Sep 23, 2022

What does ‘sustainability’ mean to you? | Leila Marrash, Director of Communications

Kyia Young
Seer Agency at Endeavour

In early 2020, Endeavour Inspired Infrastructure came into fruition amid the COVID-19 pandemic. A group of passionate, experienced, and talented data center and sustainability professionals came together to solve some of the world’s toughest challenges in the areas of waste, water, and energy. In August 2022, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Endeavour’s Director of Communications, Leila Marrash, to discuss Endeavour’s ideology and how the organization inspires her own passion around sustainability.

As Director of Communications at Endeavour, one of your goals is to create a meaningful, people-focused atmosphere for not only internal employees, but for the company. Where did this inspiration to create this type of environment stem from?

LEILA: I think that most people desire to work in an environment that is flexible, inviting, inclusive, and transparent. We all want to know that we’re valued and that what we do matters. That’s the kind of environment that I want to work in, and I know that our employees, especially our Founder and CEO, Jakob Carnemark, feel the same. From the inception of Endeavour, Jake made it clear that we were going to build a habitat that inspires and empowers creative thinkers, that values talent and innovation, and that enables people to do work that could have a significant impact in the world. That’s why we call Endeavour a S.H.I.P. — a sustainable habitat for innovation towards a purpose. Everything we do at Endeavour focuses on people, planet, and purpose, and we encourage people and businesses to “join the journey” because we know that real change happens when we work together. Endeavour is a reflection of its people — people who are passionate about the mission, who share similar values, and who believe in possibility. We want to collaborate with other people and businesses to solve global challenges. Endeavour is our way of doing that. So, it only makes sense that we would strive to create a people-focused, purpose-driven environment, encouraging partnership, teamwork, and the sharing of resources and ideas.

Earth is on a rapid decline due to pollution, unethical corporate practices, the disruption of natural habitats and green spaces, and so on. What is one way that Endeavour and its companies hope to use their technologies to start creating positive global change?

LEILA: Endeavour is an infrastructure company focused on developing technologies for sustainable solutions in the areas of waste, water, and energy that can be implemented in local communities around the world. As our tagline says, we are “Endeavour. Inspired Infrastructure;” inspired by nature and the natural systems that we see all around us. Nature functions through a series of systems working together to sustain all of life. Humans build infrastructure to support our lives, but oftentimes, as you pointed out in your question, we’ve neglected to account for the disruption our developments have on the natural environment, and now we’re facing the consequences of those actions. If we simply observe and do our best to mimic how the natural world works, we’re bound to find many of the answers we seek. That is why Endeavour develops a wide array of technologies that solve different issues but work in conjunction with one another to form a complete system that increases efficiency and reduces waste across multiple infrastructure platforms. The solutions we need today require systemic change, and that means we must change the way that we think about and build infrastructure. Working in silos and solving for one variable won’t do. We have to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time, working together to solve for multiple variables in order to create truly sustainable solutions.

(If this can be said) How is Endeavour and its emerging technologies beginning to make Earth a more sustainable place to live?

LEILA: Endeavour has several solutions that, we believe, will have a significant impact. Our Edged platform is currently building zero-water, zero-carbon data centers in Europe, with a patented waterless cooling solution from our Thermal Works team. Our GridBlock group will be deploying a plug-and-play “smart” energy router for EV fleet charging, which has multiple charging ports, receives and distributes both AC and DC power, and can even supply power back to the grid. Our TurboCell team will be launching a turbine that runs on clean fuels, such as the clean diesel and green hydrogen created by our Pact group’s waste-to-fuels unit. Pact’s waste-to-fuels unit converts plastic waste, that otherwise would not be recycled, into clean fuel for jets, diesel trucks, and heavy machinery. These are just some of the solutions that Endeavour companies are developing to help reduce water usage, to provide clean and renewable power, and to eliminate waste.

How has climate change affected you personally?

LEILA: The year Sandy hit I was living in the beach town of Fairfield, Connecticut. I remember being shocked that the ocean water had made its way a mile and a half on to land, reaching the main road that ran through the center of town and flooding the homes of many friends along the way. More recently, having lived in Arizona for the last five years, I’ve witnessed the opposite extreme — severe drought and wildfires. Desertification is getting worse as the water table drops. Rainwater just runs off the dry hard surface due to the lack of vegetation that would typically help to lock in the moisture. Fissures in the desert are opening, like the 2-mile fissure that was reported in Pinal County a few years ago. Wildfires are also getting worse, lasting longer, and spreading farther due to the hotter, drier climate. Water restrictions in the Southwest are affecting farmers and local communities. About 20 minutes north of me, some communities have been cut off from city water, forcing people to turn to hauling water to their residences. Even folks who have wells on their properties are seeing them dry up. Climate change is real and it’s affecting all of us, whether we want to acknowledge it or not. It’s flawed for us to think that we can continue to take from the earth and not put anything back without there being serious consequences. The question is, do we, as individuals and as a collective, care enough to do something about it? Positive change could happen quickly if we all choose to put in the effort.

How can the average citizen start contributing to making the planet a more sustainable place to live?

LEILA: There’s a lot we can do as individuals. The first step is to become aware of what’s happening in your local environment and to be mindful of your actions and the impact your actions are having on the world around you. Ask yourself where in your life you can reduce waste. Can you use less plastic, not let the water run longer than it has too, take shorter showers, switch to solar power and electric charging vehicles, turn your yard into a garden, work with your neighborhood or town to plant trees and edible plants, or construct swales and trenches for water capture? I recently watched a 2017 Ted Talk by Brad Lancaster titled “Planting the Rain to Grow Abundance.” His story was a perfect example of how everyday people can have a huge impact with a shift in mindset and a little effort. Brad and his brother simply observed the rainfall and the water flow into the street. They figured out how to redirect the flow so that the water was captured and absorbed back into the earth, as opposed to letting it run off and be wasted. Brad and his brother were able to turn their barren yard and nearby land into a lush oasis. His neighbors began doing the same thing, and together, they transformed their neighborhood. They went to the city and were able to get their method legalized. Eventually it became policy. With a little teamwork and perseverance, these average citizens were able to make things better for the entire city. Every one of us has the ability to make a difference. We can all do something.

Lastly, what advice would you give to companies trying to develop “greener” practices?

LEILA: (1) Shift your mindset. If you’re not already thinking about your company as part of a larger system, start there. Our decisions and actions have an effect far greater than what we can see in the moment, especially when it comes to the environment. At such a critical time in our history, companies must act more responsibly and become good stewards of the earth. Corporations are typically well resourced financially, which gives them a lot of power and influence. That paired with the fact that they can move quickly with the market best positions them to have the greatest and most immediate impact. Change is inevitable. As nature shows us, things are constantly evolving, and like the caterpillar, if you don’t evolve into a butterfly, you die. Our world is evolving, and we must evolve with it; and that means looking at things from a different perspective. (2) Collaboration is key. As I mentioned earlier, the sustainable solutions we need will come from people sharing ideas and working together to bring innovative concepts to life. When I think about large land developments, I think about how much space we often waste, how much vegetation we remove, and how much we disrupt the natural environment and local ecosystems. Companies doing large developments would do well to utilize biomimicry and permaculture consultants in the site planning and design phases of their projects to create the most eco-friendly buildings and landscapes possible. There are some great examples of architectural firms using biomimicry and permaculture techniques to improve business operations and reduce the negative impact of their developments. I think we need to accelerate practices like this as the norm… it’s not a binary decision anymore. It can be good for business and good for the planet.

Kyia Young
Seer Agency at Endeavour