Cannabis and sustainability were the focus of Fashion Group Denver’s latest discussion, “Green Is the New Green” on Tuesday, April 23. Entrepreneurs in the cannabis and fashion industries came together at Blanchard Family Wines to discuss how sustainability can be used to a company's advantage, as well as how to create awareness for consumers about what sustainable products look like.
Part of the challenge for companies aiming for sustainability is identifying which areas have the most impact. One way to start is working with other local businesses, according to Pauline Marie Weller, owner of CBD extraction company NOHI Wellness.
Weller says NOHI will only work with Colorado hemp farmers in order to help other local businesses and ensure easier communication than that with hemp producers from overseas. “We did a two-year search,” she said during the discussions. “Our partnerships and relationships are with people with the same level of transparency, education and sustainability as our company.”
Sustainability can also mean enabling consumers to make their own products and cutting out the packaging and transportation involved at the retail level. “We empower users to do DIY at home,” explained Levo Oil founder Christina Bellman. “It helps them control the ingredients they use in their everyday lives and avoid mystery ingredients that could be found in store products.”
Levo Oil promotes this way of thinking by selling a kitchen appliance that prepares herbal infusions at home, automatically infusing butters, oils and other liquids with herbs such as lavender, chamomile — and (mostly) cannabis. These new technologies and consumption methods can help change the negative stigma older generations have about cannabis, and entrepreneurs see that changing consciousness as an opportunity.
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According to podcast host and blogger Anna Duff, it all comes down to health when starting a conversation around cannabis with beginners. “More people are getting into cannabis because of all the health benefits of it,” she said. “Now that hemp is everywhere, it’s really starting a conversation on what cannabis is.”
Hemp's strong fibers, nutritious seeds and newfound legality at the federal level have made marijuana's non-intoxicating cousin a popular new choice among clothing companies, plastic manufacturers and food producers. Strains of the plant with high levels of CBD have also exploded commercially, with oils, tinctures, lotions, food and more products now carrying the cannabinoid. However, enjoying these new products comes at a premium.
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During the discussion panel, it was acknowledged that sustainable products can be expensive, and many people might not be able to afford them. This includes cannabis and CBD products that low-income consumers might need to treat certain illnesses but may not be able to afford.
If the profit margins still aren't there for more affordable products, then companies could consider forms of charity, Weller said, adding that 5 percent of NOHI’s profits go toward CBD products for qualified candidates in need.
Sustainability could be a key pillar for smaller businesses going forward, as it's much easier to implement these practices than at the corporate level — not that consumers wouldn't like to see big businesses become more friendly to the environment. To put pressure on these companies, YOCISCO clothing owner Gabriel Medina thinks you should start on election day.
“America was founded on becoming anything you want to be, including being a small-business owner,” Medina said. “Therefore, one way to start promoting sustainability more is calling your state senators and politicians, and voting for those who support sustainability.”