How we help others care for the environment

Sophia cleans up the environment

Imagine two worlds. The first world is clean and tidy, there is no garbage on the roads and nobody needs to be taught what is right or wrong. In this world, people have already switched to renewable energy sources, because they understand the importance of preserving nature – in short, harmony between man and nature reigns in this world. Meanwhile, in the second world, garbage, disorder and poverty are everywhere you look – there are no rules for dealing with nature, and no one even cares about cleanliness in the yard of their own home.

Which world would you choose to live in? The first one, of course, because we all want to live in a perfect world. Unfortunately, not everyone understands that the ideal world does not create itself and that there is nobody who will create it for us. This is because at the moment very few people understand how important the environment in which we live is for us, how serious environmental problems are and how much nature needs our help. Few of us are environmentally conscious.

During UPSHIFT, a UNICEF-run program to empower young people, our team came together in order to create a project that would start a process of positive change for the local environment in our city of Kropyvnytskyi, In Ukraine. We hoped to have an impact on the lives of local residents and, most importantly, in their consciousness. We set the goal of attracting more people to an ecological lifestyle. This is how our youth initiative – the Green Line project – was born.

Despite global goals and a sincere desire to do something impactful, our team understood that we were not able to tackle the big environmental problems by ourselves, but that significant progress could be achieved gradually, starting with small steps. We asked ourselves: "What problem exists in our city, the solution to which could pave the way for great change?" We soon realized that one such problem is the pollution of Kropyvnytskyi with household waste.

So, our team decided to do the following:

  • Offer training to people in the form of lectures and discussions about ecological topics. These include how to lead an ecological lifestyle and information about sorting and recycling. We welcome children, youth and older people to the sessions, which have a pleasant and friendly atmosphere. During team games, we help participants to reveal their leadership potential. Of course, such meetings are not complete without hot tea and cookies.
  • Post videos and other content on social networks about why people should replace plastic bottles with reusable ones, why it is important to avoid "emotional shopping", information about Ukrainian brands that care about the environment, and much more. Through social networks, we are trying to attract the attention of socially active young people to environmental problems and promote an ecological lifestyle as a new trend.
  • Clean up natural areas in our city, disposing of garbage and encouraging others to do the same. We also do something we call ‘plogging’ – a slow run while picking up garbage along the way. This has the added benefit of being good for your health and wellbeing.
  • Offer workshops, such as "Weaving eco-bags" and "Painting shoppers", where we teach children and young people to create eco-friendly and safe things with which they can replace plastic bags.

"The most difficult thing is to start acting, everything else depends only on persistence,” said the American aviator and writer Amelia Earhart. Indeed, we began to implement this project without any experience. At first, it was difficult, since we didn't know a lot and had to learn it by ourselves. There were only five people at our first event, but gradually numbers began to grow. We are pleased to see that many people are now happy to attend our clean-ups, workshops and training sessions – this means that our project is already changing people's lives.

We hope to continue our activities even after the end of the project, because who knows – maybe one day we will create the perfect world!

- Sofiya, 17, from Kropyvnytskyi, Ukraine

Sofia tells schoolchildren about the importance of caring for the environment
Sofia tells schoolchildren about the importance of caring for the environment
Sofia and her team
Sofia and her team