Alumni Spotlight with Mariana Fiuza: "Even smaller initiatives can start a revolution"

hands holding processed compost

One of the finalists and winner of the IHS Alumni Impact Award 2022 is E de Sol, an on-demand composting nonprofit start-up launched in Teresina, Brazilian Northeast, by IHS Alumna Mariana Fiuza. The start-up is focused on sustainable waste management, efficient mitigation and adaptation strategy. Mariana graduated with an MSc in Urban Management and Development in 2017, and since then, she has worked towards developing ambitious climate action and informing people about climate change.

The future is composting

The main goal of the start-up is to reduce the volume of greenhouse gases locally emitted by composting organic waste that would otherwise be disposed of at the local landfill without proper treatment. By doing that, É de Sol directly impacts SDG 11 - Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. Target 11.6 - By 2030, reduce the adverse per capita environmental impact of cities, including by paying special attention to air quality and municipal and other waste management; Indicator 11.6.1 - Proportion of urban solid waste regularly collected and with adequate final discharge out of total urban solid waste generated, by cities.

Since 2021, É de Sol has collected and composted more than 15 tons of organic waste

É de Sol in brief

É de Sol offers an on-demand composting service. Through an affordable monthly subscription, their clients can choose from various plans that best fit their needs regarding the amount of food waste generated and collection frequency. Then, the start-up collects and composts their residential or commercial organic waste into high-quality organic fertilizer, of which they receive at least one kilo every month. The fertilizer excess is sold in local green markets to help cover operational costs or donate to public community gardens. In addition, É de Sol offers environmental training to their clients and local schools.

"Once per week, local people are invited to visit our composting site and learn about the natural processes. We also promote thematic events, such as the International Compost Awareness Week, an annual worldwide event."

Influence of the local context

"We started É de Sol because there was no sustainable solution in Teresina for residential or commercial organic waste management." - Mariana tells us. Despite the low collection rates, Teresina City Hall offers residents the option of delivering recyclable waste to collection points throughout the city. However, there is no collection point for organic waste. This reality is common in several Brazilian cities. Therefore, their business model is inspired by similar projects that have emerged in other cities in Brazil, such as Rio de Janeiro (Ciclo Orgânico) and Florianópolis (Revolução dos Baldinhos). Still, they continuously and actively adapt this solution to our reality. For instance, Teresina has a vibrant food scene, and local restaurants are one of our main target groups. "We also had to include a strong educational component in our project, as many residents in Teresina were unfamiliar with composting. Therefore, I believe it is a project that can be easily implemented in other regions, especially in the Global South, where the waste management is a significant issue but always respecting the particularities of each place."

Lessons learnt from this project

The first lesson Mariana learnt from practice with É de Sol Composting is: to start small.

"When we are passionate about our projects and our motivation is to create a positive impact in our cities, we tend to bite off more than we can chew. Even smaller initiatives can start a revolution, but they must last long enough to see it happen. Experimentation is all about making mistakes, and they are better manageable on a smaller scale."

The second lesson she learnt was to ask for help and participate in meaningful networks. They included É de Sol in local and national networks (and even international ones, like IHS Alumni International Network) about diverse themes, such as composting, sustainability, and entrepreneurship, making cities more resilient.

"Don't be afraid of asking for advice from people who have tried something similar before; networks are great spaces to find those people. Having said that, we are open to talking with anyone out there who wants to start their own composting start-up."

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