“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

I will find value in what the world discards.

As a child, I dreaded taking out the compost. Walking all the way across the yard with a bucket of fresh smelly food for the compost heap was absolute torture. I couldn't believe that putrid pile would somehow turn into fertilizer. But the proof was in our yard, which was so much more alive than my neighbours' dull lawns. It was an urban garden so big, my sister and I made it our own personal city. We would plant Carrot Road, daydream while wandering down Sweet Pea Avenue, and feast on the sweet harvest of Corn Cob Way – every inch nourished by the compost I so detested.

When I look at wastes now, I see their potential. Most of the world's markets are defined by broken lifecycles – we extract, manufacture, use, and then abandon. By finding ways to extract the stored energy from the refuse of our privileged lifestyle, we can fix this cycle and extend the life of our planet.

There is so much of value locked up in waste that we throw out, in places that we have abandoned, and in people that we ignore. Wherever my wild and precious life takes me, I will look past the superficial and unlock the riches beneath.

But I don't think I'll ever like the smell of compost.

— Kelly O’Neil