Hi, my name is Michaël Burns, and I am a senior at Dalton State College studying to get my Ecology major and Business minor. I was born and raised in Phoenix and have three brothers. I live in an off-campus apartment with my pet dog called Mr. Fluffy, and I work at the campus greenhouse and garden. All of the produce at the school’s organic cafe comes from the greenhouse and garden.
My biggest pet peeve is wastefulness, and I’d like my career to revolve around eliminating food waste. I was offered a state grant to start a program called Students Reducing Food Waste. The grant is given to students pursuing environmental causes, and SRFN is an initiative to reduce—and hopefully eliminate—food waste altogether. It involves volunteers going to businesses and schools, collecting consumable food that would otherwise be thrown away, and giving it to homeless shelters. We also collect non-consumable food and use it to fertilize the campus greenhouse and garden. If restaurants have used vegetable oil, we take it, filter it, and use it to run machinery on campus.
My vision is for this process to become something that businesses and individuals do automatically—much like recycling. I would love it if every business, restaurant, institution, farm, and grocery store committed to sending all of the food they would otherwise throw away to shelters and orphanages. Food that is deemed non-consumable by human standards would be composted and used on community farms. Anyone inclined to learn to tend the land would be able to sell what they produce and keep the profits.
This is my dream, and I’m working to turn it into a reality. People often don’t realize just how bad it is, but, as of last year, 1.3 billion tons of food went to waste. That’s a lot. The work of this program won’t even put a dent in that number, but my plan is to start a trend that will spread throughout the world. It’s ambitious but not impossible. If you’ve ever been frustrated watching a grocery store throw away perfectly good bread because it’s past the expiry date, you’ll understand what I’m trying to accomplish here. I think too often students are written off, so this is a good opportunity for us to show that we are perfectly capable of taking our studies and experiences at university and applying them to real life.
As for my life outside of the university, you’ll most likely find me singing karaoke down the road at Ricky Rooster’s or at the fabric shop. I love to mod clothing, and I think that goes hand-in-hand with disliking waste. I don’t throw away clothing if it’s stained or torn; I just turn it into something new with zippers, buttons, studs, leather, fabric dye, patches, whatever I can find. So if your interests don’t lie in gardening, you can always come sing or shop with me!