Goldleaf founder Charles McElroy provides a unique and beneficial resource to the cannabis community while setting a good example for environmental impact. McElroy and the Goldleaf team create journals, for enthusiasts, patients and growers, offering educational information and prompts to guide their cannabis journeys. Goldleaf journals feature an incredibly useful yet minimalist aesthetic, all of which are printed on recycled, post-consumer paper, all of which are inspired, at least in part, by the founder’s own experiences in permaculture and healing himself with marijuana—a fantastically insightful and noteworthy story.
As former COO for Noble Denim & Victor Athletics, a sustainable and ethical clothing manufacturer, McElroy knew that Goldleaf’s path would follow a socially conscious direction. “It’s the right thing to do, and the moral way to operate,” says McElroy.
I began by incorporating Goldleaf into my daily ritual and instantly loved every minute of it, so I sat down with McElroy to comb through his thoughts and discover the blueprints behind this thoughtful and carefully crafted product. Mindfulness is a common theme with cannabis, and it’s a common theme here—Charles McElroy’s mission assimilates beautifully among the botanically inclined, and Goldleaf is the finest cartographic resource for us cannapsychonauts.
When did cannabis become a part of your life?
My first experience with cannabis was in college— initially with recreational experimentation, but that soon evolved. I began to show symptoms of rheumatoid and noticed relief when using cannabis. We have autoimmune diseases in my family, and the pharmaceutical options like light grade chemo are pretty scary. Cannabis has shown clinical promise with helping these symptoms, and is nearly harmless. To watch my mother, sister and aunts struggle, as well as my own struggles— and to have to choose a dangerous drug to simply control symptoms—while doing very real damage to my body—is crazy.
The medical potential for cannabis is there. Even by self medicating, the relief is arguably better than what the pharma options can offer. I soon found that cannabis helped control my symptoms, and had the added benefit of relieving anxiety and stress. Plus, after getting my feet wet, I quickly found enjoyment in my use.
Did you enjoy taking notes on the effects?
I first started taking notes on the subject when I was trying to find the right regimen for myself, to both aid symptoms and ensure that I’m still functioning on a high level. Through my own record keeping, in a little moleskine notebook, I made some connections on what cultivars were most helpful, and moreover, what doses were best. In my case, it was microdosing. At the time, it wasn’t easy to find the treasure trove of knowledge online, so I had to do my own tests and studies. In a way, it was empowering, especially when I found some workable results.
Since then, I’ve used journals to largely track my experiences with different cultivars. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to go to the same ones over and over again—it would slowly start losing its efficacy over time. I realized that by mixing it up on occasion, it kept things fresh. So, I’m always trying new things, and adding my favorites to a list to put into my rotation.
What are the benefits of journaling?
There are plenty, to be honest. One of my favorite things that journaling supports is the idea of ‘mindfulness.’ Writing isn’t something most of us do all that much these days. When you do it, it seems slow and laborious. But, this can be one of the best parts. It forces us to slow down, compose our thoughts, and be more present in the moment. This is a great pairing with our The Patient Journal or The Cannabis Taster because the whole point is to be more aware of your body. When writing these entries by hand, you’re allowing ample time to understand what effects you feel.
Another benefit of journaling is the improvement of memory. The hand and the brain have a unique relationship. When you write letters and words, you are communicating ideas and causing the mind to re-compose thoughts. This process will actually improve your memory and understanding of the content that you write. This is helpful to anyone hoping to better understand and improve something about themselves or their process.
How do cannabis cultivators benefit by using an analog method of keeping records, as opposed to digital options on the market?
There are a lot of great grower apps out there, but the garden isn’t always the best place for tech. Digital screens are difficult to see under HID lighting, especially if you are wearing protective lenses. And, if you are working in your grow, you probably have grubby or sticky hands or gloves. All this makes it more difficult to engage with a touch screen. If you wait to enter readings later, you risk forgetting or jumbling certain data points. Analog tools like pen and paper are a far better bet. Easy to see under any light, quick to enter your data, and doing it in the moment will allow you to be more observant and granular with your entries. Having this information documented in a physical journal ensures it is always available and cannot be deleted or inaccessible due to intermittent technology like cloud drives, network connections or computer files.
Certainly worth mentioning is the need for privacy. Regardless of the legality of where you set up your grow operation, you’ll likely want to keep your records private. With all of the new tech available to security agencies, hackers and about anyone else, storing your data in an app or online is a slippery slope, and a data breach could happen at any point without your knowledge. A physical journal is the best way to protect yourself and your intellectual property.
And what about cannabis users and patients?
The need for privacy and discretion is also true, and an analog journal is a great option. However, I think the biggest benefit to using a physical journal rather than an app is the approachability. Everyone knows how to write, and you won’t be confused or stalled by the interaction with technology that might be new or foreign to you.
Writing can also be incredibly meditative. Any medical cannabis therapy needs a holistic approach to wellness— diet, hydration, sleep and mental outlook. Taking time to slow down and write your entries will encourage deeper thought and understanding of your moods and the effects felt. Attempting to do this on a screen will pull you away from your thoughts due to the distraction that it represents— the world’s knowledge at your fingertips, notifications demanding your attention, etc. By using an analog method to your use tracking, you are also giving yourself a gift of focus and time and helping to offset the negative effects of too much screen time, such as shortened attention span.
How do you foresee Goldleaf products impacting the cannabis community? What is your hope for patients, growers, and connoisseurs in using a Goldleaf journal?
