In this episode of Hardware to Save a Planet, Dylan kicks off 2023 by asking a selection of guests from 2022 a straightforward question, “what advice would you give to someone who wants to do something about climate change?” Dylan then picks this episode’s eight most inspiring, actionable, relevant responses.
Many people are concerned about climate change and want to get involved in reversing the trend but don’t know how to go about it. This episode gives you eight actionable strategies you can use to play your part in addressing the issue of climate change.
If you want to learn how you can contribute towards reversing the trend of climate change, listen to this podcast, or check the key takeaways below. The takeaways feature a guest introduction by Dylan followed by a synopsis of each guest’s advice. You can unpack the details by listening to the podcast.
Dylan’s Intro: Our first clip is from the episode with Abe Schneider, the CTO and Co-founder of Natel Energy. Natel makes fish-safe turbines for hydropower. The point he makes was echoed by several guests; because sustainability touches every aspect of our economy, there’s a way you can make an impact regardless of your area of expertise.
- 1:52 – 3:00 Abe – Sustainability touches all parts of climate change. Start by acknowledging that you can make a difference no matter what you do. Next, educate yourself on the problems and make a difference with your actions and choices.
Dylan’s Intro: The following clip is from Carlos Araque, the CEO of Quaise Energy; they have a technology for drilling geothermal wells deep enough to tap into vast supplies of renewable energy anywhere on the planet. Carlos makes a case for quantitative thinking on climate challenges and directing your efforts toward addressing them.
- 3:39 – 4:58 Carlos – For a start, you need to think about the scale and complexity of the problem, and for that, you need to apply quantitative and complex thinking. For people who want to make a difference, once they understand the scope of the problem, they can then figure out how they can contribute towards a solution.
Dylan’s Intro: The following clip is from Noah McQueen, Co-founder and Head of Research at Heirloom Carbon, which has an innovative approach to direct air capture or pulling CO2 out of ambient air. I liked what he said about following your passion.
- 5:23 – 6:28 Noah – There’s a place for everyone in climate tech, no matter your skill sets. Noah’s advice for people getting started is to learn more about what’s out there and find something that motivates them to get involved. Identify the facets of climate technology that speak to you personally.
Dylan’s Intro: Rather than pulling CO2 out of ambient air like Noah and Heirloom, Paul Gross takes CO2 directly from semi truck tailpipes to reduce their emissions with his company Remora.
- 7:08 – 8:10 Paul – So many technologically possible things aren’t being done. Give wings to your imagination; chances are it’s possible to do it, but no one’s doing it yet. Become a trailblazer. If you’re thinking about starting something, you should do it right now. And if you’re thinking about joining a team, this is the best time to do it.
Dylan’s Intro: The next guest is Peter Reinhart, CEO and Co-founder of Charm Industrial. They convert agricultural waste into bio-oil and then inject it underground for permanent storage. His advice stands out to me because he does an excellent job of articulating just how massive the opportunity is.
- 8:48- 10:51 Peter – At a tactical level, if you want to work at a climate-focused company, there’s a lot of hiring happening in the industry. Despite this, there are not enough companies in this field, and not enough products are being built. To put things in perspective, the software industry is 500 billion a year in revenue, while the EBITDA associated with climate transformation is over 10 trillion. People can leverage tremendous opportunities by working at an existing company or starting their own.
Dylan’s intro: Like Peter from Charm, Areeb Malik also worked in the software industry. A few years ago, Areeb left Facebook to explore opportunities in climate tech. He co-founded Glacier, which uses robotics to improve recycling. This clip highlights how much the number of climate-focused job opportunities has expanded just in the few years since Areebmade the change.
- 11:23 – 12:14 Areeb – Today, it’s easy to take your skill set, regardless of your skill set, and find a company that needs someone like you to better their company, technology, and processes and move the needle forward on finding solutions for climate change.
Dylan’s Intro: Building on Areeb’s point about the number of opportunities out there today, we next have Mothusi Pahl of Modern Electron. Modern Electron has a solution to decarbonize tough-to-electrify processes. Mothushi shared that he feels that some of the most significant opportunities are to make changes within large organizations.
