A Conversation with Ben Gelt Ahead of the Earth Day Cannabis Sustainability Symposium

Written by Colby McCoy

The Cannabis Certification Council’s Cannabis Sustainability Symposium is in its 6th year and has generated increasing support among a range of stakeholders within the cannabis industry looking to develop sustainable solutions that improve the health of the planet and increase profit margins.

We sat down with The Council’s chairperson, Ben Gelt, to discuss his plans for the symposium in 2021, and what he thinks about the current status of sustainability initiatives within the budding cannabis industry.

When asked whether cannabis stakeholders are interested in sustainability Gelt replied: “Yes. It is as simple as asking if companies want to be more efficient. There are some major investments going on from LED [light-emitting diode] manufacturers, fertigation technology, automated technology.”

While there are several large companies in the cannabis space adopting sustainability for public relations reasons, those companies are still interested in the tangible benefits of eco-friendly business models. “Small, medium and large companies are looking in the direction of becoming more efficient with water, energy, and waste,” Gelt explained.

Growing interest in sustainable business solutions for cannabis purveyors is reflected in the increasing popularity in The Council’s Cannabis Sustainability Symposium, which draws speakers and stakeholders outside of cannabis including John Stier of the Craft Brewers Association. “We love pulling in people from other industries and John offered some incredible advice to help the cannabis industry get where it needs to be faster and more efficiently,” Gelt said.

The Symposium began in partnership with the City and County of Denver, Colorado, and has “grown into a touchstone event in the industry where people travel to the event from all corners of the country,” Gelt said. Although the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the Symposium to be held virtually, he expects to return to in-person presentations and discussions as early as 2022. The Earth Day 2021 Symposium will feature a range of expert panelists, including Cassandra Maffey of Fire Tower, Tom Newmark of Carbon Underground, Zach Carson of Imaginal, and Kaitlin Urso of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Topics to be discussed during the Symposium include food justice, climate change, carbon and agriculture, as well as sustainable practices for indoor and outdoor cannabis cultivators.

In the background sits Gelt’s Cannabis Certification Council, which sponsors the event. The Council works closely with consumers and stakeholders to drive sustainable practices for the burgeoning cannabis industry. Currently, the Council is working to develop an “Organically Grown Cannabis Certification,” which Gelt hopes will revolutionize how consumers interact with their cannabis products. “Cannabis consumers are just regular old consumers. If they want organic at the supermarket, they go to the organic section to buy it. Why not apply that to cannabis?” Gelt explained.

Gelt pointed to lack of knowledge among budtenders in Portland, Oregon. A Lewis and Clark College survey found that 55% of budtenders thought that the cannabis flower on shelves was all-natural, according to Gelt. This points to a wider issue of cannabis stakeholders lacking the essential knowledge to offer consumers organic, chemical-free products. Alongside the certification, the Council has launched an online campaign called “#Whatsinmyweed?”, which aims at “helping consumers connect the dots between how they consume food and how they consume cannabis,” Gelt said.

The efforts of The Council to drive sustainability among stakeholders as well consumers mark a huge step forward in bringing the cannabis industry to the forefront of the 21st century. The Earth Day event will be from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. PDT and is completely free.

About the author

Colby McCoy

Colby McCoy is a recent graduate of the University of Georgia who has written for non-profits, marketing firms, and personal blogs. When not writing he can be found trekking the mountain ranges around Seattle, WA, with his two pups Harry and Riley.

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