Ecolotree helps clean our environment


Poplar trees
Poplar trees

Lou Licht, who received his PhD in the University of Iowa’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, is using poplar trees to clean polluted water.

Licht started the Iowa-based company Ecolotree. This company installs forests of poplar trees near sites that leak pollutants. Through a process called phytoremediation, the roots of the poplar trees help filter some of the harmful pollutants, and keep them from contaminating the water and soil.

Ecolotree has worked with 110 sites in the U.S. and one in Europe.

Learn more about Licht and his company here.

Audio: UI’s Jerry Schnoor discusses phytoremediation


Jerry Schnoor is a Professor in the University of Iowa’s Civil and Environmental Engineering Department. He is also the co-director of the Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research (CGRER).

Phytoremediation refers to the process of using plants to mitigate environmental problems. This includes using plants to extract harmful contaminants from soil and groundwater. Jerry and his students have done research on phytoremediation for more than two decades.

CGRER Student Research Focus – Samantha Westerhof


Samantha Westerhof, a senior in the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Iowa, discusses her research on poplar trees as a tool for phytoremediation.

CGRER Student Research Focus – Luke Smith


Luke Smith, a senior in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Iowa, details his research on an ecosystem’s ability to naturally clean oil through a process called phytoremediation.

Interview with UI’s Dr. Jerald Schnoor


Photo courtesy of the University of Iowa

Dr. Jerald Schnoor is a professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Occupational and Environmental Health at the University of Iowa, as well as the co-director of the Center for Global & Regional Environmental Research. Dr. Schnoor recently took time out of his busy schedule to detail his current research and discuss how he first became involved in environmental engineering:

I became interested in the environment after following Earth Day in 1970. I was training to be a chemical engineer at Iowa State University, and I thought to myself that these same techniques – basic principles of mass balance and energy balances, and thinking about how momentum is transferred in the environment – could be used for environmental concerns as well as chemical engineering. Continue reading

On the Radio: Growing Trees, Cleaning Iowa


A view of a section of poplar trees that grow on Licht's land in North Liberty.

Listen to this week’s radio spot on Lou Licht, who uses trees to clean up the land, water and air. For more information on Licht, check out the Iowa Independent, or read this interview with him: The Accidental Capitalist.

Planting trees: A proven way to clean up Iowa’s land and water – and save money.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

Iowa-native Lou Licht is the founder of Ecolotree, an engineering firm that uses trees to clean up toxic sites.

He’s the first person in the world to do so.

Ecolotree has cleaned up landfills, brown fields, and hazardous waste sites around the world.  The idea can also help curb farm runoff that pollutes Iowa’s rivers and streams.

Licht’s low-cost, quick-growing poplar trees could be a solution for many Iowa towns that need to upgrade their out-dated sewer systems.

It goes to show that sometimes you can save a little green by going green.

For more information, visit IowaEnvironmentalFocus.org.

I’m Jerry Schnoor with the University of Iowa Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research.

Thank you.