Beeta Ansari

Beeta is Ashoka U’s Exchange Director, the world’s largest global convening for social entrepreneurship education.

Changemaker of the Week: Nick Harris

Nick Harris, a student at the College of Atlantic, describes his work founding Gourmet Butanol, an organization dedicated to helping businesses convert their waste into butanol, a direct replacement for gasoline.

Nick is being featured as part of Ashoka U’s new series, “Changemaker of the Week” which highlights extraordinary student changemakers in college and graduate programs around the world. Check the Ashoka U Blog each week for a story of a new Changemaker of the Week!


What is Gourmet Butanol?
Gourmet Butonal is a biofuel consulting company. The purpose of Gourmet Butanol is to help businesses and municipalities convert their waste stream into a valuable resource. We take food waste and turn it into butanol–a direct replacement for gasoline.

How did you get involved with this project?
During my junior year at College of the Atlantic, I took a class called “Social Entrepreneurship.” Gourmet Butanol was the result of an assignment that sought to find an alternative solution to trucking organic waste off Mount Desert Island to the incinerator. A few other students and I ran with the idea that we could “close the loop” on the island, and we ended up writing a business plan to make it happen.

How has being a college student changed the way you act as a changemaker?
Being a student at College of the Atlantic allowed me to fully embrace the changemaker attitude. Not only did I have the support of my professors, but I was able to feed off the energy of my peers; my classmates always looked at problems through a unique lens that engineers with thirty-years of experience might not even have.

What’s the best part of working on your venture?
I get to do what I love. It’s incredible to have this opportunity. I think about fermenters all day, and then I go home and dream about them.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to any college student thinking of becoming a changemaker?
Find something that excites you and go for it. Don’t let the old veterans in the industry convince you that you aren’t capable of succeeding. Dive in, research, learn, fail, readjust, fail again, and keep on going.

How has your school or school’s social entrepreneurship initiative helped you progress as a student social innovator and in this venture?
College of the Atlantic has a lot of resources for students interested in social entrepreneurship. My professors gave me guidance, taught me the importance of networking, helped me raise money, and constantly gave me feedback to improve. I still have a long way to go, but College of the Atlantic definitely gave me a lot of tools to succeed–if not in this venture, the next.

More information about Nick will also be featured on social media this week, so be sure to like Ashoka U on Twitter and Facebook!