Meet Elana Jadallah
We recently sat down with Elana Jadallah, otherwise known as Elanaloo, for a Q&A. In the process, we learned more about the significance of the small but pivotal moments in life, sustainable living practices, and living a conscious life with purpose. We walked away feeling refreshed, inspired, and ready to help pioneer lasting change.
Interview & Words: Lily Day
Some days, I like to do morning walks across the beach with my coffee to scope the waves. While this is a ritual I cherish, once my bare feet make it onto the warm sand I dread what my eyes will inevitably find: plastic. Everywhere.
I have learned to avert my eyes on mornings where I have little time to spend on the beach. While it pains me to keep my gaze focused solely on the waves, if I allow myself to give in and look down at my feet I know what I’ll find. I always know what that little blue or red object is in my peripheral vision that sits in the sand, waiting to be picked up by the ocean and become an irreversible part of it. I pick up a few pieces and then force myself to bring up my eyes and look forward because I know that once I pick up one piece of plastic, my eyes find another, and then another a few inches away. And then on the walk to the garbage can, five more pieces. And then on my way to my car, ten more pieces. Pretty soon I’m stuffing it in my pockets. And when I finally make it into the water, how can I even enjoy the solace that the waves bring me if the trash I avert my eyes from on the beach floats beside me in the ocean that I love?
As I waddle down the hot cement after my session with plastic shoved in the crevices of my wetsuit, I wonder what will truly make a difference here. Is it more organized community beach cleanups? Is it increased awareness? Or is it shifting the mindset of the consumer in the very first place? Is it having the resources and knowledge to choose not to purchase something in the grocery store if it’s wrapped in plastic and thus, seeking out alternatives? My heart and my head tells me it’s the latter.
At the intersection between passion, purpose, and sustainability, meet photographer and environmental advocate Elana Jadallah—someone who is offering up the knowledge and resources to expand consciousness and enact change because “Together, we are powerful.”
“Start by counting every piece of plastic you touch in a day. Tally them up on a piece of paper and by the end of the day, I think you’ll be shocked. Find a reusable alternative for 3 of those things. Start there.”
Feeling the most alive isn’t just chasing thrill and the endlessly setting sun, but also living a purpose-driven life, a life connected to the earth in it’s rawest, most pure form. In respecting mother nature and ensuring that she survives, long after we are gone.
If you had to pick three words to describe yourself what would they be?
Grounded. Creative. Intuitive.
How do you perceive the word ‘influencer,’ is there a title that you better use to describe yourself in your professional work?
In my personal opinion, being an “influencer” isn’t a job title or a career path— it’s merely a byproduct of being a powerful voice or leader in areas of your expertise. I am a photographer, consultant and environmental advocate that uses whatever means necessary to expand consciousness and enact change. Most days, that is photography or storytelling. I believe we all have influence and we should be leaning into what our souls feel called to, into becoming really good at the things we love and at leading by example.
What would you say is the driving force behind your willingness to create?
To communicate the power and beauty in our lived human experiences. To communicate our interconnectedness. To create more beauty in this world.
Your work is based in passion, purpose, and sustainability. How do you create a “ripple effect” within your work? Do you believe that each individual action makes a difference or can lead to global change?
Mmm, thank you for acknowledging this. That means the world. I believe that even though individually we are only a drop in the vast ocean, that our one drop can create a massive ripple effect. My personal ripple effect looks like sharing my journey in sustainable living and business with my community both on and offline and educating both individuals and businesses how to create lasting changes.
Collectively, we are powerful. I know that individual action can create global change because our (collective) individual action is what got us to where we are now (both positively and negatively). We choose to uplift systems individually, we influence industry/businesses individually, we make choices and purchases individually, we vote individually. Once we educate ourselves on the deeper issues that are plaguing our planet and all life on it, we can make informed decisions in all areas of our lives.
“There are a lot of shocking truths and horrifying realities about our world but feeling wide awake and aware is empowering because it gives us the opportunity to care. To change. To speak. To vote.”
