Role Model of the Week

Joseph Stodgel is one of 18 Sustainable Cup Challenge fellows at The DO School in Dumbo and has been working closely with his other fellows to find a solution to the seven million plastic and paper drink cups that are used and discarded every day in New York. This Santa Fe native has a Master of Science from Plymouth University where he began acting on his motivation to change the way that important ecological issues are addressed. Joseph is currently living in Brooklyn and working on the Do School challenge as well as planning projects with Only Green Design in New Mexico and Greyton Transition Town in South Africa. 

If you want to connect with Joseph, you can find him online here:

LinkedIn: Joseph Stodgel 
Twitter: @spokeofsource


STATE: What motivated you to found Trash to Treasure when you were living in South Africa?

Joseph: I was motivated by the several things when I decided to throw a festival at the local dumping site and start Trash to Treasure. Firstly, I saw the need to bring more people to the destination point of the materials that they produced in their homes and see the ecological damage that is caused by these materials. Raising awareness is key to solving any issue.

Secondly, I wanted to provide all sorts of examples of how these regular trash materials can be used in truly beneficial and resilience bolstering ways. The festival accomplishes this through its buildings which are all made primarily of upcycled dumpsite materials and through its varied workshops where people can learn how to turn their trash into treasures. 

STATE: What do you think the biggest threat to the environment is?

Joseph: Humanity’s ecological disassociation is the biggest threat to the environment as a whole - people’s imposed disconnection from their surroundings and foundation in the natural world. We as humans are a part of nature and the environment, but have created belief systems that tell us stories otherwise, such as that we are irrevocably separate and removed from the natural world. The only way that humanity will survive on this planet is by recognizing that we are this planet, and that everything we do to the rest of life here, we do to ourselves. 

STATE: Tell us a little bit more about your plan to sell recycled products and minimize fossil-fuel inputs.

Joseph: The goal of the systems that my colleagues and I are developing is to see the full diversion and utilization of the waste stream. Glass, metals, plastics, paper and food waste can all be upcycled into building materials, alternative technologies, household and personal items, art supplies and soil amendments.

Because there is an overwhelmingly lot of trash, we look primarily to upcycled building applications and products to accomplish this diversion. This may be the utilization of materials in number as they are, such as a wall built from earth-rammed tires, or the creation of insulation panels from compressed waste plastics. 

Other important products are compost from food waste and alternative technologies from waste glass and metals such as glass bottle solar water heaters. Small products such as purses made from billboard material, or bags made of concrete sacks are important too, and offer more employment opportunities and revenue generation. 

In our projected systems, fossil fuel inputs are minimized through alternative transportation systems such as bicycle transport and the full upcycling of materials locally. Instead of shipping trash to far-flung landfills and recycling facilities, they will be gathered and utilized within the local area and distributed back to the local market.


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