Meet Domingo Morales: The young New Yorker making composting cool

Domingo Morales’s composting journey began in 2015 when he decided to apply for the Green City Force sustainability training program aimed at youth within the New York City Housing Authority.

Fast forward to the present day and Morales finds himself managing composting sites and educating communities on how to integrate composting into their lives.

Living a sustainable life should be accessible to everyone, however, the systems and resources that must be put in place to accommodate a greener life are not always readily available, especially for lower-income or housing authority residents. Morales is a leader in the grassroots composting movement and aims to empower these communities through more inclusive and diverse sustainability practices.

Before the pandemic, Morales was working at the Red Hook Farms compost site in Brooklyn, but as a result of the Covid-19 health crisis, the compost site quickly lost its funding. These unfortunate circumstances were turned around when Morales won the David Prize, a new grant awarded to NYC residents with big ideas. In October, he received the $200,000 grant and jump-started his own initiative: Compost Power.

Compost Power focuses primarily on educating communities on how to build, manage, and maintain composting sites. He encourages the participation of residents to decide which kind of composting system would best suit their needs, whether it’s a crank composting system in their apartment or a vermicomposting system out in the parking area. Directly involving locals piques interest and empowers the community as a whole, teaching them that they can lead sustainable lives, even without government funding.

Considering that one-third of the trash in New York City is compostable, there is a substantial shortage of composting services available, especially to the one in 15 people who live in public housing. With the guidance of Morales, these communities are on their way to servicing their own neighborhoods with composting sites and management.

Morales thinks that education and exposure are the keys to making composting cool. Building the composting systems and allowing people to see for themselves the entire process from food-scraps to worms to healthy soil captures the attention of kids (who love playing with the worms) and adults alike.

Morales’s own success story serves as inspiration for the underserved youth he shares it with. When he tells them, “I worked at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden for five years and I started my own company”, they see first-hand the potential there is to not only live green but to make a career out of it. 

Morales’s next project is to launch an educational show on composting within the next couple of years.

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