Can you tell us a little bit more about your shift towards sustainable living? Was there a key moment in your life when you realized you wanted to commit to a more sustainable lifestyle? If so, when and why?
It started one evening when I was walking the beach— the waves loud in my ears and the sand soft in my toes.
Blue flecks dotted the shoreline. Red, yellow and pink too. Soon it’s all I could see.
There were more colored flecks than there were seashells.
Plastic? On the beach? More than I could count or carry.
‘Where was it coming from?’ I thought.
That question changed my life.
The answer: everywhere.
Me. My choices. You. Your choices.
Corporations. And our support of them.
And that’s where it all started. That experience, and the many, many that followed began the process of my unraveling and rebuilding both personally and professionally. Of blowing my mind. Challenging the way I lived, the way we did business and the businesses we support. And ultimately, this experience cracked my mind wide open in the most beautiful of ways.
I didn’t know what ‘sustainable living’ entailed but after realizing that my daily actions were contributing to this much larger problem, I knew I had to find alternative ways of living. I started room by room in our house – first the kitchen, then the bathroom, laundry room and our closets. Ripple effect. It was a slow(ish) process but we’ve eliminated probably 80% of our household waste? We’ve reduced our environmental impact with our business, our travels and have learned how to continue when we do need to buy something. And also, it’s been an honor to guide thousands of others on this same journey. See what I mean about ripple effect?
There are a lot of shocking truths and horrifying realities about our world but feeling wide awake and aware is empowering because it gives us the opportunity to care. To change. To speak. To vote. To live out of intention, respect and admiration for our earth, all beings that inhabit it and the beautiful ecosystem we are a part of.
“I believe there are stages of awakening—awake, aware, activated.”
What are some tips that you might have for others to live and lead a more sustainable everyday life?
Start by counting every piece of plastic you touch in a day.
Tally them up on a piece of paper and by the end of the day, I think you’ll be shocked.
Find a reusable alternative for 3 of those things. Start there.
I believe there are stages of awakening—awake, aware, activated.
The first step is waking up to the overwhelming problems we are facing.
There will be a lot of emotions here—anger, frustration, denial, blaming, etc.
The second step is educating ourselves. Really leaning in here and diving deeper into the realities of plastic pollution, the false reality of our ‘recycling’ systems, the connection to climate change, food waste, learning individual, corporate and governmental solutions, etc.
I highly recommend these resources:
How To Give Up Plastic by Will McCallum
Give A Sh*t by Ashlee Piper
The third step is taking action in your own life, leading by example and engaging in discourse with others about the importance of why you’re doing what you’re doing.
How has choosing to create with intention shaped who you are today?
Intention is defined as: a mental state and commitment to carry out actions into the future.
A second definition: the healing process of a wound.
I think it was 2016 that I deemed the ‘year of intention’ and in hindsight, making that choice was the foundation of so much of my life today. This was the year that I started waking up to how much of our living was on autopilot & how destructive this was. I began turning over the stones in my life and pursuing a more intentional life—the way I ate, the toxic products in our home, where I shopped and what I was sharing with my online community.
Now, four years later, this practice is much deeper. Living out of intention vs repetition is healing a wound, it does include introspection and willingness to be honest with yourself on where your actions are out of alignment with your values. At first, it feels like an earthquake or a personal attack but eventually, it is so freeing and empowering.
“If there’s one thing that you take away from our interactions, I hope it’s how inextricably connected we are with one another and our surroundings on earth.”
Traveling is a huge part of your life. It seems like there might be some challenges in combining life as an ‘Influencer’ traveling the world with a sustainable lifestyle. How do you reduce your environmental impact while traveling? Do you have any tips to share with us about how to reduce our impact while traveling?
Again, beautiful question! Thank you. Here are some tips and there are more on my blog.
Don’t tag specific locations on social media! This is something I started closely analyzing a few years ago. It’s one thing if the tag is a place of business or well known National Park but we have seen firsthand how social media tagging can very negatively affect a place. Over the past five years, almost every lesser known place within the Hawaiian islands is now overrun with tourists snapping selfies, totally unaware of the sacredness of the place, and is littered with trash. It’s happening all over the world and is heartbreaking. Be mindful of the ripple effects of your actions. Keep things under wraps and let those who appreciate and respect nature find it on their own!
