When I first started looking into the comparisons of indoor grows vs. outdoor and greenhouse grows I was surprised at all the differing opinions that were out there. Many of them felt one type of growth was better than the other because of the quality of the end product and others were convinced that the most natural way was the only method for a self-sustaining industry to continue in a sane business manner. Once I started digging into the subject (no pun intended) I began discovering some interesting information. By the way, we are not talking about or including in this conversation the destructiveness of illegal outdoor grows on public lands. In order to keep those illegal grows hidden from the view of sheriff deputies in helicopters and Fish and Game officers, along with the DEA, the uncaring and greedy growers destroy water resources, local creeks and the toxic fertilizers and pesticides they use completely destroy the environment. We are concerned with legal grows and in seeing which is ecologically better: greenhouses and outdoor grows or indoor cultivation.
If you drive on certain little-used roads in several counties in Northern California, Oregon and Washington State you will see more than a fair share of legal grows standing right out in the open air for everyone to notice. The first two or three grows you glance at will leave your mouth open with surprise because there are so many healthy cannabis plants concentrated in one area. But then as you cruise along and see even more of those beautiful green trees, the novelty will soon wear off. You’ll also notice greenhouses all along those back streets that are made of PVC plastic pipe covered with plastic and shaped like Quonset huts.
These growers, if they have all the required paperwork that allows them to be legal state marijuana growers don’t really have to worry about helicopters spying on them. Once they show their documents to the officials who ask for them they can go back to being cannabis farmers again. The DEA will generally only bother growers if they have more than several hundred plants on their site because they just don’t want to be bothered with small busts anymore – they don’t have the time or the manpower. The local cops are only concerned if you have more plants than your paperwork says you should have – otherwise, they will pretty much leave you alone.
What I learned about indoor grows, and you won’t see any of those while you’re driving on any road or in any state, is that they leave an enormous carbon footprint. Cultivating marijuana indoors takes a lot of energy; high voltage lights, large fans, which control air regulation, and temperature and humidity monitors all use up monstrous energy loads. Legal outdoor grows, on the other hand, don’t use any electricity because they don’t need heavy-duty lighting equipment – they use free energy from the sun. They also depend on the natural air circulation that nature provides and once the shoots are planted (with natural, organic and safe fertilizer and pesticides) little care is needed except for regular watering.
It has been said recently that as much as 10% of Denver’s electricity is going toward indoor grow operations, which continues to increase yearly. Ten percent may or may not sound like a lot for a population of over 700,000, but that means that electricity normally used by 70,000 people goes directly into producing indoor marijuana. To make this concept more understandable, some experts put the cost of electricity for large indoor grows at around $750 per pound of cannabis produced, which, when extended out to a minimum of 100 pounds per growing season, and indoor grows can have several harvests each year, comes to $75,000 spent just on electricity for each harvest. That represents a colossal expenditure of natural resources such as coal and natural gas, which when burned, produces tons of carbon dioxide, which then creates greenhouse gasses and a large carbon footprint, which moves us closer toward global warming.
Carbon footprint: The total amount of greenhouse gasses caused by an individual, organization or event.
Greenhouse cultivators can cut that cost down by 50 to 75% depending on the size of the greenhouse and yet their strains are every bit as good if not better than the indoor brands. They can produce great cannabis at a fraction of the cost of production of the indoor process and create a much smaller carbon footprint, which is better for the environment. Outdoor grows cut the electricity costs by 100% and if done conscientiously, they leave little to no carbon footprint behind. And the quality of legal outdoor grows has never been challenged because the end product is so organically satisfying. Plus, as an incidental bonus, outdoor and greenhouse cultivators’ profit margins shoot way up in comparison to indoor productions cannabis because of their negligible electricity consumption.
Caveat emptor = buyer beware. Since it’s not practical for each end user of cannabis to witness the process of their marijuana supplier, he or she should at least ask basic questions about their product. “How was this grown? Is this product from an indoor grow or was it grown outdoors or in a greenhouse?” This should be standard procedure when purchasing marijuana if you care about the environment. Dispensaries with integrity will welcome these questions because they have nothing to hide and their outdoor and greenhouse grows are not hurting their environment – or yours.