- 12:42 – 13:42 Mothusi – Probably the biggest opportunities for large-scale decarbonization are in big corporations. The industry needs advocates who can challenge the status quo from the inside. Many people think they must be in Silicon Valley to do something about climate change. It doesn’t matter where you are and what you do; sustainability is a state of mind and a willingness to lean in.
Dylan’s Intro: To close things out. We have Dr. Laura Lammers, who founded Travertine, a company utilizing mining waste to capture CO2 and sustainably produce valuable chemicals. She shares a very simple framework that we can all use to think about where to focus our efforts.
- 14:06 – 14:41 Laura – In the Venn diagram of what you love to do and what you think the world needs. Try to find that overlap to the extent possible and use your skills in a way that you feel benefits the earth.
Dylan: Hello, and welcome to Hardware to Save a Planet. Rather than talking with a new guest today, we’re doing something a little different with this episode. To kick off 2023, I’m personally starting the year energized and optimistic about the future of the planet and all the ways that I can personally help. A big part of that feeling comes from the things I’ve learned from all the amazing guests we’ve had on this show. When I started hosting this podcast, I’ve been hearing from a lot of people that they wanted to do something to address climate change, but they weren’t sure where to start. So I’ve asked all my guests that same question: what advice would you give someone in that position? I think their answers are inspiring, actionable and really powerful when they’re all combined together. So I picked out a handful to share with you. I hope this is a useful backdrop as we all think about what’s to come this year.
Our first clip is from the episode with Abe Schneider, the CTO and Cofounder of Natel Energy. Natal makes fish safe turbines for hydropower, and this episode is what really opened my eyes to the link between biodiversity and climate change. Abe is a mechanical engineer and a fly fisherman, and the point he makes was echoed by a lot of guests that because sustainability touches every aspect of our economy, there’s a way you can make an impact regardless of your area of expertise.
Abe: I think that there are so many ways to become involved. It’s truly an economy wide, sustainability touches every aspect of our climate. So no longer is it that you need to be an engineer to create a product that’s somehow related to climate change, like creating nutrition or something like that. Absolutely not required. So I think the first thing is to recognize that whatever you do, there is a way that you can get involved. You can become educated. Simply learning about the problems is the first step. So developing an interest in it is actually probably the first thing. And just recognizing that you can start with your own personal actions, making decisions in your consumption of resources, in your relationships with people, in how you participate in civic processes. I think that’s one of the most important things that we’re here in the United States, we have is our exceptional ability to participate in our governance and affect change that way. And that’s something that everyone who can vote can do. So there’s no end to the ways that you can become involved in helping with the effort to improve sustainability.
Dylan: This next clip is from Carlos Arake, the CEO of Quaze Energy, the game changing nature of what Carlos talks about in this episode has inspired a lot of people to reach out to me with excitement about what Quaze is working on. In short, they have a technology for drilling geothermal wells deep enough that they can tap into vast supplies of renewable energy pretty much anywhere on the planet. In this clip, Carlos makes the case for quantitative thinking and using an understanding of the size of the Climate challenge to direct your efforts towards addressing it.
Carlos: Don’t be shy about understanding, understanding the complexity and the scales of these things. We shy away from quantitative thinking, not everybody does, but in general we tend to shy away from quantitative and complex thinking. But I think this is what this problem is about. So my aspiration is that people looking at wanting to do something about climate, they don’t get contempt with just the little things, but they actually develop a good understanding of the size of the problem and then make a critical judgment for themselves, given that understanding of the size, where they can actually make a difference. I think if more aspiring people, more aspiring engineers, scientists, economies, et cetera, I think at that level we start realizing we start playing the game at the right level. My concern is that I think, and we think that doing little things is going to help. It will, but it will help so little that it doesn’t make a difference, right? So I won’t call out things here because I don’t want to be critical with the work that humans do. It’s all important, but I want to call attention to that, think about the size of the problem and form a critical opinion for yourself about how you can actually make a difference.
