University of South Florida

Patel College of Global Sustainability


Alumni Spotlight: Ericka Leigh’s Sustainable Fashion and Textile Composting Business

Ericka Leigh

Ericka Leigh graduated from the Patel College of Global Sustainability in December 2015 with a degree in Sustainability Tourism and a concentration in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security. Ericka is currently involved in various sustainability projects, working with several local companies and organizations, including City of Tampa, Sewn Apart, Meals on Wheels of Tampa, and EDforTech.

In the early days, PCGS only offered four programs and did not have a targeted food major. Studying at PCGS, Ericka enjoyed the flexibility, which allowed her to design a program that best aligned with her interests in food and agriculture. She took advantage of different internships and designed class assignments and projects to carve her own career path and pursue her future goals. “I learned how to think differently, more holistically, and in systems, and that has been the biggest asset”, said Ericka.

After completing her education at PCGS, Ericka has followed a more non-traditional career path compared to her peers. Ericka created a business in the sustainable fashion industry, Sewn Apart, and circled back to sustainable agriculture with a textile composting project. According to Ericka, this project is an avenue for waste management, environmental justice, and economic development as it contributes to the Green Economy and supports Green New Deal initiatives. Moreover, Ericka works with the Rosebud Continuum, where she has collected the most data for her research. To date, Ericka has composted over 500 lbs. of textiles, 900 lbs. of food, and created over 400 lbs. of organic soil matter. Recently, she presented her research at the Global Soil Biodiversity Conference in Dublin, Ireland, and is currently looking into PhD programs to study policy that supports organic waste management.

Considering herself a thought leader, Ericka has been utilizing social media to spread ideas and introduce her audience to examples of how to implement sustainability practices in their daily lives. “I am always flattered and motivated when someone tells me I have opened their eyes to the issue of textile waste and helped them change their habits and reconsider other waste in their lives”, said Ericka.

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