Learn to enjoy your piece of the world like a traveler.
Travel LESS but deeper, potentially longer & more intentionally.
Reduce & offset your carbon! If you fly, fly direct or with the least amount of stops & offset your flights through a reliable org like Cool Effect, Terrapass or if you’re a business and travel often, look into getting Climate Neutral Certified. When you arrive, use public transit (if possible) to reduce your carbon creation.
Avoid plastic/excessive waste by bringing waste-free tools: reusable shopping bags, coffee mug, straws, and water bottles (we love our LARQ bottles – we can sterilize our water with a click of a button even in countries where the water is not safe to drink!)
Only partake in experiences that are benefiting the local people, animals and ecosystems. Consider the ripple effects beyond the pretty photos that are drawing us in! A lot of animal tourism is unethical, so if you DO want to see & encounter animals, research any activities involving them thoroughly before committing. Avoid anything that allows you to TOUCH or RIDE animals, disturbs their natural patterns or that involve swarms of people. Consider visiting reef restoration projects, organic farms, rehabilitation centers, etc. & volunteering instead!
Book sustainably built eco-lodging & innovative resorts/airbnbs. The more demand there is for environmentally conscious accommodations, the more we influence other properties to change!
Support local people. Booking directly means the operator/business is making most or all of the money you pay. Avoid mass-produced souvenirs (they’re often made in factories with terrible conditions) & instead purchase something unique directly from the maker.
Eat locally sourced food. Many of the places import 50-90% of their food & most resorts don’t support local farmers. We love to visit roadside stands and local markets when we travel. Ask the origin of the items you are buying & consider eating more plant-based!
As a creative and storyteller, what is the message you wish to amplify most with those around you?
If there’s one thing that you take away from our interactions, I hope it’s how inextricably connected we are with one another and our surroundings on earth. Yes, because we are connected right here in this moment as you read my words but more so in the fact that each action we take has a reaction—whether it’s right in front of us or across the world. There is no “away” to throw things, our choices are impacting the earth and the beings on it every single day, our ignorance is not bliss and we all have a role to play. We have the power to make it a positive one, not a negative one.
How has living on the Big Island of Hawaii, surrounded by the ocean, shaped the way you perceive community and the world around you? Has living near the ocean shaped your ambitious ecological stance?
In every way possible. Living here in this sacred place has stripped me down to my core and taught me more than I could express. Having a front row seat to our coral reefs dying, plastic swirling around in the sea as children play in it, learning that 90% of our food is shipped in from around the world when we could be completely self-sustaining… all of these realities WOKE ME UP. We have to look below the surface of ‘paradise.’ I am convicted and through living on the ecosystem that is this island, have learned innovative and traditional solutions to this convenient, numbed out existence we’ve created. My gratitude for Hawai’i island runs deep.
“Social media is what you make it. I highly suggest auditing who you are following because this absolutely shapes the way we perceive and participate in the world.”
How has Instagram and social media in general impacted your professional career?
Participating in an online community of creatives, networking in this digital age and sharing my portfolio in a single scroll has changed my life—personally and professionally. It’s brought opportunities into my career, my travels and my friendships that I never would have dreamed of and more recently, through social media, I have learned HOW to participate in the regenerative future I want to see for our world.
Social media is what you make it. I highly suggest auditing who you are following because this absolutely shapes the way we perceive and participate in the world. Follow people who inspire you, who have a different perspective than you, who share your common interests so you can learn about things that interest you (i.e. environmentalism, sustainable living, gardening, cooking, etc) through a different lens. Leave the echo chamber that is just your friends and family and ‘influencers’ that make you feel like you’re not enough.
As a lifelong student, I like to surround myself with people who are more educated and emotionally intelligent than I am. This practice constantly brings ‘aha-moments’ into my life and calls me deeper.