Four Simple Swaps For Creating Sustainable Cannabis Brands

by | Oct 17, 2019 | Blog

Cannabis Marketing Association

by MarketingCannabis | Sep 13, 2019 | CaliforniaCannabis AdvertisingCannabis LegalizationDigital MarketingMarketingPackaging

By Lilli Keinaenen, originally published in the Cannabis Marketing Association Blog (check out more of their lovely content here)

We all want to be do-gooders and make good choices. But it’s not always so easy being green when you don’t know where to start. Here are some simple ideas to help you make sustainable branding and marketing choices for your business.

Why it matters – consumer demand

Companies having social and environmental values is is something customers care about. In a study, nine consumers out of ten said they expect companies to do more than focus on profit – they expect companies to operate responsibly and address social and environmental issues. A whopping 84 percent of consumers say they seek out responsible products whenever possible, and 73% of millennials surveyed said they pay more for for brands that align with their values.

Many cannabis companies have internal goals around sustainability, and may even spout some of those values on the website. If talking the talk, you should also be willing to walk the walk.

Toss away the idea that sustainability is a luxury. It’s something your company needs to thrive – and you can’t just greenwash your way out of it neither, customers are savvy and can smell the BS.

TIP 1: swag

Whenever buying anything, think about the entire lifecycle of the product.

How was it made? Where was it made? Was it shipped from overseas or made locally? Is the thing made out of renewable plant-based materials like paper (or hemp!), or extracted petroleum-based materials like plastics? If your product is sun-grown on a family farm biodynamically, and your website talks about your love for the land and mother earth, but your tradeshow giveaway is a throwaway plastic item –  is that being true to your brand?

Tradeshow swag – buy this, not that

Buy this: hemp paper flower seed cards with a fun story about your company

Cannabis marketing, Content marketing, business card, business, branding, brand awareness

Instead of this: plastic fidget spinner that doesn’t relate to what you do

Cannabis Marketing

TIP 2: Packaging

What happens to your product packaging after opening?

When packaging cannabis, in addition to thinking about how it looks, if it complies with the regulations, and how much the packaging costs, you’ll want to look beyond the initial bottom line.

What happens to the outer packaging after it’s opened, and the inner packaging after the product is consumed? How will the customer feel throwing the empties away? Does it go to the trash? Does it recycle? Compost? Is there a buyback program where customers bring back the package for a discount on the next purchase?

Compliance is hard enough. And unfortunately lot of child resistant cannabis packaging is either fully plastic, or made from mixed materials including plastic. Did you know plastic doesn’t actually RE-cycle, as in much as it’s DOWN-cycled?

If it even is – only 9% of plastics in the USA were actually recycled last year. 80% of all plastics ever made in the history of mankind is now in the landfill. None of it has disintegrated, so it’s all still here, all 8.3 billion metric tons that has been produced in the six decades we’ve been living in the plastic era.

So okay, plastic is bad and we’re all doomed. And there’s more bad news? A lot of cannabis packaging is made out of mixed materials. When two otherwise recyclable materials are glued together, it won’t recycle as neither.

So what should you choose? Glass can be recycled over and over again. Aluminum recycles nicely as well. Hemp-based products are the gold standard, and there’s some interesting development around child resistant paper and pulp packaging. Composts or recycles, and can be made out of recycled or renewable materials.

Rigid packaging – buy this, not that

Buy this: glass, aluminum, paper, cardboard, bagasse, hemp plastic

Cannabis marketing, content marketing, branding, brand awareness, packaging, logo

Instead of this: plastic, polystyrene, acrylic, vinyl, foam, or combination materials

Cannabis marketing, content marketing, branding, brand awareness, packaging, logo

Tip 3: Exit Bags

Less is more – less packaging, less impact

Less is truly more. A single gram of cannabis can be packaged in over 30 grams of packaging. So be mindful on how many layers you truly need. Does the single vape cart need a pop top tube encased in a clamshell or a plastic slider box with a foam insert? Is mylar the right choice or the easy choice? Also, more material costs more – the larger your package, the harder it is for a dispensary or distributor to store it as well.

Flexible packaging – meaning pouches and bags – are sometimes unavoidable. They are a better choice than rigid hard plastics in terms of material savings – we see this trend in consumer products where things like dish soap and ketchup and cereal are now sold in pouches instead of boxes or jars. If you gotta use plastic, at least use much less of it. And even better – there are companies making compostable, plant-based “mylar” pouches and bags!

Flexible packaging – buy this, not that

Buy this: Compostable, plant-based exit bags and pouches

Cannabis marketing, content marketing, branding, brand awareness, packaging, logo

Instead of this: traditional mylar or vinyl that goes to landfill and stays there for decades.

Cannabis marketing, content marketing, branding, brand awareness, packaging, logo

Tip 4: Collateral

Smart thinking = savings for you and the planet

If one thing’s certain, it’s that things keep changing constantly in the cannabis industry. So whatever you’re buying – a tradeshow booth, flyers, brochures, or business cards – don’t buy more than you’d need for the next six months. Even though the price per item might be cheaper when buying in bulk, the worst thing ever is to toss boxes and boxes of brochures or packaging when they become outdated or noncompliant. When doing any sort of design projects, think of ways of making the item as timeless as possible. For packaging, that may mean modular thinking – one box, multiple labels.

For brochures or flyers, leaving out the dosage and testing information, and lists of vendors selling your product will make the information last from one batch to the next. For your tradeshow booth, we can make it modular, timeless, and reusable – especially if it needs to be shipped, don’t buy the cheapest thing that you’ll end up tossing after one or two shows.

Collateral – buy this, not that

Buy this: smaller quantities, quality materials for reusable items, evergreen content

Cannabis marketing, content marketing, branding, brand awareness, packaging, logo, tradeshow

Instead of this: one-time use disposable items that will get outdated

Cannabis marketing, content marketing, branding, brand awareness, packaging, logo

It can be easy being green 

To recap: if you adopt a sustainability mindset, you’ll not only be saving the planet (which is nice of you, thank you) all the while staying true to the ideology your company wants to have. You become part of the solution, not part of the problem. And your customers will reward your efforts. Remember, consumers want companies to make an effort, and are willing to pay a premium and go out of their way to support those companies that do. Customers vote with their wallets. Make sure your brand is a brand they can believe in.

If you’re at all curious about how to have sustainable packaging that will help you create raving fans and sell even more products, then click here for your free “Brand Boost Call,” so you can get clear on how to avoid the big mistakes and understand ways to get noticed and create a thriving business, I’d love to talk!

About Cannabis Marketing Association

CMA’s Mission is to bring a positive perception to, and authentic understanding of, cannabis and its consumers around the world.

CMA does this by supporting the professional growth of cannabis communications professionals by providing industry education, cultivating community, and establishing best practices.


The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only. Information on this website may not constitute the most up-to-date legal or other information. This website contains links to other third-party websites. Such links are only for the convenience of the reader, user or browser; Cannabis Marketing Association and its members do not recommend or endorse the contents of the third-party sites.

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