Ilana Zeitzer ’20 Takes Home Second Place in Project Green Challenge
Ilana Zeitzer, a student farmer and member of the class of 2019, is turning her passion for the environment into activism. This Biology and Studio Art double major recently competed and took home second place in Turning Green’s international Project Green Challenge. Turning Green is an organization “devoted to education and advocacy around environmentally sustainable and socially responsible choices for individuals, schools, and communities.” Each year, the organization hosts an eco-challenge to create a platform where passionate students, like Ilana, can engage with one another to perpetuate a culture of eco-consciousness. After learning about the challenge through one of her favorite bloggers, Laura Singer (“Trash is for Tossers”), Ilana knew she had to compete.
Ilana has cultivated a deep passion for the environment since a young age, devoting herself whole-heartedly to conservation after the passing of her personal hero, Steve Irwin, when she was in the fourth grade. This devotion to the environment helped Ilana make the choice to come to Dickinson; she sites our farm and strong commitment to sustainability as deciding factors in her college search. Once on campus, Ilana made her mark becoming involved in the College Farm, Eco-Reps, Tree Club, as well as several other campus organizations that reflect her dedication to the community and environment.
As a competitor in the Project Green Challenge, Ilana’s excitement for environmental activism was put to the ultimate test. Each day during the month of October, she and other competitors received three to four challenges related to a common theme (i.e. compost, fast fashion, personal care products, etc.). Ilana documented her completion of these challenges by sharing her journey on social media, submitting write-ups, and even compiling videos to share with Turning Green and fellow competitors. If that isn’t impressive enough, she did all this while balancing the demands of being a college student and competitive athlete.
When asked what the most difficult part of the challenge was for her, Ilana didn’t wax poetic about taking shorter showers or having to give up her favorite snack, Oreos, because they contain palm oil…instead, she discussed the social component of the challenge. Ilana has struggled with social anxiety and depression for most of her adolescence and young adulthood. This challenge not only pushed her to become a more thoughtful consumer but forced her out of her comfort zone in interactions with other students, friends, family, and even strangers. Turning Green simultaneously challenged and empowered Ilana, and boy did it pay off. Just prior to Thanksgiving break, Ilana was invited to attend the Turning Green conference where she and fellow Project Green Challenge finalists delivered brief lectures on their challenge experiences. Ilana’s empowering message and hard work won her second place in the challenge.
Humble as ever, Ilana doesn’t let this huge accomplishment or the praise that comes with it go to her head. For this environmental superhero, this is just the beginning. Future plans for activism include a blog that will educate and empower others to make environmentally-conscious decisions, involvement in a food waste reduction campaign on campus, and the eventual downfall of the single-use plastic straw. We look forward to following and learning from this student superstar and are honored to have her as a member of the farm family.