I think our products have been useful to two kinds of people in the cannabis community— Connoisseurs, people who enjoy the culture, know about it, and love to use things that help them express their passion, and people new to cannabis. Many of our journals are very well suited for these folks. Our aesthetic is discrete and approachable, we offer guided entry pages to ease the anxiety of someone new to cannabis use or cultivation, and we demonstrate the commitment to mature and science-forward content in our writing. I’m hopeful that our journals will continue to be an accessible way for people to have good first experiences with cannabis— whether it be a new medical user who is trying therapy for the first time, or a home grower who hopes to cultivate their own supply and improve their craft.
Many of the art prints and taster journals, on the other hand, are geared toward the connoisseurs who want something that looks refined and elegant. I hope that our brand can be one that pushes the national conversation of legalization and acceptance forward by showing parts of the industry in a tactful and elevated light. I hope by taking the route we do with our content development, we can help normalize the concept of cannabis to people and communities who are just getting to know it.
How did your work as COO at Noble Denim & Victor Athletics, a sustainable and ethical clothing manufacturer, inspire your decision to use eco-friendly practices with Goldleaf’s products?
I certainly got my feet wet in business with my work at Noble Denim & Victor. From the start, we wanted to do things in the most ethical and environmentally friendly way possible. We had a lofty goal to be the most sustainable denim company in the world, and I think we’re pretty close to achieving that. From sourcing domestic organic cotton, working with environmentally friendly dye houses, and manufacturing everything in our region, we’ve built a pretty environmentally conscience business, especially for the denim world. We were lucky that our area of the country used to be a hotbed of USA manufacturing prior to NAFTA, and we were able to reinvigorate some of those factories and thus keep our footprint small. To me, this just seemed like the right thing to do, and the moral way to operate.
When I started Goldleaf, I was already OK with the idea that ‘we’ll pay more’ for our materials and manufacturing than our companies. I don’t know if the Goldleaf audience always knows the lengths we go through to source recycled / post-consumer paper stocks and work with factories that have a clean record. But, it’s important to me, and I want my company to be a model for others. I feel like any heightened costs are just the ‘cost of business,’ so I don’t sweat that our items might be pricier to produce than doing it another way. I feel good about those kinds of decisions, and that is what this is all about.
How can the cannabis community improve sustainability efforts all around to decrease impact?
I think the cannabis community can do a lot to decrease negative environmental impact. It has already started. One of the biggest negatives for the US cannabis industry is the high energy consumption from HID lighting and indoor commercial grows. Due to the way the state laws are written, often growers have no choice but to set up shop indoors. That said, one exciting thing about the industry are the innovations to address this high energy consumption and cost. New farming methods, LED lighting improvements, and automation tech have all come from companies trying to lessen the impact of cannabis growing. In some ways, the cannabis industry is well suited to lead other agriculture ventures into the future by continuing to innovate and develop more environmentally friendly processes.
Furthermore, if legalization is allowed for industrial hemp, I think the positive environmental impact will be monumental. I’m sure this is no news to anyone, but hemp has incredible potential to offset more resource-depleting cash crops like cotton, corn or soybean. For Goldleaf’s part, we don’t grow cannabis, so much of our abilities to lessen our impact are tied to this industrial side. We’ve had the fantasy of printing on hemp paper for a while, but unfortunately, a quality smooth hemp paper stock is not available for our uses...yet. I’m hopeful this will change as industrial hemp becomes more of a cultural mainstay, and manufacturers begin to re-adopt its use for everyday products. I think that is where the greatest potential for positive environmental change exists and I’m excited to see it come to fruition.
Where do you draw inspiration for your art prints?
I pull influence from the Danish design movement of the ‘20s, the bauhaus style and vintage text books from the ‘60s— all have a minimalist and clean vibe. I’ve always loved creative approaches to data visualization, and I think there is a great opportunity to make prints that are both aesthetically pleasing and functional. So, I started with concepts and information that many cannabis enthusiasts and nerds like myself often reference—topics like cannabinoid medical effects, terpene flavors, activation temps, etc.
We’ve all probably seen infographics that touch upon some of these subjects, but they are rarely done in a way that looks beautiful. All of our infographics utilize a minimalistic look. They’re something that would look great displayed in a home or office— just for looks alone. Of course, upon closer inspection, they are a treasure trove of good information and can be a provocative conversation starter. Beyond the chart style art prints, we also like to offer clean biological illustrations, artwork featuring cannabis flower, and insect illustrations that cribs off of the scientific drawings and hand painted botanical illustrations from the late 1800s during the scientific revolution. Although they don’t have the deep research and detail as our chart art prints, they are a great companion and share a similar mature and science-forward approach to cannabis.
You just announced your collaboration with Habu Health on the latest edition of the Patient Journal. Any other exciting news you’d like to share?
We’ll be rolling out another few batches of art prints, including a rad activation temperature chart for vaping, a gorgeous leaf deficiency chart for cultivators, and more scientific illustrations. We’ll also be releasing some new journals, including a field guide for growers which will be all about pest identification, beneficial insects, plant deficiencies, and such, as well as a cookbook journal for those who enjoy making their own cannabis recipes, or want to log recipes and methods they have enjoyed.
Beyond that, we hope to ramp up our white-label and co-branded offerings for dispensaries and other cannabis businesses. We have spent a lot of time working with our factory partners to make minimums low and affordable for custom jobs, and I’m excited to work with more small businesses to develop co-branded journals that they can use to help engage with their patients and customers. I think it is a unique option for dispensaries since our journals are affordable and useful and can be customized to showcase other brands. The feedback we’ve received thus far from our wholesalers is pretty great and we welcome the opportunity to talk about more custom projects and collaborations with others in the industry.