Get to know our UBC Sustainability Scholar

Please welcome Timio Colistro, a UBC Sustainability Scholar working on a research project related to organic waste this summer! Due to the pandemic, Timio will be working remotely on this project under the guidance of Dr. Carol McAusland, UBC Professor in Food & Resource Economics and Canada Research Chair in Trade and Environment, and Ali Rivers, the District’s Climate Action & Natural Environment Coordinator. Timio will be working on his project from May to August 2021.

Describe your research project with Central Saanich.

My research project aims to explore different ways to take organic waste and convert it to a useable fuel. There are several different technologies currently available, so the goal will be to see what’s most feasible within Central Saanich’s unique context, as a rural community with lots of agricultural land.

Do you have any connections to the Saanich Peninsula?

Yes! I was raised on the Peninsula, very close to Central Saanich in fact. After several years living abroad in the US and China, I moved back to the lower island and consider the Saanich Peninsula home. The climate, community and pace of life are hard to beat.

What are you currently studying at UBC? How are you hoping to use your degree once you graduate? What’s it been like starting a new program during Covid?

I am currently in the Masters of Food and Resource Economics program at UBC. It was certainly an adjustment getting used to all the screen time for online classes! But our program was still fortunate to be one of the few to run some classes on campus over the past year. After graduation, I am hoping to explore careers related to food or waste policy in local or provincial government.

What attracted you to Central Saanich’s waste-to-biofuel project? What element(s) of the project are you looking forward to most? What do you think will be the most challenging?

There were several attractive elements: an exposure to local government, a connection to a community I call home, but mainly the opportunity to work on a project that implements principles of circular economy – that is, using the output from one process as an input to another. I think the most challenging aspect will be identifying options that work within a small rural context but could still be scaled up in the future, and that are cost-effective either way. Food waste is a social issue that’s beginning to get more attention, so I’m grateful to be working on a project that aims to tackle it.

What is one action you’ve taken to decrease your own waste footprint?

An easy, painless change I made was actually just a psychological one: be okay with buying “ugly” produce, like a misshapen pear. A fair amount gets wasted at the retail level when it doesn’t conform to our ideal image, even though this produce is just as tasty and nutritious. So it’s a small thing but I try to give these poor outcasts a home when I go grocery shopping. I don’t need my food to be pretty, just to provide nutrition.

Our thanks to UBC for offering this innovative program that connects motivated students with local partners to work on real-world sustainability challenges, to BC Hydro for funding our scholar’s work this summer, and to Timio for interest & work on this project. Good luck Timio!

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