Unlike cigarettes and other forms of tobacco products, premium cigars are constructed entirely from plant leaves. So from a simplified material content standpoint, premium long-filler cigars are a very environmentally friendly product.
Sure, there’s a cigar band or two typically wrapped around the cigar’s circumference somewhere, and yes, cigar manufacturers still tend to slap cellophane around each stick. But as you shall soon discover, even these potential forms of pollution are not nearly as bad as they seem.
The environmental issues surrounding tobacco production have more to do with how the plants themselves are cultivated and distributed than the actual puffing process itself.
Fortunately, cigar manufacturers both big and small have been well aware of the potential environmental risks associated with tobacco cultivation for quite some time.These companies know better than anyone that without a healthy planet, the crops that their businesses rely upon will fail to flourish.
Here is how a select few cigar manufacturers and the farms that produce the premium cigar blends we adore are looking to lessen their environmental footprint. Maybe with a little bit of luck, and a whole lot more publicity, and some much needed government incentives, the tobacco fields of tomorrow can be a far greener place for the next generation of cigar makers.
Less Truly is More
Many of the environmental issues that plague the premium tobacco business are the same problems other crop cultivators around the world face. Climate change, water scarcity, deforestation, watershed run-off, and the impacts of poor infrastructure are all a concern.
Soil and irrigation sustainability is perhaps one of the largest concerns for cigar manufacturers, for turning once fertile farm plots into nutrient-deprived barren wasteland benefits no one. As a result, the use of cover crops, organic composting, and no-dig methods have seen a spike in popularity in recent years.
New tobacco varieties are helping shape the green tobacco revolution as well. Strains that are formulated not just for flavor profiles and combustion purposes. Drought-resistant tobacco strains require far less watering and become even less dependent upon H2O when intentionally cultivated as a shade-grown versus a sun-grown cigar wrapper varietal.
Reducing the damage inflicted by deforestation is another critical factor for cigar manufacturers, especially in countries like Nicaragua, Ecuador, and Honduras. Large and small-scale operations alike continue to purchase, revitalize, and protect farm plots that have long been used for tobacco crops.
Not only does this eliminate the need to fell forested lands, but it also benefits the cigar maker. All of the agricultural infrastructure is already in place, and there is no watershed damage associated with clearing land either.
4 Cigar Brands That Are Growing A Greener Future
According to a special report in Cigar Journal from a few years back, Plasencia Cigars is one of the premier premium cigar manufacturers leading the “green cigar” revolution. Producing organic tobacco (or any crop for that matter) is no easy or inexpensive task, but the Plasencia family’s dedication to creating a greener globe remains unwavering.
Organic-certified since 2000, Plasencia Cigars continues to roll its Reserva Original line out of tobacco that is grown using 50% less water and a proprietary organic fertilizer. Highly rated and reviewed, the Plasencia’s Reserva Original is a 100% Nicaraguan puro premium cigar blend, that for whatever reason remains to be widely marketed as the world’s only handmade organic cigar.
Tobacco Nerd Note: The organic fertilizers that Plasencia and other cigar manufacturers prefer to utilize is called vermicompost. This form of organic nutrient compound relies heavily upon worm castings, as it not only is extremely nutrient-rich but because it can be easily dissolved in water. Hence Plasencia’s invested interest in its specialized drip irrigation system. Commonly referred to as “fertigation,” this methodology has seen a massive spike in popularity in the past couple of decades, as it requires less labor, water, fertilizer, clean-up, and financial capital.
Then there is Perdomo Cigars, a legacy cigar brand that owns and controls every aspect of the cigar production process. Like Plasencia and other cigar makers, this grants Perdomo the ability to engineer its own custom water filtration and drip irrigation system, thus lessening its impact on local water supplies while providing each tobacco plant with the precise amount of water it requires.
“Using this level of [drip irrigation] technology guarantees each plant receives the proper nutrients while conserving the natural water resource on the farm.” —Perdomo Cigars
Like many legacy cigar brands, Perdomo is obsessed with keeping cigar manufacturing traditions alive. Even today, the farmhands at Perdomo Cigars’ sprawling farmlands can be seen tilling the earth via the use of oxen and plow.
Not only does this help aerate the soil and encourage stronger root systems, but it is far less damaging to the surrounding soil, and does not harbor the risk of engine fluid contamination and whatnot. Oh, and let’s not forget the manure that inevitably occurs. Good stuff right there all around.
