For many Americans, throwing something away means that it’s gone forever. But Environmental Engineer and Santa Clara University  Professor Stephanie Hughes wants students to learn that this is not always the case. Hughes has taken her students to tour a paper recycling plant, sewage treatment plant and household hazardous waste facility.

By training, Hughes is a chemical and environmental engineer with a particular love for sewage. She’s known for cruising around campus on her bike and lending her worms to students she’s inspired to start composting. “I was kind of like a worm dealer,” says Gabby Farrer, a recent grad and former Teaching Assistant. “Stephanie was giving me the worms, and I was giving them to my friends for their compost bins.”

For Farrer, studying environmental science came with a side of deep existential dread. After spending the first few post-grad months applying for jobs, she now works at the California Academy of Sciences. Each day, she thinks about the future of the planet. She tries her best to live sustainably, but doesn’t think we can compost our way out of this.

To read the full story, visit
Author: Claire Murashima, NPR
Image: Stephanie Hughes