Read the full story in Fast Company.
Joy Youwakim is a senior at the University of Texas at Austin, where she studies economics. But often you can find her not on campus, but at a closed landfill southeast of the city by the airport, checking on a crop of vegetables she’s grown on top of the heap of trash.
In her work, Youwakim aims to create an economic case for sustainable agricultural practices: She spent her sophomore year growing sorghum in her faculty advisor’s backyard to prove that it’s both more economically and environmentally viable than corn, one of the country’s most popular and heavily subsidized crops. But that was just the beginning: That same year, Youwakim spent the summer working at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, where she met someone who was in charge of landfill regulation. He showed her an image of a local landfill, and Youwakim “was just blown away,” she says. “I thought it would look like a pile of trash, but it just looked like a dirt hill,” she adds. “So I said: ‘Why don’t we grow food on top of it?’”