Student impacts campus one eco-brick at a time

Heidi Gasser, Reporter

Elyse Adrian has come to be known as an advocate for environmental sustainability at Bowling Green State University. 

Adrian, a political science major specializing in peace and conflict studies, is passionate about public service, with a narrowed focus on sustainability and community engagement through her work in Undergraduate Student Government. 

In the middle of her fall 2022 academic term, Adrian found herself stuck on the environmental issue of excessive plastic waste. 

“A lot of times people don’t understand all of the issues that current plastic recycling has. And so, we have extremely unrealistic expectations about the market surrounding single-use plastics. We think oh, we will just stop using single-use plastics, and it’s not that easy,” she said. 

Through her research, she came up with the idea of “eco-bricking:” a process that repurposes plastic bottles and smaller plastic waste to create a material that can be used to build something else. 

“You start with a [plastic] bottle. Normally, I use a 20 oz bottle. Like Coke, Dasani or any kind of water bottle. And you cut up plastics into small pieces so that they’re easy to manage,” Adrian said. “You fill it up about halfway with plastic, just loose in there, and then push it down.” 

USG offers senators like Adrian the opportunity to spearhead initiatives to create positive change on campus. Working with BGSU Dining, Campus Sustainability and the School of Art to collect plastics, Adrian held her first interactive eco-bricking workshop in February. 

Since the event, she has been working to support ongoing weekly events. 

“Every week I go over to Reed Street warehouse on Fridays and spend about two hours washing and drying plastics [for the workshop], and also doing upkeep on what kind of bottles I have, filled to what capacity,” she said. 

Adrian hopes that she can work with sculpture professors and art students to eventually turn the bricks into plant potters. 

USG Internal Affairs Chair Emily Gerome grew close with Adrian through a lobbying trip they attended through the Marvin Center last Spring and has watched her friend’s advocacy blossom through enthusiasm and determination. 

“She is definitely eager to jump on any project, which is exciting,” Gerome said. “They got involved in this eco-bricking thing early last semester. They did all of their own independent research because this wasn’t something that another office on campus or organization was already doing. This was something that Elyse wanted to do, all on her own.” 

Adrian turned her work into a project for the Center of Undergraduate Student Research, and she got accepted to speak on eco-bricking at this year’s TEDxBGSU event. 

There, Adrian shared her process, from conceptualization to execution, along with the obstacles she faced. Adrian said that one main setback in the project has been controlling the quality of the eco-bricks as more people get involved, as the weight must reach 0.33 grams per milliliter. 

“I am kind of hoping to expand the operation out a little more. The problem is quality control,” Adrian said. “Sometimes I have to deconstruct [the ecobricks] which is unfortunate because it doesn’t meet the critical weight that it needs to. But I have changed my workshop around to make it more educational about that.” 

Pre-nursing major Dakota Zerman, Adrian’s roommate, has been supportive through the ups and downs of Adrian’s project. She says that Adrian has inspired her, and four other roommates, to consider their own roles in sustainability. 

“I see Elyse as someone who could make big waves if they wanted to. I can’t emphasize enough how much I respect Elyse’s work ethic,” Zerman said. “It’s had a positive impact on honestly my entire suite, in terms of understanding sustainability on campus.” 

Adrian’s eco-bricking workshops will continue until the end of the semester on Wednesdays from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at Central Hall room 104.