Sustainability, environmentally-friendly, and socially-responsible are more than just buzz words for Narmin Jarrous, Chief Development Officer at Exclusive Brands, a Michigan-based cannabis operation. For her, implementing the necessary measures and maintaining the highest standards in the cannabis industry has always been a part of the plan. “Looking at the cannabis industry, Michigan was still in the early stages, and I just saw so much potential for doing good and making a difference – not only in Michigan but in cannabis as a whole,” she shared in a recent interview.
So, as Exclusive Brands opened a new dispensary in Grand Rapids, they took a green initiative by partnering with the West Michigan Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). This collaboration ensures they are limiting their emissions and implementing eco-friendly practices from the start.
Prioritizing Sustainability & Responsible Practices
Working with Gillian Giem, Program Manager with the West Michigan Chapter of the USGBC, was the first step toward improving the carbon footprint at Exclusive Brands. Giem admits that her interest in sustainability started with an interest in forestry. She said, “everything that is affecting forests and human health naturally brings us back to the built environment, which led to my interest in how we operate our cities and being a Program Manager for the USGBC.” With a background in building science and energy management, there’s no doubt, Giem is definitely the right woman for the job.
In her role, Giem works one on one with building owners and, more broadly, with strategic programming to facilitate smart building design and operation. She explained that the vision has three main focuses:
- Drawdown carbon from the atmosphere and pollution from the ambient air
- Increase marketability and profitability for owners
- Strengthen the greater community’s vibrancy
In an interview, Giem stated, “Two facts are widely established; first we need to take carbon out of the atmosphere, not add to it. And secondly, the cannabis industry is highly energy-intensive.”
Giem added, “Cities all around the country are trying to enable us all, as a collective, to decrease carbon emissions in a way that creates vibrancy and sustainability for future generations. Cities want folks to come back, set up a home, and find happiness and a place to exist. We are a facilitator and friend to cannabis businesses trying to achieve these goals.”
Baby Steps Lead to Milestones, Too
In the game of energy efficiency and sustainability, many facilities start with the biggest items first. Like many other cannabis growers, Exclusive Brands swapped out HID lamps for LED to help reduced emissions. But Jarrous believes that there are so many other little things that not only make a difference in emissions but are simply better for the environment and their community.
She said, “We took a second look at everything we were using that could make an impact on the environment.” Some of these changes were simple, easy fixes, such as replacing refrigerators with energy-efficient, Energy-Star rated appliances and lighting and using reusable shopping bags. They opted for highly efficient HVAC units, eco-friendly cleaning products, organic nutrients, and zero pesticides in the grow. Additionally, they use reverse osmosis and a water reclamation system to reduce their water usage.
“Then we took the things were doing well in Ann Arbor and carried that over to our Grand Rapids location,” Jarrous said proudly.
When in Doubt, Ask for Help
Jarrous admits, “faced with the idea of making Exclusive Brands more sustainable, we were at a bit of a loss,” which is ultimately what led her to Giem. Jarrous continued, “Gillian had to explain it to me a dozen times, and she has helped us out every step of the way.”
“Most of all,” Jarrous reminded, “it’s not about being the most sustainable right now, it’s about making progress, and there’s always progress to be made.”
As a self-proclaimed perfectionist herself, Jarrous said she struggled with this concept at first. She questioned whether the steps they were taking would be enough to really make a difference. But through working with Giem, she started to understand that sustainability doesn’t happen with the flick of a switch.
“It doesn’t have to be 100%, just start now, wherever you’re at, and make progress as you go,” she emphasized.
Unlike the days of cannabis past, municipalities want to work with the cannabis industry, and they want it to prosper. Jarrous added, “If you let them know you’re at a loss, they’ll point you in the right direction. Never be afraid to ask for help.”
Setting the Trend
More than anything, Jarrous hopes that by implementing the changes and striving for perfection at Exclusive Brands that other cannabis businesses in the area will follow suit. “If we set the standard for what needs to be done to be accepted in the industry, the others will have no choice but to implement the same practices,” she explained. “I think it’s not only the right decision to be responsible and sustainable in cannabis, but that it’s the smart and profitable decision, too.”
Giem agrees that cannabis companies that are not focused on sustainability and being a good community steward are missing out. “The nature of technology innovation is being accelerated by the rising standards they must; as are the standards for our own performance. Cannabis facilities are delaying financial opportunity by postponing these eco-friendly approaches.”