The story about how the police find people who are growing cannabis in their attic sounds like a bit of an old wives’ tale but is actually very plausible. They say that when it snows the houses with no snow on the roof either have very bad insulation and high energy bills or could be growing cannabis under heat lamps. Either that or the police helicopters fly over towns and cities with heat-detecting technology to see where the ‘hottest’ roof is.
Although this is not unheard of around the world, what this really tells us about is how growing the plant can consume a lot of energy – especially if you are in a colder country.
With climate change and carbon footprints in the news at the moment, we each have a responsibility to understand how the way that we live our lives has an impact and what we can do to reduce our impact on the planet.
With the government having just declared a ‘Climate Emergency’ there is plenty that most people can do, as well as the country, so how do we start to think about changing our lifestyle and reducing our own carbon footprint? It starts off by understanding where you are now and trying to improve on that.
So, what difference does the rise in the popularity of CBD have on the planet and our carbon footprint?
CBD is a natural compound which is found in the cannabis or hemp plant. This is a plant that has been used for thousands of years, not just medicinally, but also as a material for building, making clothing or even rope.
CBD stands for Cannabidiol. It is a natural cannabinoid which, when taken by most mammals, can interact with the endocannabinoid system – through cannabinoid receptors. The endocannabinoid system plays a vital role in the body, helping to keep the other processes in the body in excellent working order.
When some of the endocannabinoids which interact with the receptors are in low levels, we begin to see health problems sneaking in, and by boosting these levels with another cannabinoid – in this case, CBD, we can start to get the endocannabinoid system working properly again.
Cannabis has been grown all over the world, and throughout British history, we have seen an abundance of hemp in use – from clothing to construction materials. In the UK, hemp is grown to between 1.8m and 4.5m and because its canopy is dense, there is very little sunlight getting to the part where the plant goes into the ground. This is great because it means that no nasty chemicals, pesticides or herbicides need to be used to get rid of weeds.
CBD in the UK
Although most of the changes in laws about CBD have happened recently in the USA, we are seeing a loosening of them all over the world. This has led to changing attitudes and better research in a number of countries – including the UK.
To be able to understand the impact of your CBD oil on the environment, there are three aspects that need to be looked at:
- The cultivation of the hemp
- The processing involved in turning it into a CBD product
- What happens after the CBD products have been made.
CBD in the UK is usually made from European hemp grown in countries like Holland, Switzerland and Eastern Europe. Although we do grow some here, it is grown in relatively small quantities and many hemp growers across the continent will use a greenhouse to create the best conditions for it. These might sometimes require heat lamps, but this depends on where they are based.
It is also important to remember that the warmer the countries get – and therefore further away from the UK that they become, the further the hemp will have to travel back to you. This is an important consideration to make when you are thinking about your carbon footprint.
According to the British Hemp Association, hemp can be very effective as a tool to absorb CO2. In fact, about a hectare of industrial hemp can absorb about 15 tonnes of CO2, and it “absorbs more CO2 per hectare, annually, than any other commercial crop or commercial forestry.” 
In Europe, over 33.000 hectares of hemp is being cultivated and this is looking to increase drastically over the next few years, meaning that the amounts of CO2 which are being absorbed can go up. The whole plant can be used according to what it is that you are wanting to do with it.
Depending on the place, hemp plants will probably need to be watered as well. Another bonus to hemp cultivation is that it can be used to actually clean up the soil. It can effectively, suck up contaminants which are in the soil – which is also why you should make sure that you buy organic, EU approved hemp – to ensure that you don’t get any nasty chemicals in your CBD oil.
In general, cultivating CBD rich hemp is good for the environment. It doesn’t contaminate the soil, doesn’t require pesticides or chemicals and absorbs high levels of CB2 from the atmosphere. It is a completely natural product, and the harvesting process can be carried out by hand or using machines.
Most CBD companies will be using the CO2 extraction method which involves passing carbon dioxide through the hemp, pulling the CBD through it with them. These, of course, require an amount of technology, machinery and energy to carry out, but the process of supercritical CO2 extraction is not harmful to the environment or people who take the CBD.
CO2 extraction methods can also be used in a loop system, which means that it can be used and re-used cutting down on the amount of waste.
Once the CBD has been extracted, it is then important to look at the products which are being made and how they are made. Most CBD products contain as few ‘extras’ as possible, but think about the other ingredients – for example, if it is mixed with coconut oil it might have a larger carbon footprint than if it uses local hemp seed oil.
You should also think about packaging. Is it made from sustainable or recyclable materials? Is there also a lot of unnecessary packaging or can you buy it in larger quantities which can help to reduce the amount of packaging that you use?
Finally, and importantly, you should be looking at where the product was made. Was it made in the UK? Or the US? Or Europe. The place where it has had to be sent from has a massive impact on your carbon footprint, so try to buy your CBD products as locally as possible.
One of the bonuses of being a new industry is that the people who are in it are generally of a younger generation. This generation seems to be particularly interested in lowering their carbon footprint and slowing down climate change, as well as having some of the tools that are needed to change.
This is one of the reasons that we see so many products which are organic and ‘natural’, and why we can be more confident about getting ‘eco-friendly’ CBD products. It seems that the biggest impact on the planet from the CBD industry is through the need for lights in its cultivation and transportation.
Hemp isn’t just good for giving us CBD. It can actually play a much bigger part in making the planet a better place. Hemp can be used for food, to replace plastic, is biodegradable can be used instead of synthetic clothes and is an all-around good egg. Hemp seems to be showing a lot of promise in helping us to reduce climate change and improve the state of the Earth, through a number of different ways.