This year Earth’s Day has been organised around the theme Invest in our planet, which highlights the importance of dedicating our time, resources and energy to solving climate change and other environmental issues.
There are many ways to invest in our planet and the dedicated website EARTHDAY.org mentions four of them: planting trees, reducing plastic consumption, participating in advocacy, voting for Earth (which underlines the importance of policymakers and regulators and our rights as citizens) and supporting a sustainable fashion.
Plastic pollution is probably one of the most important environmental problems that we face today, one that we see every day, in our homes and in our cities. One that we have all contributed to, even if unknowingly and now we must work to reduce and ultimately end plastic pollution.
Another important topic, often underestimated is the fact that fast fashion has completely revolutionised the apparel industry, but not for the better. Indeed, the fashion industry produces 150 billion garments a year and 87 per cent end up in a landfill where they smoulder and pollute the air or an incinerator. Only 1 per cent of all discarded clothing is actually recycled. Fashion is one of the most polluting of all industries, responsible for 4 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions, to make a comparison, it is the same as countries like Germany, France and the UK combined. Unchecked, fashion production will account for 26 per cent of all carbon emissions by 2050.
CEE countries involve students and children
But to make those changes, better climate literacy is needed and I am happy to see that most of the projects and events organised today (or in the past week leading to Earth Day) in Central and Eastern Europe are actually revolving around schools, universities e involving children and students.
For example, in Poland, the association Odjazdo said to want to teach children to care for Mother Nature, including them in activities for the Earth, activities that can often be contrary to social customs and habits. Throughout the past week, they educated children to collect garbage, carrying out activities together with them to inform communities, families and residents of Warsaw that a small effort is enough to have a real impact on change. They also organised charity fairs for homeless and sick animals from shelters and social campaigns about insects.
In Czechia, one of the projects aims to paint reusable cotton bags with students to teach them how important responsible shopping is.
In Slovakia, Earth Day at the Zdenko Turković Elementary School will be marked by a lecture on environmental protection and recycling of waste and after that fun recycling games for children. Then a cleaning tour will start.
Or, another primary school in Slovakia is organising an Eco fair. Students and teachers participated in upcycling workshops in March so that they could present their work to their peers, parents and the local community at the fair. The students were taught about the importance of upcycling in order to reuse old things that would otherwise become garbage and give them a new life thus protecting our planet. Students are going to offer the upcycled items at the fair and from the donations, the school is going to buy new waste separation bins.
In Romania, another activity has the main goal of empowering students and involving them in decision-making issues related to the environment, by making the spaces in the schoolyard and the surroundings green; teaching about selective waste collection; and taking care of the trees planted by the students.
Timișoara: European Capital of Culture 2023 and a green dreamer
Also, municipalities are quite active, like the one in Annapolis, Greece, where individuals and organisations are encouraged to plant and maintain flower and vegetable gardens in public spaces throughout the city. The municipality will provide plant materials, mulch, trash bags and gloves.
Finally, what is Timișoara doing as the current European Capital of Culture 2023? The goal of the city is to become a green city by demonstrating the benefits of 100 per cent electric public and private transportation in the historical downtown area. Participants from all over Romania will come with their electric cars to Timișoara for a one-hour trip around the historic downtown area, simulating a future without noise and pollution. Participants also will offer rides to local elected officials and citizens interested in the experience of a quiet and clean-air city.