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Frame by Frame: Heroes of CSU, a ‘soil loyal’ composter

Rarely in life do you meet someone so passionate about their line of work as Albert Cones.

Originally hailing from the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming, Cones is of Northern Arapaho heritage and speaks very highly of his culture and time spent growing up on the reservation. Over the years, Cones’ career path has taken him all over the place — from being a custodian for Colorado State University to driving trucks for fracking companies. 

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It wasn’t until Cones was given a training offer by a compost technician at CSU that he began turning his mind toward compost.

When the position opened up, Cones quickly seized his opportunity.

“I went home and started reading about compost and fell in love with compost,” Cones said. “The more I read, the more my passion started.”

Cones said his passion flourished the more he read, mostly because of where he came from.

Coming from a fracking background, Cones had to do some thinking about his own beliefs and what he wanted in life.

My connection with Earth wasn’t always all there. I was chasing the materialistic money, but this (compost) let me slow down and enjoy life.” -Albert Cones, compost technician

Not only did compost help Cones slow his life down and gain perspective, but he said that it also improved his overall quality of life, connecting him more with nature.

On top of this, Cones said the more he read about compost, the more he learned about his people, the Northern Arapaho. He learned that they called the same land where he now works home.

As he learned more about compost and saw how it benefited communities, it lit a fire under him. Cones said this was an awakening to him, almost feeling like it was in his blood to do this, making him more in touch with the Earth and what’s around him.

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Compost technician Albert Cones looks beyond the compost facility to the foothills. (Luke Bourland | The Collegian)

On the grounds of the compost facility, Cones seems at home, often looking to the mountains in admiration or watching the birds dance through the air. Cones said that all of this is redemption for him. Going from taking from the land while working in the fracking industry to giving back to the land with compost, he said it’s been a major change in his personal life. 

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Cones said, as a kid, he would look out at the reservation imagining a carnival or something for the kids to do. This dream of a carnival gave Cones his drive to give back. As for his “carnival” dream for the compost facility, he said he only wants it to keep improving.

what I’m learning here at CSU, I can take back and apply it, bringing communities together. I want to go to the schools, showing the kids how to compost and bring them together because division is crumbling everybody.” -Albert Cones, compost technician

 “I can’t save the world, but I can within my perspective,” Cones said.

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  • Albert Cones digs in one of the compost piles, showing its qualities the deeper you go. (Luke Bourland | The Collegian)

  • Albert Cones, a Colorado State University compost technician, pauses for a moment in front of the trucks he and his team use Dec. 8. (Luke Bourland | The Collegian)

  • A pile of compost steams. Albert Cones says that the steam is a sign that the composting process is going well. (Luke Bourland | The Collegian)

  • Albert Cones cracks a smile while standing in front of the carbon used in the composting process. (Luke Bourland | The Collegian)

  • Albert Cones, Colorado State compost technician, gesticulates as he talks about his passion for compost. (Luke Bourland | The Collegian)

  • Albert Cones poses in front of one of the trucks that picks up food waste from the Colorado State dorms and brings it to their facility. (Luke Bourland | The Collegian)

  • Albert Cones, compost technician, points out to the land while standing in front of piles of compost. Cones says he has a special connection with these piles, naming them and giving them a date of birth along the way. (Luke Bourland | The Collegian)

  • Compost technician Albert Cones stands in front of the carbon used for the composting process, explaining the process. (Luke Bourland | The Collegian)

  • Compost technician Albert Cones looks beyond the compost facility to the foothills. (Luke Bourland | The Collegian)

  • OSCAR the composting machine sits frozen while Albert Cones and his team give him some much-needed TLC. (Luke Bourland | The Collegian)

  • Albert Cones smiles in front of one of his piles of compost. Cones says that the compost is more than just a “thing” to him, as there are living organisms right inside them. (Luke Bourland | The Collegian)

  • Albert Cones, compost technician, takes a moment and stands in the middle of the facility. (Luke Bourland | The Collegian)

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Luke Bourland can be reached at photo@collegian.com or on Twitter @magungo44.

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About the Contributor
Luke Bourland, Photo Director
Luke Bourland is a history major from Durham, Connecticut. Bourland is studying history in hopes of going to law school in the fall 2022 semester after graduation. In terms of which law school Bourland wants to go to, he likes to joke, "I will attend anywhere that'll have me!" Bourland has been taking pictures recreationally for most of his life but did not officially join The Collegian until the beginning of his sophomore year in 2019. Bourland originally joined The Collegian to develop his skills and to photograph out of his comfort zone. During his time at The Collegian, Bourland has held positions such as freelance photographer, media archivist, assistant photo editor, photo editor and finally, photo director. As the photo director, it is Bourland's job to make sure the paper is accompanied with beautiful pictures alongside the photo editor. Bourland has photographed events ranging from speeches and galas to football and basketball games. In his free time, Bourland is an avid golfer, fly-fisherman and still loves to take pictures recreationally. Differing from the style of photography at The Collegian, Bourland enjoys slowing down and shooting landscapes and portraits on film. Bourland first learned how to develop film with a friend in the bathrooms of Corbett Hall, stuffing towels under the doors to avoid any light leaking in. No matter where life takes Bourland, he hopes that photography will always be there along the ride.  

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