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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Globally, we’ve accumulated nearly 9.2 billion tons of plastic since plastic production became widespread in the 1950s. Of this, more than 6.9 billion tons have become waste, dominating our landfills and seeping into our waterways. By 2050, the amount of plastic in the ocean is expected to outweigh the amount of fish, making plastic waste diversion from oceans a global priority. In this episode, we talk to Fidan Karimova, the co-founder and CEO of Global Water Girls,, an all-female owned and operated company of water professionals dedicated to circular economy solutions to promote environmental sustainability and improve global quality of life.

In the latest episode from People Places Planet Podcast, Azi Akpan of ELI’s Innovation Lab chats with Elzelinde van Doleweerd and Vita Broeken, co-Founders of Upprinting Food, based in Eindhoven in the Netherlands. Founded in November 2018, Upprinting Food reduces food waste by transforming it into beautiful, edible art using 3-D printing technology.

When it comes to beer, no one knows innovation better than a craft brewery. But brewing a single gallon of beer uses about seven gallons of water. That’s why Great Divide Brewing Company, located in Denver, Colorado, is looking to apply their craft expertise to sustainability. In this episode, Kasantha Moodley of ELI’s Innovation Lab sits down with Erin Cox, the Quality Management Systems Supervisor at Great Divide, to hear how it is tackling this environmental challenge. We also hear from Kaitlin Urso, an official of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, who shares her knowledge of the environmental impact of the industry.

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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