Conversations with Environmental Disruptors

Welcome to Environmental Disruptors, a podcast series presented by the ELI Innovation Lab, an initiative of the Environmental Law Institute working to drive environmental performance. Environmental Disruptors, a new series from ELI's People Places Planet Podcast, features a diverse set of innovators (including entrepreneurs and inventors and government officials), and shares stories of their work to disrupt systems to create a more equitable and sustainable world.

The ELI Innovation Lab explores advancements driven by scientific breakthroughs, new technologies, policies and other key catalysts that will inevitably reshape the future of sustainability. We explore innovations with the potential to disrupt current systems, enhance environmental performance, and reduce environmental harm, while considering their feasibility and opportunities to scale. The ELI Innovation Lab advances enterprising ideas by engaging passionate innovators who have the means to develop and implement change.

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In this episode, Dave Rejeski, Director of ELI’s Technology, Innovation, and the Environment Program, talks with Jay Keasling, UC Berkeley professor and synthetic biologist, about his game-changing innovation. Keasling and his teams engineered yeast – yes, the same yeast used to brew beer – to produce high-quality, low-cost THC and CBD at a much lower environmental impact.

From sensor devices and LED lighting to automated systems and monitoring software, technology plays a vital role in cultivating sustainability in the cannabis industry. In this episode, we talk to Jesse Peters, the co-founder of Eco Firma Farms, a not-so-ordinary growing facility located just outside Portland, Oregon. A seasoned cultivator, Jesse explains how the capital investment in technology has ultimately translated into financial and environmental sustainability. To watch the video, click here.

The cannabis industry is transforming rapidly. But what does this mean for the environment? From air, water, and nutrients, to packaging, waste, and pesticides, the cannabis sector is fraught with sustainability challenges.  In this episode Kaitlin Urso (cannabis environmental consultant at Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment) and Azi Akpan (science and policy analyst at ELI Innovation Lab) digs into some big sustainability questions, exploring the priorities, challenges, and obstacles to driving sustainability in cannabis.

Only 3% of the world’s water resource is freshwater, yet the demands on this constrained and non-renewable resource are extraordinary and will continue to be for generations to come. Water scarcity and quality is just as much a problem in our own backyards as it is everywhere else. In today’s episode we will be exploring just one way to stop using water! We will be talking to DJ Patterson, a local water steward who founded Oklahoma’s first and only waterless car wash service, EcoGreen Mobile Detailing. A carwash is estimated to use between 80 to 140 gallons of water per wash. EcoGreen is not just avoiding the use, but is also preventing the release of harmful chemicals into waterways or the sewer system.

An estimated 25 million tons of fish is used in animal feed per year. Is there an alternative to feeding livestock from limited marine resources? In this inaugural episode of Environmental Disruptors, Kasantha Moodley, ELI’s Manager of Innovation and Governance, interviews the co-founders of Grubbly Farms, Patrick Pittaluga and Sean Warner. They discuss the beginnings of Grubby Farms, a fly farming operation, an idea that if scaled, could avoid exploiting the ocean’s limited resources, to feed livestock.

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