Cannabis Sustainability Symposium Cannabis Sustainability Symposium
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Cannabis Carbon Capture and VOC Releases

Sativa_3 - Zoom 3
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Amy George
Earthly Labs, Founder & CEO

Amy George is founder and CEO of Earthly Labs, a carbon capture IOT company with a vision to capture, convert and avoid 1 billion metric tons of CO2 emissions. Earthly Labs provides hardware and software to capture and monitor CO2 from small scale emissions sources like craft brewing and cannabis. Earthly Labs was a Carbon XPrize finalist (2016), featured at NYTimes ClimateTech as a top start-up to watch (2017) and selected by ABInBev 100+ sustainability accelerator to reduce CO2 emissions (2018). For the past twenty years, George has worked at the intersection of the environment and commerce in artificial intelligence, green consumer products and renewable technology. She has been recognized by Forbes and Fast Company and her products have been awarded "Top 100 Green Products for the World." George holds an MBA with a focus in entrepreneurship and environmental management from The University of Texas and is a mom of two boys, who are her inspiration.

Kaitlin Urso
CDPHE, Environmental Consultant

Kaitlin Urso is a free environmental consultant for small businesses for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment in Denver, CO. She has 10 years of technical environmental experience and a mechanical engineering degree from the University of Colorado. In her role, Kaitlin rotates through industries to focus on providing proactive environmental assistance to and create lasting program resources for. Kaitlin specializes in greening the brewing and cannabis industries.

The marijuana industry has air quality impacts beyond just nuisance odors. Recent studies have found that cannabis plants emit gas phase terpenes. Terpenes are a type of Volatile Organic Compound (VOC). The industry also uses solvents for extracting concentrates that result in VOC emissions. These types of VOCs chemically react with nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions in the presence of sunlight to form ground level ozone. Ozone is an air pollutant that is harmful to human health and negatively impacts the environment. With the rapid growth of the marijuana industry, due to the legalization of cultivation and manufacturing, there is now an unknown industrial scale area source of VOCs that can impact ozone formation. This is especially important in VOC-limited areas, such as urban areas with high concentrations of nitrogen oxides, where increases in VOCs can have a significant impact on ozone production.  The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has conducted research to quantify the unknown rate of VOC emissions from industrial scale cannabis cultivation and model the resulting impacts on local ozone formation in Colorado.

Separately, the marijuana industry routinely releases carbon dioxide, purchased as a byproduct of power generation, into the indoor cultivation environment to stimulate accelerated plant growth. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. CDPHE participated in an innovative pilot project to capture waste carbon dioxide emissions from local breweries with new equipment, purify it, and recycle it during the cannabis cultivation process. 

Throughout the fermentation process breweries emit carbon dioxide at a much higher quantity than is used to carbonate beer and pressurize lines throughout the facility. Typical practice is for breweries to vent all carbon dioxide from the fermentation process and purchase carbon dioxide from an outside supplier. This small scale carbon capture demonstration pilot between breweries and a cannabis cultivation was to demonstrate the ability to capture the carbon dioxide waste stream and reuse it as an input to the marijuana growing process, therefore reducing carbon dioxide emissions in Colorado.