise navigation and leaves less room for mistakes.

Trying to grow cucumbers in this location would not be feasible due to the margin and selling price of locally grown cucumbers compared to imported ones. It would be difficult to compete in the market, even if everyone took the minimum profit margin and there were no greedy corporations involved. It is currently not a viable option.

Eventually, due to unpredictable weather caused by climate change, it will become necessary. Last year, former environment secretary Thérèse Coffey proposed to members of Parliament that British consumers could substitute turnips for salad crops due to severe storms and cold weather in southern Europe and north Africa, which greatly reduced yields. Meanwhile, UK producers, facing higher energy expenses, expressed concern that their businesses could fail.

Heley states that there is a widespread belief in the UK that we can easily obtain inexpensive food from plastic greenhouses on the Spanish coast. This, along with Morocco, is where we are obtaining affordable agriculture.

As the frequency of severe weather events rises, crop failures are becoming more common. Consequently, there is a decrease in the amount of produce available in UK supermarkets. If we do not implement sustainable horticulture practices, specifically designing greenhouses to maximize energy efficiency, the future may hold a shortage of salad for the country.

Or weed.

Source: theguardian.com