Meet sustainability master's student Anthony Contento

Anthony Contento stands near a sign for his business, Contento RecyclingAnthony Contento, an Arizona State University School of Sustainability student, wasn’t looking to get a master’s degree. But after he found out about the Master of Sustainability Leadership, he couldn’t help but enroll. It was the perfect opportunity to learn how to apply sustainable practices to his family's New York business in construction and demolition debris recycling. On top of working on his master’s degree, Contento recently earned a LEED Green Associate certificate because, he said, “the area of green building is closely related to construction and demolition debris recycling.” Contento answered a few questions for us about how he will use his sustainability degree to build a more sustainable future in New York State, where he lives. Question: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study sustainability? Answer: In 2016, I graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology with a degree in marketing. I then went home to Cortland, New York to begin my full-time career working with my father running our family’s demolition, trucking and scrap metal recycling business that has been operating in Cortland since 1950. When we decided to expand into construction and demolition debris recycling, I started thinking that it would be beneficial to have a higher understanding of recycling and sustainability. This is when I decided to pursue my Master of Sustainability Leadership at ASU. Q: Why did you choose ASU/the School of Sustainability? A: I wasn’t necessarily looking for a degree in sustainability or a master’s degree in general. When I came across an ad for the Master of Sustainability Leadership I began looking into it. The more information I got, the more I was hooked. It seems like the perfect degree for someone in my career field who is passionate about leading and inspiring people and it has certainly lived up to my expectations. Q: What’s something you’ve learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that has surprised you or changed your perspective? A: I have been pleasantly surprised at how much time and research, as well as collaboration, are being put into solving many sustainability issues that the world faces. So often when issues like climate change are brought up the narrative focuses on the negatives, more than the potential solutions. I’m encouraged that with continued growth and funding for sustainability research, and great leadership globally, people will begin living more sustainable lifestyles, and they won’t even realize it. Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those currently studying (or interested in studying) sustainability at ASU? A: My best advice for those looking to earn a degree in sustainability from ASU is not to be shy. The best way to make the most out of your learning experience is to engage your classmates, professors, alumni and everyone involved with the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability. Everyone is friendly and everyone wants to collaborate and see each other thrive. In my experience, this is a microcosm of how the entire field of sustainability is. Q: How do you plan to use your master’s degree in your current/future career? A: My master’s degree will thrust my recycling business ahead of the pack in New York State because I am acquiring knowledge and making connections with people that many people in my area don’t have the ability or desire to do. It is my hope that with my master’s degree and my continual learning in the field of sustainability that my business, Contento Recycling, will serve as Central New York’s leader in sustainable development. Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle? A: If someone gifted me 40 million dollars I would invest it into the infrastructure and technology necessary to create a construction and demolition debris recycling center that could process hundreds of tons a day of construction and demolition debris, while diverting 90 percent or more of the material from the waste stream. There is a crucial need for this in the Central New York area and with 40 million dollars I believe you could construct and operate a facility that would have a tremendous impact in diverting landfill waste and facilitating sustainable development.