Share Your Sustainability Story

'I Believe' series seeks Duke community members for audio project

Tawnee Milko's life-changing exposure to sustainability came as a spontaneous choice during her sophomore year at Michigan's Oakland University.

She chose to spend her 2007 summer break volunteering with ecological restoration projects in the New Zealand rain forest. She left behind her computer and cell phone and found that being disconnected from daily conveniences helped her better connect with the world around her.

Milko, a graduate student at the Nicholas School of the Environment, offered her thoughts on sustainability for Duke's "I Believe" series, a collection of short audio essays from Duke community members sharing their convictions about making Duke and the world more sustainable. Any student, employee or alumni is welcome to participate by emailing

Tawnee Milko

Listen to Tawnee Milko's story here.

"Living sustainably - we found - was not a sacrifice," Milko explained in her audio essay for Sustainable Duke. "Rather, we discovered a curious parallel. Possessing less somehow breathed more into our existence - more life, more energy, more creativity."

Audio essays for Duke's "I Believe" are in the vein of the original "This I Believe" series, a radio program hosted by Edward Murrow who interviewed Americans from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds and experiences

"Everybody has a story and I think everyone can make a unique contribution," Milko said. "I hope that our stories and beliefs help build a stronger sustainable community at Duke."

To participate, Duke community members can record personal essays of up to 300 to 500 words (about three minutes when read aloud) and email those audio recordings to working@duke. edu. Participants may also submit a written essay of up to 500 words. Participants are encouraged to keep recordings and essays specific and use the first person in describing sustainability beliefs and how they were formed, honed or challenged.

For Steve Hinkle , that's practicing "creation care," an idea of humans nurturing the earth rather than trying to dominate it. In his audio essay, Hinkle describes his understanding of creation care growing up in Brevard, N.C.

Steve Hinkle

Listen to Steve Hinkle's story here.

"My ideas of sustainability aren't just about saving the earth, but making sure we care for what we already have," said Hinkle, a chaplain with Duke Chapel's InterVarsity  graduate and faculty ministries. "Like me, the more people share their stories, the more people will be able to connect to and appreciate the idea of living sustainably."

Tavey Capps, Duke's sustainability director, said the "I Believe" series is a fun, new component of Duke's efforts to become carbon neutral by 2024. She noted that finding motivation for sustainable behaviors is often stronger when coming from peers.

"Our hope is that by listening to the personal stories, students, faculty and staff can find a new aspect of sustainability to relate to," Capps said. "We want to inspire others and show that there are lots of personal stories worth sharing."

Audio essays are available to hear at Sustainable Duke.