While an undergraduate at University of North Carolina Wilmington, Carlo Zanelli attended a few campus recycling workshops as part of an environmental economics course.
“After the workshops, I thought, ‘I can do this,’” he said. “I started recycling at home and it just sort of grew. It wasn’t until I came to NC State that I saw there’s so much going on here related to sustainability.”
That’s why he applied to join the NC State Stewards, the university’s student sustainability leadership and ambassador program. As a Steward, he was part of a waste reduction initiative that replaced plastic bags with more sustainable paper bags in all campus dining and convenience store locations.
“For us as a student organization to have that kind of impact shows that sustainability can really make a difference,” he said.
Pursuing dual masters degrees in Economics and International Studies, Zanelli hopes to work in global development or as a foreign service officer after NC State. Already he’s spent a summer in Costa Rica, where he worked for two foundations, drafting a project proposal for an environmental research lab and conducting risk analysis for a new microenterprise loan program.
“Economics is not all about money. My interest is more in development, not necessarily in making money or maximizing profits,” he said.
On campus, Zanelli has been part of a youth development program called Juntos, which helps Latino teens succeed in high school, graduate on time and go to college. Zanelli coordinated Summer Academy, one of Juntos’ flagship programs that brings more than 100 Latino high school students in North Carolina to NC State to experience college for a week.
“The Latino community, especially in rural areas, is our primary concern,” he said. “Some of these first-generation college students may have never seen a college campus before.”
Under Zanelli’s leadership, this past summer’s academy was the first to incorporate environmental sustainability through workshops and various activities. At the week’s end, students presented on how they could advance sustainability when they returned home, such as starting compost collection in their high schools, taking shorter showers to save water and decreasing electricity use.
The students responded so well that Zanelli also integrated sustainability into Juntos’ other major programs, including a family day at NC State and a soccer tournament.
“We incorporated composting and helped educate students about that. It was awesome to see the students dividing up waste and at the end of the day showing other students how to compost,” Zanelli said. “We composted 60 pizza boxes and also recycled. We had only two partially-filled landfill bags from that whole event.”
During the spring semester Zanelli will once again take his studies global — this time in Peru as an economic and environmental policy intern with the U.S. Department of State.
“Sustainability has transformed me and my future goals,” he said. “Wherever I end up, I’ll carry sustainability with me.”