With so few women holding key positions in business, power and politics not only in Cyprus but also worldwide, it is important for us to both learn from and celebrate the women who have made huge strides forwards in our local community.
Our Inspirational Women series puts the spotlight on these women among us: who they are and what they do; how they have dealt with challenges and what inspires them to move forward.
Today it is our pleasure to introduce Eleni Kazelas, Founder and Director of Let’s Make Cyprus Green – a fantastic local initiative making huge strides in spreading awareness to the public about the negative human impacts on the planet, particularly the harm done by excessive waste and the use of plastic. Let’s Make Cyprus Green (LMCG) is encouraging residents, as well as visitors of the island, to “go green” – a phrase that essentially means choosing to live an environmentally friendly lifestyle. This is done by through:
- Action – they organize frequent cleanup events;
- Education – in schools, offices, online, through various other awareness raising methods and;
- Prevention – by providing affordable, environmentally friendly products via their online shop [link]. The products go hand-in-hand with their mission of combating waste and also help to support the organization.
Eleni, what inspired you to found Let’s Make Cyprus Green and what were the main challenges you faced?
Throughout my life, I’ve always been involved in social and environmental issues. What really gave me the push to move forward with Let’s Make Cyprus Green is seeing my favorite Limassol beach (Paramali Beach) become polluted with waste. This is the beach my husband and I got married on, which also happens to be a turtle breeding beach. It seemed that every time we visited the area became worse. I’ve never been the type to sit back and wait for change, so the decision was made to take it upon ourselves and clean it. After a few hours of cleaning the beach we managed to collect 12 big bags of trash. We were extremely disappointed with our findings, but at the same time it made us feel really good to have cleaned our favorite beach.
After that cleanup we decided to host another cleanup at a different location (Lady’s Mile Beach) where we invited the local community to join us. We wanted to get other people involved to not only raise awareness about the severity of marine debris, but to also be able to pick up much more than just 12 bags of trash. When that day came we were presently surprised to see that 70 people from all over Cyprus came to help, and together we collected over 100 bags of trash. It was a very satisfying feeling of accomplishment.
Since starting the initiative, the biggest challenges have always a mix between trying to change a person’s mentality, and of course, the language barrier. Knowing the native language of the country you’re operating in is always beneficial – if this is something you don’t know, you tend to run into a lot of closed doors, many of which are extremely difficult to open.
Can you tell us more about your role at Let’s Make Cyprus Green and what initiatives you have led that you are most proud of?
I make the main decisions and manage the overall operations and resources of the organization.
It’s hard to pick one just initiative that I’m proudest of, but I can say that my two favorite accomplishments are 1. having collected 15,000 kg of waste from our many cleanup initiatives in less than two years. 2. Providing the island with various eco-friendly alternatives to everyday plastic products. It’s one thing to tell people to reduce your waste and the use of plastic, and it’s another to actually say it and provide them with alternatives.
Being a Director means there are no mentors to learn from. Who do you go to for advice?
I’ve been independent from a very young age, so I’ve gone through most of my life learning from my own mistakes and the mistakes of others. However, as the Let’s Make Cyprus Green team grows, I enjoy getting the input from my team before making certain decisions. I love to see what we come up with when we start to brainstorm together.
What have you learned about yourself since starting LMCG?
That if I push myself and commit to something I believe in, changes will be made, and these changes will have long-term, positive effects on the local community. But I’d have to say that working under Let’s Make Cyprus Green actually makes you learn more about other people rather than yourself.
If you could give one piece of advice to women aspiring to start their own initiative, what would it be?
You will face difficulties being a female founder – but don’t let it discourage you. Never be afraid of failure, or let someone come between you and your passion and what you believe in.
Can you talk about one woman who has impacted your life or inspired you on your journey?
My mother, she has always been a smart, strong, and independent woman. She is someone who worked tirelessly her entire life and always put other people’s needs before hers.
What are your future plans for LMCG?
To continue to push forward so big changes can be made. We want to see a shift in society – – people adopting new habits that will lead to environmentally friendly and ecologically responsible choices in their everyday lives.
My aim is to grow the NGO, Let’s Make Cyprus Green, and EkoNest, the company that supplies the organization with the products, so we can most importantly continue our actions, make a bigger impact, and to be able to employ and bring green jobs to Cyprus.
For more information on Let’s Make Cyprus Green, you can visit the website here.
Eleni Kazelas has been living in Cyprus since the age of 16. She was born in Detroit, Michigan, USA to a Greek Cypriot father from Famagusta and a mother from northern Greece. Eleni has a background in compliance and sustainability leadership, and although she has built a successful career working in the foreign exchange industry here in Cyprus, her true passion lies outside the corporate world and into the natural world as an environmental conservationist. Her strong beliefs in protecting the environment have led to the creation of the NGO, “LET’S MAKE CYPRUS GREEN”. The organization’s mission is to raise public awareness about the negative human impacts to the planet, with a focus on excessive waste and the use of plastic – – and the company, EKONEST, specializes in the development and distribution of eco-friendly products that help support the NGO activities.