Meet graduating sustainability master’s student Anthony Contento

Anthony Contento stands near a sign for his business, Contento RecyclingLast summer, we did a Q&A with Anthony Contento, a Master of Sustainability Leadership student in the School of Sustainability. Now that he just graduated with a few more accomplishments under his belt, we thought it was time to do a follow-up interview to learn about his capstone project and hear reflections about his experience with the program. Question: Can you tell us about your capstone project? Answer: My capstone project highlighted a new business venture into construction and demolition debris recycling. This new business was designed to complement my current business, which serves Central New York with scrap metal recycling, hauling and demolition services. The C&D recycling center has since been built and is fully outfitted and staffed. Contento Recycling LLC accepts unprocessed construction and demolition debris, sorts, processes and recycles whatever possible. The residual debris is processed in a horizontal grinder and made into a beneficial use material for local landfills. The purpose of the project is to divert as much material from the landfill stream as possible.
Contento Recycling breaks ground in May 2018. From left: Jerri Ann Cirino, Principal Owner; New York State Senator Jim Seward; City of Cortland Mayor Brian Tobin; Anthony Contento; Anthony’s father Jerry Contento; and Director of Cortland County Business Development Corp. Garry VanGorder.
Q: We heard you won a grant related to sustainability and Contento Recycling — what is the grant and what will it allow you to do? A: I applied for two New York State grants to help get Contento Recycling started and was awarded both. Both grants were awarded based on our substantial investment into a new business and new jobs associated with the beginning of the business. The project I designed qualified us for up to $245,000, and of that I have received $100,000 so far in funding. Q: What was your favorite part of the Master of Sustainability Leadership program? A: My favorite part about the MSL degree was being able to take the concepts that we were studying and directly apply them to my business as I started it from scratch. It was tremendously helpful to apply things like the triple-bottom line business ideology to my business as I made day to day decisions. I would learn about something while completing my MSL course work and it would spark an idea for my business. Q: What have been some of your biggest takeaways from the program? A: I would have to say the biggest takeaway I have from the MSL degree is that sustainability is about breaking down barriers of what is and is not possible. Challenging the status quo and embracing a problem solving mentality liberates you and gives you the potential to accomplish anything. This is apparent through the people and organizations that we have studied throughout the MSL degree. Q: How did you balance your classes with your work/personal life? A: Balancing work, classes and a personal life was a major challenge for me. Being a private business owner you really don’t have set hours. Some days you may work eight hours; some days it might be double that. There were several days that I literally spent the night at my office because I had so much to do between work and my course work. That being said, every hour of extra time I put in has eventually paid dividends in one way or another.