Student Makes Waste Reduction Personal

“We’re all part of the problem, but we’re all part of the solution,” says Elana Hawke, an MSc student in the Department of Environmental Sciences and Policy who asked students, faculty, and staff to have themselves photographed with their pledge to reduce waste in their own lives at the WasteFest event March 19-21. The event highlighted the amount of waste produced by the CEU community every day. “I wanted people to think of something in their lives that they could change. Taking a photo made them more accountable, and took the message further.”

Hawke came up with the pledge-photo idea as part of a course entitled Environmental Politics, Communications and Activism. Hawke and her classmates, along with faculty, staff, and members of the Sustainable Campus Initiative, collaborated to make WasteFest happen. The professional photos of people with their pledges have been publicized through social media and via individuals' CVs. And Hawke plans to display them in large format at CEU in the near future.

Hawke also appeared in the recent student production of “The Vagina Monologues,” sponsored by the Human RightS Initiative (HRSI). “That definitely took me out of my comfort zone," she says.

How did Hawke get to CEU? The long way. A New Zealander by nationality, Hawke grew up on the island of Borneo in Indonesia with an orangutan for a friend. After high school in New Zealand, she worked on projects in Spain, Northern Europe, and Turkey, and traveled through the Middle East.

“There I saw the connection between resources and conflict,” Hawke said of the Middle East. “I stood at the meeting of the Tigris and the Euphrates and thought, this is where our civilization began, but it’s barren, infertile, and home to some of world’s largest conflicts.”

In a roundabout route via the U.S., New Zealand, and a bicycle accident that confined her to a couch for seven weeks, Hawke decided that CEU would be her next destination, so she could learn how to convert her love for nature and concern for the future of the planet into action.

“We are brought here to work on social issues, whatever they may be, from gender to human rights to the environment,” she says, adding that it was inspiring to see more than 100 people make pledges to reduce waste at CEU. “There’s diversity, but there is so much that connects us.”