Sustainability has always been a priority for Napa Valley Fumé, a company whose mission statement is to leave the planet in better condition than they found it. All their growers make an effort to consider runoff and minimize waste, and the company donates a portion of the proceeds from their LAKE GRADE brand to an organization that plants trees in areas especially hit by wildfires. But when CMO Ian Hackett launched fumé, the company’s new high-end brand, he took leaving a light footprint from a value into a borderline obsession. As a result, consumers can now rest assured: from dirt to dispensary, the brand’s quest for sustainable solutions has left no stone unturned.
“When I looked at starting fumé, I had an opportunity to start fresh with a brand new product so I could find new environmental solutions,” says Hackett. “For the strains in this brand we looked for folks who were growing with the environment in mind, and selected small batches with around 30 pounds total.” The grower of their outdoor strain uses beneficial insects instead of pesticides whenever he can, and their mixed-light growers only close up the greenhouse when, as Hackett puts it, “Mother Nature is having a moment and can’t play with our plants.” All the growers use solar panels as a source of clean energy at their facilities.
The holy grail: cannabis packaging that is sustainable, stylish, and childproof
When it comes to fumé’s packaging, Hackett’s preoccupation with minimizing environmental impact is next level. Every aspect of the packaging has been designed to be recycled, or ideally, reused. Fresh flower comes in an elegant amber glass jar, and the pre-rolls sit in a stylish box that is color-coded according to their strain, though Hackett was careful not to use dyes that would oversaturate the paper to the point that it could not be recycled.
The search for plastic-free cannabis packaging
“I was looking at the jars with the plastic one-time use child resistant lids, and looking at all the stickers–there’s stickers on everything this industry produces and it drives me nuts. I really worked at finding partners who could help develop packaging that was plastic free.” Much to his chagrin, Hackett couldn’t help using a sticker for the strain-type, but the rest of the information was printed directly onto the glass.
The pre-rolls presented a particular challenge for Hackett, who was determined to avoid the typical single-use plastic multiplying in California landfills. Initially, the need for child-proof containers seemed to rule out paper cartons, but he was determined to find a way to make it work. The research may have driven development costs way up, but he thinks the end result was worth it. Hackett’s design partners offered an ingenious solution that’s the first of its kind in the cannabis space. Crafted from recycled paper, the fumé pre-roll carton meets child-proofing requirements by requiring the insertion of a credit card into a slit on the side of the box to open, at which point the tray pops out, revealing a row of neatly rolled joints.
While Hackett’s focus on eco-friendly solutions has been a driver for the brand’s innovative designs, he’s careful to give credit to the support Napa Valley Fumé has given him. “This wasn’t cheap–it was a big upward investment,” Hackett says. “I know not everybody can afford to try these solutions, and I understand that. I’m lucky to be at a company where we were willing to put our capital towards demonstrating how the industry can move forward.”
Hackett sees this attitude as the thread that unites all of Napa Valley Fumé’s employees. “We all have differences of opinion of when to buck, when to trim, whether to store stuff in totes or bags, but the one thing we all have in common is making sure our footprint is as small as possible while producing quality cannabis,” he says, noting that internal debates over environmental impact is common when launching new products or making major business decisions. Strong opinions often come from the company’s Lake County contingent, as these employees have seen the cost of choosing profit over the ecosystem firsthand.
“Lake County, CA had a huge agricultural boom in the 60s with wine, and those farmers did not pay attention to the environment,” Hackett explains. “Clear Lake, the largest lake in California (since Tahoe is shared with Nevada) was decimated by agricultural runoff. Our team members who come from Lake County are well aware of what happens when you do not take care of a grow.”
Pollution, drought, and wildfires serve as constant reminders that California’s ecosystem is too vulnerable to ignore for the sake of profit. For Hackett, making environmentally conscious decisions for the company is a deeply personal mission. He grits his teeth when he admits that Lake County products are still being sold in Mylar bags, and swears he will find a way to change it. He has found a temporary solution in compostable bags, which unfortunately he says “feel and sound horrible.” But he’s hoping the conversation in the industry will progress so that people will open their minds to breaking the habit of disposable products and switch to reusable containers instead. In the meantime, fumé will continue doing what it can to make those incremental changes. As Hackett puts it, “We honor the plant and we honor the planet, and that’s really what it’s all about.”