Student wastes no time in conservation efforts

Adela Talbot // Western News

Earth Sciences MSc student Jordan Hawkswell is the founder and a co-director of Zero Waste Forest City. The organization is a hub for the growing zero waste community in London offering workshops, film screenings, an art hive, a zero-waste retail space and even a community built “2050 Ocean” installation.

Jordan Hawkswell grew up close to the Great Lakes. She spent summers attending and working at camps, leading canoe expeditions throughout northern Ontario. While living in Halifax during her undergraduate days, she became “enchanted by the sea.” It nurtured her love of nature alongside her growing interest in environmental issues and waterway health. She grew to be more and more environmentally conscious in her behaviours.

Then, she moved to the Forest City.

“All these cities had compost programs. But when I got here it was a ‘Nope.’ I was like, ‘Wait a minute, what giant city doesn’t do this?’” the Earth Sciences MSc student asked.

“I was living in a basement apartment and had no way to compost on the property I was on. But it was ‘the thing’ I did that was environmentally friendly. So, I re-evaluated my waste use.”

This gap in her new home’s environmentally conscious initiatives has led to a grassroots movement across the city focused on a different way of living. And it all started when she decided to focus on her own efforts.

Hawkswell moved out of the basement apartment and into a new place; she continued composting. In an attempt to spread awareness and inspire others, Hawkswell started to share what and how she was doing so on social media.

“I started an Instagram page called Zero Waste Forest City. For about a year, as I started school and made my way around London, I posted what I was doing to minimize waste on this page. It grew slowly because I was super awkward and didn’t know how to navigate social media,” she laughed.

Today, that page has evolved into a community group working to make a low-impact lifestyle more appealing to London residents through advocacy, educational opportunities, community partnerships and accessible resources. The group hopes to inform Londoners about Earth-conscious choices and lifestyle options with the goal of collectively making the community a healthier, more sustainable place to live.

With the help of members and resources from the London Environmental Network, Zero Waste Forest City moved forward with a more proactive approach to sustainability, running workshops, putting on and attending events and speaking at local schools.

The city recognized their efforts earlier this year with a London Neighbourhood Decision Making Grant which ultimately funded Reimagine Waste Co., a project launched in the old Novak’s building on King Street this summer.

The project is a zero-waste demonstration space that has served as a hub for the growing zero waste community in London since the summer with workshops, film screenings, an art hive, a zero-waste retail space and even a community built 2050 Ocean installation led by Hawkswell and Shannon Hawke, co-director of Zero Waste Forest City.

“Shannon and I have a deep connection with water and oceans. We were trying to figure out how we can bring the ocean to London a little bit – even just to start the conversation of what our oceans and lakes are going to look like (in 2050),” Hawkswell said. “The Great Lakes are close, but people are disconnected with how our actions affect the health of waterways and how they affect us.”

Hawke often imagines what it would be like to swim with plastic floating above her.

This sparked an idea – people could bring in their plastic waste, string it together and hang it from the ceiling. Together, the community could build an installation of plastic waste that visitors would have to navigate their way through.

“They can see their plastic waste and how that, with everyone else’s plastic together, is so big. I was tangled in it while installing it, thinking sea creatures get tangled in it in the water. We wanted to bring the ocean here and start the conversation,” Hawke explained.

Hawkswell continued, “This is all about providing information about what people can do. It is about individual action. Hopefully, as the collective begins to care and know more, it will begin to trickle up into businesses and governments.”