Sometimes, it takes a natural disaster to find one’s calling. After Haiti’s devastating earthquake in 2010, Ian Gallo ’14 traveled to the ravaged country on a medical mission trip. “That was my first time out of the country,” said Gallo, “and it was a little bit of a shock from my white, suburban upbringing. After seeing the great disparity between the life I was accustomed to and what I saw in Haiti, I began to question many of the systems that enabled my life to be different from those in Haiti.”
Messiah College provided the environment in which he could explore exactly those questions he brought back from Haiti. As a sustainability studies major with a minor in peace and conflict studies, he signed up for the first-year seminar course, “In the Pursuit of Green,” an examination of issues that result from an insatiable consumerist culture and how Christians are called to respond to them. “The class was a wonderful and entirely overwhelming critique of the state of creation care,” said Gallo. “The social and environmental destruction that came about as a result of the exploitation of our neighbors around the world deeply inspired me to change part of the systems that enabled these crimes against God and humanity.”
So, Gallo got busy. Working with the Office of Sustainability, he developed a comprehensive plan to capture and compost almost 100 percent of biodegradable waste on campus. The effort, collaborating with the grounds department, dining, housing and campus events, involved converting all to-go ware to compostable, post-consumer products.
“Through his position as the student compost intern, Ian is personally responsible for ensuring the compositing of all 30,000 pounds of our campus food waste,” said David Foster, professor of biology and environmental science.
Gallo also managed the Grantham Community Garden, redesigning it from a hobby plot to a production-oriented garden that sells produce to students, staff and the community at weekly farm stands. Unsold vegetables are purchased by Lottie Nelson Dining Hall. Anything left over is composted, in a continuation of the nutrient cycle.
“It is our responsibility to ourselves, our neighbor and to God to sustain the earth that we have been entrusted with. The biblical command to love your neighbor as you love yourself is most powerful in my care for creation,” said Gallo. “Creation is also beautiful, every part of it. I love it all and want my children to be able to experience that same appreciation.”
Craig Dalen, director of the Office of Sustainability, said, “In his search to respond with responsible love to the pressing issues of our day, Ian combines an insatiable curiosity, selfless compassion and a rigorous work ethic to challenge and support himself and those around him to imagine a better world.”
Gallo will spend the summer pursuing his passion for sustainable agriculture at Au Sable Institute of Environmental Studies as the recipient of the $5,400 Calvin B. DeWitt Leadership Fellowship scholarship. He will take several summer classes at Au Sable and then move to Pittsburgh with his family.
“I am very excited to continue my learning in an area that is facing major challenges and fostering really exciting innovation in the areas of urban agriculture and sustainable community and economic development,” said Gallo. “It seems as if I have a hippie on one shoulder and an industrialist on the other. The both want to make the world a better place but have, sometimes, drastically different ways of doing it. The next few years will be a time of exploration and learning that will help me to better understand my place in promoting a better world.”
Story by Adela Antal ’16. Photographs by Joanna Benner `17.