Dylan: The next clip is from Noah McQueen, co-founder and head of research at Heirloom Carbon, which has a really innovative approach to direct air capture or pulling CO2 out of ambient air. Noah is a leading scientist in the field, and I learned a ton from him. I really liked what he said about following your passion.
Noah: I think there’s so much in this and there’s really a place for everyone in climate tech. There’s so many companies that just came out of the woodwork that have started development on climate technologies, be it direct air capture, be it other forms of carbon removal. So I think that my advice for people getting started is to learn more about what’s out there, find something that, in climate tech that really motivates you to get involved and then reflect on what you’re interested in. What facets of climate technology actually speak to you on a personal level? And what would you be excited to get out of bed every day and work on, and then pursue that? That’s where your interest lies. That’s what you’re passionate about, that’s what you can pursue. And we’re really at the cusp of a burgeoning field. There’s really no shortage of opportunities. And maybe if you allow me one last kind of shameless plug here is that if you’re interested in the technology that I’ve been talking about, airloom has several open positions. We’re building out a team that cares deeply about the climate and I think that there’s so many opportunities for creativity and innovation in what we’re doing that we really want to bring on people who share that mission and share our values of radical honesty, persistent optimism, and really maximizing our ability to learn.
Dylan: So rather than pulling CO2 out of ambient air like Noah and Heirloom, Paul Gross is taking CO2 directly from semi truck tailpipes to reduce their emissions with his company Remora. Paul told me that he thought of the idea for Remora as a college student and was surprised when he found nobody was doing it commercially. After some really thorough digging, he found that Christina Reynolds had focused her dissertation on the topic. So Paul tracked her down and they decided to start a company together. I think that exemplifies the kind of perseverance and positive mindset Paul advocates for in his advice.
Paul: I think that the biggest thing I’d say is it feels like people have thought of all the solutions and something’s not being done. It’s probably because it’s impossible. That is completely not the case. There are all of these things that are not being done that are absolutely possible that would have a big impact and someone needs to just go do them. There are all of these low hanging fruit in the climate tech space right now, so it’s the best time to join. I think the momentum in the space is pretty unbelievable from a funding perspective. There’s just so much funding coming into the space. There’s so many talented people that want to join teams. So I would say if you’re thinking about starting something, you should go do it right now. And if you’re thinking about joining a team, this is the best time to do it. It is so exciting. I think we’re at the beginning of a very, very big wave. We need a big wave to decarbonize the world and I think we’re going to see a pretty incredible path to decarbonization in the next 20 years. So now is the time to get involved.
Dylan: The next guest is Peter Reinhart, CEO and co-founder of Charm Industrial. They convert agricultural waste into bio oil and then inject it underground for permanent storage. I love how Paul came to climate tech. He was running a software company and looking to offset his company’s carbon impact. He wasn’t happy with the permanence or additionality of available offset options. So when he sold his software company, he set out to create a better solution. His advice stands out to me because he does an excellent job of articulating just how massive the opportunity is.
Peter: I guess very tactically. If you want to go work at a climate focused company. There are great resources like climate based Climate, Draft, My Climate Journey, air miners, like a bunch of these communities that are forming around how kind of helping people get careers launched in climate. And there’s a lot of hiring, a lot of hiring happening in the industry. So those are great places to start. I think also though, there’s not enough companies, there’s not enough products being built. It’s a very thin frontier. I don’t think people fully appreciate that. If you look at the entire size of the software industry today, the entire software industry is 500 billion a year in revenue. The profit margin, the EBITDA associated with the climate transformation is like 10 trillion. So the transformation that’s underway in Climate is on the order of 10-20 times larger, maybe 100 times larger, because we’re comparing revenue to profit, maybe 100 times larger than the transformation in software. So it doesn’t have to be just concessionary do gooderism. There is a huge economic transformation underway and a lot of successful companies are going to be generated out of that. And the field of companies competing in each of these new areas is very slim. Like in carbon removal, for example, in terms of like real companies taking a stab at things now, like it can’t be more than like two dozen that are really taking a serious stab at it. That’s like a long dinner table. I mean, that was the experience last September, climber’s had their conference in Switzerland and the whole industry basically showed up and we sat around two tables and there were several representatives from each company, like the whole industry. And just when you think about that, there are many, many unexplored avenues for carbon removal. No one is really working commercially on methane removal, as one example. I mean, there are like so many areas that are just deeply underexplored in climate and it is like the biggest economic transformation of probably a century. And so I just think there’s a huge amount of opportunity there that people should be excited to go take on, either by working at an existing company or starting their own.
