Elyssa is guided by the deep knowing that it is possible for humanity to live in peace with each other and with our planet. For over 2 decades, she has worked in the fields of sustainable redevelopment, environmental education, community organizing, ecological restoration and civic mischief. Fae hails from the suburbs of central Jersey, Lenape territory, where she grew up in a big, sometimes loud, Italian American family. During the formative years of her teens and twenties, Elyssa’s family fell apart, and she became a peregrine, a pilgrim in the true sense of the word, seeking a better way to live. She landed in the hands and hearts of many families - Hungarian, Taiwanese, Black, Filipino, Polish and Native. She also began a lifetime of service
Elyssa served 2150 hours with AmeriCorps, planted over 300 trees with the NJ Youth Corps, and co-founded Garden State Green Collar Futures, a permaculture apprenticeship designed to give Newark and Jersey City youth better opportunities in the environmental field.
In 2006, Elyssa traveled to Rancho Mastatal, an international eco-village adjacent to the Zapatón indigenous reserve. Here she experienced for the first time truly local, low-carbon living, slow food, and Biogas. Rural Costa Rica is a huge difference from the pace and quality of life in suburban and urban New Jersey. Each day, Rancho Mastatal fed their in-ground biodigester 3 bags of fresh cow patties and the waste of a couple flush toilets, producing enough biogas to cook all breakfast and most of lunch for 25-40 people. When the biogas ran out, we would switch to propane, or sometimes we would cook with wood in the cob oven. And each night, the biogas would replenish itself as we slept. Rancho Mastatal is a small town located in a remote jungle area accessed only by a couple dirt roads. So, making biogas was very helpful when the roads would get washed out during heavy rains.
From 2006-2008, Elyssa completed a Masters degree in Environmental Education at the NJ School of Conservation, Montclair State’s field campus along the Appalachian Trail in northwest New Jersey. Here, fae lived with the bears, fisher cats and coy-wolves, beaver and perch, dragonfly and lady slipper, and a 60,000 acre back yard. At NJSOC, Elyssa honed her skills as a backcountry naturalist, delighting students with mushrooms and bear scat, wild orchids and salamanders, thunder and lighting bugs. These hands-on learning experiences offered opportunities to learn positive risk-taking, finding your voice, sharing leadership, and teamwork. In grad school, she also deepened her studies in Chemistry and Climate Science, learning also with the Union of Concerned Scientists. For 4 years following grad school, while launching Green Collar Futures, Elyssa worked with the Princeton-Blairstown Center, Princeton University's field campus, guiding urban youth, college students and custom adult programs from NY, NJ and PA to feel at home in the forest, find their voice and shared leadership, and deepen their connection and dedication to service.
In 2011, Hurricane Sandy hit New York and New Jersey hard. Elyssa's town lost power for 21 days, her business went bankrupt, and after a bunch of soul-searching she moved to Massachusetts. Leaving the Garden State was not easy for Elyssa, especially after a decade of field ecology and community service. Her last 7 years in the state, she had traveled about 3 months each year to indigenous communities, eco-villages, farms and environmental education centers to learn how to help the people of New Jersey live more gently and in greater harmony. She had even bought a car that ran on waste vegetable oil. But she knew that was more she needed to learn... and she was broke and feeling burned out... so she chose Western Mass new opportunities to grow and be of service.
In Massachusetts, Elyssa soon became part of the so-called "primitive skills" community, learning Northeast Native American woodland skills... predominantly from white people. Slowing down and practicing these skills - fire-making, cordage, foraging, camouflage, tracking, listening to birds - brought a deep, embodied feeling of safety and abundance, and also a feeling of indebtedness. After attending many talks and workshops, her heart was stirred and Elyssa found many ways to be of service to the Native community of Western Mass. She was part of the group that worked to release the old Turners Falls High School mascot (the "Indians") and choose a new one (the "Thunder"), coordinated and supported 6 local Native artists in sharing their own art and culture in the Building Bridges Mural at the Great Falls, and co-hosted workshops on decolonization with Native and BIPOC teachers.
In 2020, Elyssa met Dr. Martin Hunter at a spiritual gathering in Vermont, and their connection around chemistry, ecological stewardship and social justice quickly led them to co-found the Northeast Biogas Initiative. In 2022, Elyssa's mother's home in Southern Florida was destroyed by a tornado, while she was in it, and she narrowly escaped alive. This prompted her to double-down on her work with Northeast Biogas Initiative, grant writing, and coalition-building... because the potential of biogas for climate change mitigation is great... and well, it's just fun to work with.
Elyssa speaks Spanish and Italian.