April 10, 2020

Sustainable Student-Athletes: Natalia Falkowski


Natalia Falkowski is a senior on the fencing team. She is studying finance and international business and has a passion for sustainability. Falkowski has been a pivotal leader for getting the fencing program involved in zero waste. She has inspired her teammates, coaches and surrounding peers to live more sustainably. Falkowski hopes that she can pass off the “green sword” to one of her teammates after she graduates to pursue more environmental practices within their team.

Ohio State Buckeyes

Sustainability takes on many definitions and meanings. Can you tell us what the term sustainability means to you?

To me, sustainability is about protecting and preserving our environment. Currently, the natural environment is facing a lot of threats and the negative effects of climate change become fiercer every day. Human behavior has a great impact on climate change and sustainability efforts attempt to allow humans to live as harmoniously with the environment as possible. All of Earth’s ecosystems have their own processes and they naturally interact and balance with one another. When human activity disturbs even one ecosystem, it has a ripple effect. In order to preserve the marvel that is the natural environment, efforts have to be made by each person to live sustainably. Simply put, sustainability is protecting the environment, as is, for future generations to love and utilize as much as our generation does.


What was your experience like planning Zero Waste events for fencing?

Very inspiring. I was first exposed to zero waste when I volunteered to help with one of the Ohio State synchronized swimming team’s Zero Waste events. I met some of the people that make zero waste possible at Ohio State, especially Graham Oberly, who is the sustainability coordinator for Ohio State Athletics. I was able to learn about the Zero Waste Initiative, how it worked, how well fans responded and the difference it made. At the end of the event, I spoke with Graham about how we could bring this to fencing. Once we had the support from my coaches, we focused on the many logistics that this event entailed. It was incredibly cool to see how supportive my coaches and teammates were. Once we completed the first event, we found it much easier to plan the second. Now, fencing has committed to making all home competitions Zero Waste events. We also have brought recycling and compost to our home gym, as well as sustainable dining materials. I have loved to see how one sustainable effort or event has a chain reaction of inspiring other positive changes.

What was the hardest part of the process?

Some of the biggest challenges we faced were the event logistics. There was a lot of coordination between my coaches, the sustainability team, volunteers and facilities staff that all had to fall into place. We also had to make sure that our team’s budget was able to support this event. I am very grateful that OSU Athletics values sustainability efforts and we were able to financially support this event. It was definitely a long planning process for the first event, with a bit of a learning curve, but our success has shown that it is all possible and worth the hard work!


Why are you passionate about sustainability?

I believe that my passion for sustainability comes from growing up on a farm with a very environmentally conscious family. I’ve always felt extremely connected to nature and understand the endless benefits of preserving it. I was lucky enough to study environmental science abroad in Australia through Ohio State’s Human Impacts on the Natural Environment program during my sophomore year. I traveled around through different ecosystems and learned the importance of humans living sustainably. I also love to travel and hope I get to experience first-hand all of Earth’s natural beauty. In order for myself, and future generations, to do so, we have to prioritize environmental protection now.


What do you do to live sustainably?

For me, sustainable living includes recycling, limiting animal agriculture, using renewable resources, limiting fast fashion and purchasing goods that were made sustainably. I believe the key to living sustainability is education and access to information. In order to make environmentally conscious decisions, you must first be educated on the environmental impacts of your actions. It’s essential to become informed on all the businesses and practices you support through your buying decisions.


Are there any challenges you face in your daily routine?

I would say one challenge has been living sustainably as a college student. For example, many apartment complexes off-campus don’t have recycling bins, so I have always had to carry out my recycling. It’s also a bit harder to use sustainable products consistently. For these types of challenges, it’s important to show that the demand for sustainable products is there by pushing for more sustainable practices. 

Ohio State Buckeyes

What do you hope to see for Ohio State’s future in sustainability?

I’m extremely excited to see how Ohio State continues to innovate and become more and more sustainable. Throughout my time on campus, I have seen so many sustainable events and organizations popping up. I think it’d be really cool to see Ohio State truly unify their sustainability efforts. If every student was well aware of Ohio State’s sustainable goals and commitment, I think everyone would be more than happy to do their part.


What do you plan to do after graduation?

I am graduating in May and will begin working in risk management finance for MUFG in New York City. Although I’m extremely excited to begin my career, I will really miss Ohio State. I can’t wait to see great things to come for the fencing team, both sustainably and athletically!


Is there anything else you’d like to add about your experience at Ohio State?

Ohio State has endless opportunities. It’s amazing how you are able to truly make your college experience into whatever you want it to be. With any interest or passion, it’s easy to find like-minded people who are willing to work with you towards accomplishing your goals. As I mentioned, the support I have received from athletics towards these sustainable events was overwhelming. Ohio State has an incredible sense of community and I am eternally grateful for my time on campus.