by MaryAlice Bitts-Jackson
As a Dickinson EcoRep, Ilana Zeitzer ’19 (biology, art & art history) leads the way every day, educating others about how to help build a more environmentally friendly world. She recently took that mission to a new level and was recognized by an international nonprofit for her work. Zeitzer is a winner in the 30-day Project Green Challenge (PGC), an October event presented by the student-led nonprofit Turning Green. Out of 4,802 contestants from 692 colleges, universities and high schools globally who took part this year, she was awarded the second-place prize.
Every day in October, Zeitzer and her fellow contestants received a new environmentally themed prompt, such as “food waste,” “GMO products” or “fair trade.” They had 24 hours to share related reflections and actions on the PGC website and across Turning Green social-media platforms via photos, video or text, and then they were judged on each response.
Zeitzer posted photos, videos and essays on topics ranging from her friends’ understanding of the word “organic” to her fond experiences volunteering at the College Farm. She swapped her cleaning supplies, shampoo and deodorant for more environmentally friendly choices, developed plans to reduce her trash and water use, ate more local and vegan foods and eliminated favorite snacks that contained palm oil. She also wrote to local representatives on environmental issues, researched clean-energy solutions and more.
“Everything I’ve learned, I’ve been sharing with my friends and family, whether face-to-face, on Facebook or over the phone,” wrote Zeitzer, who also organized a documentary viewing and a farmer’s market trip to help bring those messages home.
An illustration by Ilana Zeitzer '19 of some of the lessons she learned through the PGC competition.
At the end of the month, 13 PGC finalists were selected and flown to San Francisco for the final competition. After attending lectures by sustainability and nonprofit leaders, they delivered presentations about their experiences and were judged according to their communication, mentorship, advocacy and leadership skills.
The grand champion earned a prize valued at $12,000. As the second-place winner, Zeitzer earned an all-expenses paid trip to the Natural Products Expo in West Anaheim, Calif., March 8-11. She’ll also have five trees donated in her name to the World Land Trust Plant a Tree Project and receive a variety of products that support a sustainable lifestyle, including a Silverline scooter and a generous supply of organic fair-trade, non-GMO and zero-waste foods and personal-care products.
Zeitzer said the experience taught her not only about improvements she can make, but also that those changes are not as hard as they may seem. And she’s continuing her exploration, both through her EcoRep work and by creating ecological-themed artwork for her capstone art exhibition.
“I’ve made changes in my lifestyle,” she said, in her final PGS video, “and I’ve helped those around me make changes in their lifestyles for better health, a better environment, a better quality of life and a better future.”
Published November 30, 2017