Dylan: I love it. So just like Peter from Charm, Areeb Malik also came from the software industry. A few years ago, Areeb left Facebook to explore opportunities in Climatech. He co-founded Glacier, which uses robotics to improve recycling, partly because he couldn’t find a company he wanted to join at the time. This clip highlights just how much the number of climate focused job opportunities has expanded just in the few years since Arab made his transition.
Areeb: Do it. Come work in Climatech? Easy. Easy answer there, Dylan. Like I said, three years ago, five years ago there were fewer opportunities to do this. But nowadays it is becoming quite easy to take your skill set, really, regardless of what your skill set is, and find a company that needs someone like you to better their company, better their technology, better their processes and drive some solution in climate tech forwards. Like I said at the beginning, if you look at where we are invested in society, it’s trending in the right direction. But there are still a lot of companies out there that are doing other stuff and I really think that if you take the amount of energy we think we should be spending on Climatech and you look at the amount of energy we as society are, there’s a mismatch there. And so I’m always trying to get people to leave their jobs. I won’t point out Facebook, but no companies like Facebook and get them to come join climate tech in the fight against climate change.
Dylan: Building on Areeb’s point about the number of opportunities out there today, we next have Mothusi Pahl of Modern Electron. Modern Electron has a solution to decarbonize tough to electrify processes like heat generation that doesn’t require new infrastructure so it enables super fast deployment. Mothushi shared that he feels some of the biggest opportunities are to make change from within large organizations.
Mothusi: We need to understand that decarbonization is a big space but you’re not going to make any progress if you don’t pick a single project and dig and dive in. So find a problem and work on that one single problem. But then it doesn’t have to be in the idea and R and D phase two that there are and need to be subject matter experts and implementation. That means that you don’t have to be at a startup to do climate tech. Probably the biggest opportunities for large scale decarbonization are in big corporations. Like we need advocates on the inside, we need thinkers challenging the kind of status quo on the inside that it’s bigger than just the startup universe. I think a lot of people think that if I’m going to do something about climate change, I have to be in Silicon Valley. It doesn’t matter where you are and it doesn’t matter what company you’re working in. I think it’s the state of mind and really a willingness to lean in.
Dylan: To close things out. We have Dr. Laura Lammers who founded Travertine, a company that’s utilizing mining waste to both capture CO2 and sustainably produce valuable chemicals. She shares a very simple framework that we can all use to think about where to focus our efforts.
Laura: I think I heard this on the radio somewhere but it really resonated with me, I would say in the Venn diagram of what you love to do and what you think the world needs right now. Try to find that overlap to the extent possible and use your skills in a way that you think is beneficial to the earth. Climate crisis is one of the problems that we’re facing. There are so many other things right and so just finding your sweet spot, what you feel like you’re good at and what you love to do definitely has an outlet and something the world needs. It’s just a matter of finding that overlap. I think it’s worth investing some time in. Do a little soul searching.Dylan: That’s it for today. I hope these insights from our guests were helpful and set an optimistic tone for 2023. Happy New Year, and thanks for listening.
- Abe Schneider on LinkedIn
- Carlos Araque on LinkedIn
- Noah McQueen on LinkedIn
- Paul Gross on LinkedIn
- Peter Reinhart on LinkedIn
- Areeb Malik on LinkedIn
- Mothusi Pahl on LinkedIn
- Laura Lammers on LinkedIn