ASU sustainability alum’s business reconnects people to nature
Aly Stoffo’s interest in sustainability stemmed from a childhood love of nature. She often ventured to the protected woods across the street from her Staten Island home.
“If I didn’t have access to this ... I doubt I would’ve formed such a strong connection with nature,” said Stoffo, who is an Arizona State University alum.
Stoffo was able to pursue those childhood interests with two degrees at ASU — a Bachelor of Science in sustainability and a master’s degree in sustainable solutions, both from the School of Sustainability, an academic unit of the College of Global Futures.
Originally starting her higher education journey at a small college in New York, Stoffo explained that adjusting to ASU took some time. However, the move ultimately opened her world, showing the array of possibilities available to her.
“I loved being at a smaller school, like the School of Sustainability, within the massive landscape that is ASU," Stoffo said, "because it was easy to navigate and get to know everybody and have one-on-one relationships with professors, staff and other students.”
During her time as a student, Stoffo had multiple city government internships, addressing New York City’s carbon emission and climate change goals or the city of Tempe’s waste reduction initiatives.
Education has been a consistent theme in all the positions. According to Stoffo, education is “the spark that gets people to change and act.” She realized early in her career that to thrive as a communicator, a business owner or a scientist, one must be an effective educator.
After graduating from ASU, Stoffo was working at a sustainability-centric job in Manhattan that she felt she wasn’t a great fit. So, in March 2020, she quit her job on the eve of the COVID-19 pandemic.
That month, she turned 25 and, very quickly, the jobs she had been interviewing for dried up. Stoffo had no prospects and, due to the pandemic, a lot of time on her hands, so she returned to her childhood interest of nature.
She started an Instagram account designed to be a free resource for city-bound nature lovers – a place where she could share her interest and expertise in gardening and wild edible plants.
She went from one follower to 1,000 in about three months.
The Instagram account that started as a passion project has now grown into a business — Glam Gardener NYC, which offers wild-plant-infused herbal products, outdoor education and merchandise for nature lovers.
“It was really after I graduated from ASU, after learning about sustainable food systems, invasive plants and waste awareness, that I realized the opportunity that foraging offers us.”
Stoffo’s business forages invasive, wild edible plants, which are often ignored or removed, in the northeastern United States to create herbal teas, tinctures and food products.
“What my company aims to do is to offer the benefits of these forgotten or vilified wild edibles by turning them into food products and remedies for healthier bodies and a more balanced ecosystem.”
Connecting to nature through gardening, foraging or simply spending time outdoors has been beneficial for Stoffo’s mental, physical and spiritual health. For those living in a metropolitan area, it is easy to lose that connection.
It's clear to Stoffo that there is much to gain as a person and community when we are connected to nature. “Without this connection, how could we expect that everyday people care for anything else in the realm of sustainability?”
Thanks to this belief and her educational background, Stoffo has built Glam Gardener NYC with sustainability in mind — considering how to ethically hand-harvest local herbal products, which local organic farmers to work with, and how to package and ship products.
“I was so convinced by the need to operate a truly local company during my studies at ASU, thanks to Professor Arnim Wiek, so I try to source supplies from USA-based companies, like our plantable seed paper greeting cards, our organic cotton screen-printed shirts and more.”
After three years of running her business, Stoffo is most proud of the community she has built with Glam Gardener.
“I 100% see a greener and more conscious community being built around me, and I think that having this business has allowed me to be a leader in this space, and I’m so proud of that because it’s going to culminate into a better community and planet.”