NAU Graduate Pip Franke: Inspiring change, one plastic bag at a time

Pip Franke

“When I was very young, I had lots of fantastical dreams,” NAU graduate Pip Franke said. “The first thing I ever wanted to be was a cowboy. Sadly, when I realized this was not a realistic dream, I chose something much more reasonable—an astronaut, of course!”

As Franke grew, so did his interests. Once he got to Northern Arizona University, he decided to trade in his dreams of shootouts and moon landings for student government and virtual reality. Franke, who is graduating with a degree in strategic communications with an emphasis in advertising, has been heavily involved in the Associated Students of Northern Arizona (ASNAU) and NAU Esports. It was during his time at ASNAU that he decided to focus more on a different interest—sustainability.

“Sustainability is something I have always had a passion for, ever since I was little,” Franke said. “I think it’s important for people to realize that there are many small ways to help lessen their carbon footprint.”

One of those ways is by recycling plastic bags. Franke learned that plastic bags kill more than 100,000 sea animals every year, and Americans are using 100 billion plastic bags in that same timeframe with only 1 percent being recycled.

“I wanted to do something to help incite a change in this statistic. Many people keep their plastic bags, and some even know that they can recycle them, yet so few people do.”

During the fall 2019 semester, Franke teamed up with ASNAU’s sustainability coordinator, Paige Strickland, to create a plastic bag recycling program. The idea was to host an event where students, faculty and staff could turn in their plastic bags to be recycled and receive reusable bags in exchange.

Plastic bag recycling program“We made dozens of reusable bags out of up-cycled T-shirts, gathered reusable straws and created handouts on Flagstaff recycling—all of which would be given out to visitors who recycled bags at our event.”

Franke’s knack for graphic design allowed him to create and display posters and digital signage around campus advertising the event. Through his advocacy, he and Strickland partnered with one of the Residence Hall Associations whose organization could use the plastic bags collected from the event to weave inexpensive, lightweight sleeping mats for people who are homeless.

The result was ASNAU’s most attended event created by an individual. More than 200 students, faculty, staff and members of the Flagstaff community attended, recycling more than 1,500 plastic bags.

“I could not have been prouder,” Franke said. “Sustainability is something I hold near and dear to my heart. Showing people how easy it is to make a difference, educating them on the importance of recycling and providing them with the resources needed to make a difference is something I will always remember.”AML Opening

Outside of his work for ASNAU, Franke also was involved in the creation of the Advanced Media Lab and NAU Esports. He and other officers advocated for a space, located inside the School of Communication, outfitted with the technology needed for students interested in Esports broadcasting to gain hands-on experience while NAU Esports players could practice on best computers for virtual reality.

After graduation, Franke hopes to work as a graphic designer in Esports or sustainability.

Northern Arizona University LogoMcKenzie McLoughlin | NAU Communications
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NAU Communications