You’ve also got the Honduran boutique cigar brand C.L.E. As the landholders behind both the Eiroa and the ever-potent Asylum cigar brands, C.L.E. has its finger on the pulse of every tobacco plant it owns.
Nowhere is this more apparent than deep within the Honduras Jamastran Valley, where you will find the Eiroa family farm. According to C.L.E., these extremely productive groupings of farm plots yield only “Grade A tobacco,” and remains one of the most technologically advanced cigar leaf cultivation systems on the planet.
Part of this claim is due to the fact that C.L.E. adheres to the strict environmental standards set in place by the Bayer Company. Known as Bayer Global’s Crop Science Certification, this prestigious title means that C.L.E. has gone to extreme lengths to go green. That means healthier tobacco crops, more efficient cultivation methods, the elimination of unhealthy additives and fertilizers, and less power consumption across the board.
Not only does all of this translate to a lower environmental impact, but healthier and happier employees. To receive its Crop Science certification from Bayer, C.L.E. had to take its already immaculate facilities and make them even safer, cleaner, and less wasteful. Remember, a premium long-filler cigar blend can get tarnished in a heartbeat if you don’t have a spotless production line in place.
Providing the people who produce the cigars we enjoy with a clean work environment not only guarantees a sanitary smoking experience, but it also provides C.L.E.’s employees with the level of safety and care that they rightfully deserve. Something that the following quote clearly illustrates.
“[Employees] began practicing better hygiene, having cleaner home environments, and [became] more conscious of the output of waste…[we also] implemented site doctors [who were] available to assist the workers’ health needs.”—Christian Eiroa
Then there is the boutique brand known as Foundation Cigars, which for the sake of transparency decided to release a behind-the-scenes film called “Seed 2 Cigar” on YouTube.
Showcasing the often unseen world of tobacco cultivation and small-scale cigar production, the film stresses the importance of using as few resources as possible. However that is just one of many of Foundation Cigars’ lifelong missions.
Small-scale tobacco growers and cigar manufacturers of this caliber tend to have a far less substantial carbon footprint and have the dexterity to make adjustments at a much more rapid pace than larger operations.
Making things even more sustainable, is the fact that the vast majority of the tobacco used in the brand’s cigars comes straight from the farm plots right up the road. Less shipping means less packaging and air pollution, giving further cause for us to stick with the whole “locally grown” approach to cigar tobacco when possible.
Revitalizing long-defunct tobacco farms is another objective for Foundation Cigars, a topic that we will touch on a bit more via video link in our parting puffs section surrounding today’s topic.
Tobacco Nerd Note: From a production and packaging standpoint, cigars are a fairly low-impact consumable product. That clear plastic you see wrapped around each cigar is actually not plastic at all, but an all-natural, plant-derived cellophane product. However, being that even this natural protective film requires manufacturing, and thus form its own environmental impact, many cigar makers are opting to place stogies completely nude in cigar boxes.
Something no one seems to consider when purchasing a 5-pack of a particular cigar, is the fact that the majority of all cigar boxes are a completely reusable product. May you be turning a snazzy cigar box into a humidor, or just need something to place your keys in when you get home, this mandatory form of tobacco packaging is about as recyclable as it gets. Oh, and did we mention that even the flimsiest cigar box is still made from wood, and makes for fantastic campfire kindling?
Internal packaging is styrofoam-free too, with certain cigar makers opting to use unwanted tobacco leaves as an alternative packing material. There has even been talk of certain cigar makers ditching cigar box plastic wrap entirely to cut down on waste and cost.
Unfortunately, despite all of the obvious (and unsung) steps cigar makers and premium long-filler tobacco farms are taking to lessen their environmental impact, mass media has other ideas.
The negative repercussions of big tobacco cultivation, production, and consumption have tarnished much of the cigar biz with its omnipresent environmental and health issues.
Adding further confusion to the fray is the fact that operations like the World Health Organization demonizes tobacco products as a whole, and lumps premium cigars in with the likes of e-cigarettes, vape products, and nonbiodegradable cigarette butts.
So perhaps instead of wrongfully accusing all cigar manufacturers of being polluting pariahs, we should start offering more incentives for these businesses to go green. Everyone knows that cigar makers want nothing more than to preserve their cultural history and pass the torch to the next generation. So let’s make the future a greener place by treating our stogies and the tobacco that constructs their structures with the utmost care from seedling to cigar cutter.