GREAT BARRINGTON — A focus on education and a shift in attitude can go a long way to reduce the carbon footprint of a community in the Berkshires.
That was the message given by Tony Schifano, the founder and CEO of Hillsdale, New York-based Antos Environmental to a group of concerned residents and neighbors on the campus of Bard College at Simon’s Rock on Tuesday.
Schifano led the Dec. 3 “Tony Talk,” presentation in which he explored sustainable methods of addressing waste reduction that could be viable for the Berkshires. The talk was hosted by Simon’s Rock Sustainability Committee.
A cultural revolution will have to begin with drastic changes in behavior at the grade school level, said Schifano.
“Education is the key,” he said. “My goal is to get the school system and the superintendents the funding and get a commercial composter on the property.”
Ideally, Schifano says, students would help organize and run the community composting program. He also suggested that parents would be able to bring their household’s organic waste to the school in the morning when dropping off their kids at school. The campus of Simon’s Rock could work for the idea, but a local high school or elementary school would serve more as a community hub for the composting objective, he said.
“It’s a community thing, not just for the school,” said Schifano. “I want it to grow and then I want the school to be giving out the composting. I want all the gardening centers involved, too. Everyone has got to play a part in this.”
Schifano’s company, Antos Environmental, helps weave sustainability into the healthcare industry, local municipalities and a handful of prestigious universities across the country. Some of his company’s clients include Mt. Sinai Health System in New York, Yale University and Cornell University.
Schifano mentioned that he thinks highly of the sustainability efforts in cities like Portland, Oregon, but also said that many communities in the Berkshires, including Great Barrington, have steps to take to reach similar sustainability levels.
“[Portland] has more solar panels than any other city in the country and more than the entire state of Florida, the Sunshine State,” said Schifano. “The other thing they have is an attitude. We should have this here in Great Barrington. When you see somebody messing up, they say something. I love that, because that’s how the culture changes.”
Even though Great Barrington doesn’t have a community composting program, its neighbor to the west, Egremont, does.
Marj Wexler, chair of Egremont’s Green Committee, told Schifano how Egremont created its own composting program at the town’s Transfer Station and the efforts being made by many local residents.
“What we need to do to make a difference, is in the industry, you got to tell Coke to go back to using glass,” said Wexler. “We need to tell everybody to use something other than these plastics.”
Schifano was pleasantly surprised to learn of Egremont’s sustainability efforts, but questioned why Great Barrington doesn’t have a community composting program of its own.
“Think about that for a second. That’s next door,” said Schifano. “The fact that Egremont is composting and you’re not, it’s shocking.”
Despite rallying encouragement for methods of local waste reduction, Schifano was less inspired by the inaction being done at the federal level. It was in the 1950s and 1960s that the “Don’t be a Litterbug” national campaign was backed with support from the federal government.
“The president is not behind this,” said Schifano. “The president is about money. This will change when money is not No. 1 on the agenda. When money is not the most important thing, we may be able to make some of these changes happen.” To learn more about Schifano’s waste reduction management company, visit Antosinc