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Media 丨 2021.07.09

How Vaping Cannabis Impacts the Environment

Environmental concerns, particularly climate change and the loss of biodiversity, are frequently considered the most important issue facing the world today.  In 2019, a poll of 1,000 people in the UK, Canada, Germany, Italy, Brazil, France, Poland and the US, found at least three-quarters of the public that a climate breakdown is imminent.  Not to mention, researchers have identified deforestation and extinction as contributing to the rise of worldwide pandemics, including the recent COVID-19 crisis.  Now, more than ever, environmental impact needs to factor into decision-making, whether in the public realm and in personal settings.  According to a recent World Economic Forum survey, adults aged 18-35 are especially alarmed by environmental issues, with over 78.1% of respondents willing to make lifestyle changes to mitigate them.  This is likely the case in the decision by cannabis consumers, as well as retailers and manufacturers, to make the switch to vaporizers.  The following are strong arguments explaining why vaping cannabis is considerably more environmentally-friendly compared to smoking, as well as the possible negative impact of vaping and how we can minimize them.


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Eliminating Combustion

Smoking marijuana involves the same combustion process as smoking tobacco, resulting in similar emissions resulting from the process.  Current scientific evidence points to secondhand marijuana smoke as posing serious health risks to the public, due to it being a potent source of PM 2.5 fine particulate matter.  This is the same hazardous material found in wildfires and air pollution, which can be harmful when inhaled even in small quantities, especially for people with respiratory issues.  Not to mention, the combustion process results in carbon dioxide being released, which is present in smoke about 200 times higher than normal.  Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, the high concentrations of which in the atmosphere has largely contributed to climate change.  While the level of carbon dioxide emission from smoking might be low compared to other sources, any lifestyle change that would eliminate that emission can be a positive contribution to the environment.  Vaporizers, unlike smoking, does not involve the combustion process, and therefore do not release harmful particles or carbon dioxide into the air.  This benefits not just the consumers’ health, but the air quality around them and ultimately the environment.


Greater Effects on Less Raw Material

While smoking cannabis produces low amounts of carbon dioxide, manufacturing cannabis is a wholly different story.  Growing cannabis plants take up a lot of resources, from electricity to water, which all affects the industry’s carbon footprint.  Indoor growing, for example, accounts for a whopping 1 percent of total electricity use in the United States each year, comparable to the amount of electricity consumed by every computer in every residence in the country.  This is due to the use of high-intensity light bulbs, dehumidifiers, heating and ventilation systems.  Since two-thirds of the electricity on the U.S. grid is generated by fossil fuels, these numbers translate to carbon sequestration equal to1.6 acres of U.S. forests in a year.  Outdoor growing is similarly an environmental question mark, since preparing land for farming cannabis plants means deforestation, diverting rivers, and disrupting ecosystems.  Not to mention, the plants require around a billion liters of water per square mile every growing season.  While some of the solutions to these problems lie in broad public policy, involving things like cleaner electricity and better energy-efficiency standards, individuals can make habitual changes, as well.  One effective way of lessening the impact of cannabis growing on the environment would be switching to vaporizers, since vaping delivers a rapid and more intense effect on smaller doses compared to other consumption methods.  Fewer cannabinoids are destroyed in the heating process of vaping compared to smoking, and, if oils and concentrates are used, the efficiency is even greater.  The greater effects of vaping cannabis from lesser quantities of raw materials (cannabis plants) means the environmental impact of growing cannabis will be reduced, including its carbon footprint and threat to biodiversity.


 

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The Question of Sustainability and Waste

When it comes to vaping cannabis, the environmental concern of sustainability and waste presents a conundrum: vaporizers have positive effects, but negative effects as well.  The positive involves eliminating the use of rolling papers and filters tips, which are quite common in the traditional method of smoking cannabis.  Traditionally, like other paper products, rolling papers have been made with tree pulp, and the paper industry contributes to large proportions of deforestation each year.  Filter tips, while slightly less common in smoking cannabis, presents an even greater waste problem, as one of the most commonly littered items in the U.S.  They are commonly made of sturdier paper/cardboard or plastic, which take months or years to break down respectively, and often bleached which further contributes to air and water pollution.  Discarded filter tips end up in landfill, contaminating groundwater and contributing to the production of harmful greenhouse gases such as methane.  This not only pollutes natural resources and leads to climate change, but also threatens animals that may ingest the discarded tips.  Using vaporizers, once again, reduces this problem significantly as they do not require papers or filter tips.


At the same time, however, vaporizers do pose their own risks of waste and pollution, especially with disposable vaporizers.  While unlike cigarettes, vaporizers are not single-use, some disposable vaporizers get discarded once the oil or juice runs out, adding to plastic waste.  The batteries used in vaporizers may contain heavy metals, while the cartridges often contain residual liquid.  If not disposed properly, these components may similarly leach into soil and bodies of water, causing pollution.  


Cilicon has come up with solutions to minimize these impacts, including educating consumers on how to properly dispose of batteries after using our vaporizers.  In addition, in order to reduce battery waste, Cilicon is always working on the latest vaping technologies that can increase battery capacity.  We are also increasingly focusing on promoting recyclable materials, which would help our customers avoid plastic waste from using our products.  While the use of vaporizers is preferable to smoking due to its environmental benefits, there are always ways in which consumers, retailers, and manufacturers of cannabis and related devices can help minimize pollution, protect environmental biodiversity, and help reduce the effects of climate change.  Cilicon is at the forefront of this effort, and we hope consumers will join us in ensuring that the cannabis industry goes hand-in-hand with protecting and caring for the environment.