At the top of our Christmas wishlist, and second only to our wish that the Greek government outright bans single use plastic, is for citizens to take personal responsibility for trash. You will say angrily, but it is the municipality's job to do this! To this we respond:
1) YES IT IS! DEMAND that your municipality does its job well. VOTE, LOBBY, BE PART OF THE SOLUTION. Complaining with no action will get you nothing. Don't just complain on Facebook or at your local cafe to your friends, take your complaints to your municipality and to your politicians.
2) PICK IT UP. The very act of picking up trash you may happen to come across as you walk on a beach or in a park shows your DEFIANCE of the status quo. You are better and you want to be part of a society that is better. If everyone did this, our society WOULD be better.
3) IT IS A WAY OF LIFE. A "clean up" does not necessarily have to consist of 100 people who have organised for days to meet at a specific place, nor is it just something you do a single day a year. It is an attitude. It is the feeling that you are part of a bigger whole and it is ok to bend down and pick up someone else's trash. It is not beneath your dignity, indeed it makes you, and the society you are part of, better.
Take a look at what this woman on Kos does on many days when she walks her dogs on the beach. She is one of many Nameless Plastic Heroes of Greece and we thank her!!!
We always come across amazing efforts! The Loutraki Dive Club (follow them on Facebook) is a volunteer group with a mission to protect of aquatic ecosystems and marine animals while increasing interest in aquatic tourism and scuba diving along Greek costal areas.
Nikos Baourakis, the President of the Club says: "The members of the group have systematically initiated sea floor cleaning and shore cleaning activities since August 2013 and to date we have recorded 120 clean up efforts, 870 member participations. Loutraki Dive Club has collected over 30064 kg or 28341 pieces of human pollution from the sea floor in total! Our initiative is to continue with our efforts and to intensify over time with more participation from both local and official organizations with a ecological, green agenda. Creating awareness to the issues of marine pollution so as to have more people sensitized to the magnitude of the problem that faces our oceans today. Positive impacts can result from greater awareness and appreciation of the natural world and our goal is to leave behind a cleaner marine ecosystem for future generations. Through the promotion of our actions, we aim to sensitize as many of our fellow citizens as possible so that they may also participate alongside us or organize their own clean up of coastal areas, seashores, streams etc. With this determined effort, we are hopeful for a better tomorrow for us, our children and all of humanity."
We would like to thank Ms Maria Sourgiadaki, a teacher at the 1st Vocational High School in Ierapetra, Crete who has shown A PLASTIC OCEAN to all her classes. After watching the documentary, some of her students decided to take action by making multi-use tote bags from old fabrics. You can see them below in action. Other students will be making a little advert explaining the harms of plastic which they will show to their entire school, and still others are busy making posters against plastic pollution.
Ms Sourgiadaki says: "The discussions after watching the documentary are very interesting, particularly the ones with the older teenagers. At first, they don't want to accept the problem. When provided with the hard facts about plastic pollution, and specific proposals for how to lead a less wasteful life, they are willing to listen and see the problem from a broader perspective, not just through their own personal experience / convenience. We, as teachers, parents and adults, need to constantly be giving the younger generation the right example. Change will happen. I don't expect my students to change their habits right away, but over time, and with constant reminders, they will".
We are so thankful for teachers like these!
As Plastic Free Greece grows, we come across noteworthy efforts against plastic pollution in many parts of Greece and we would like to highlight the efforts that are being made in Corfu by Xenia Tombrou (follow her on Facebook). This past November, Xenia, a university student currently studying in Holland and originally from Corfu, organised a brainstorming event for a group of fellow students, members of the Corfiot community and the municipality, to see how they can improve the current waste management system of Corfu. They did their due diligence - they followed the garbage trucks on their routes around the island, the visited the landfill and the recycling plant, and they inspected the number and condition of garbage bins around the island. These are their findings and their top takeaway points. We think that the problems that afflict Corfu are similar to those faced by many other parts of Greece.
If you live in Corfu, please do reach out to Xenia. Her next campaign will be to educate Corfiots on how to sort their trash in recycling bins (a big problem is the sorting of trash - there is a lack of education on how to sort trash for recycling). There are many beach clean up efforts all around the island every spring and summer. Reach out, and get involved!
After the students of the 9th Elementary School of Evosmos watched "A Plastic Ocean" their teacher, Mr. George Voudouris, asked them to draw something they had learned from watching the documentary. As you can see, the elementary school students understood the implications of plastic pollution perfectly well:
1) In the first drawing the sea is plagued with single-use plastic - single-use plastic bags, plastic coffee take away cups with plastic straws, cigarette butts AND a Coca-Cola plastic bottle (the BBC reported yesterday that of the 480BN plastic bottles produced in 2016, 110bn were produced by Coca-Cola).
2) In the second drawing we see a fish eating plastic bags. Two recent videos show the consequences to sea animals which confuse plastic trash with food (please note the images are very disturbing): (a) the Mahi Mahi caught in Costa Rica with many many plastic lids and plastic trash in its stomach, (b) the mother whale mourning the death of her calf, poisoned by her own toxic milk.
3) In the third drawing, a fish is surrounded by plastic bottles - plastic bottles are one of the most common types of marine debris.
Thank you to Mr. George Voudouris for taking the time to teach his students such important lessons. Respect for nature should form the very foundation of our society.
We are delighted to share with you more details about the screening of A Plastic Ocean that took place on December 7th at the Europe Direct Office of Komotini, in northern Greece. Sofia Papadopoulou reached out to us to organise the event. After the screening she led the audience in a discussion of what they each could do to reduce plastic pollution. Ms Papadopoulou brought a multi-use tote, a reusable bottle and a stainless steel straw to show some simple solutions for a less wasteful lifestyle. She was surprised to see that many in the audience were not aware of how widespread the plastic pollution problem is.
It is of paramount importance to educate people about the harm of plastic pollution. Very few people would knowingly, or purposefully, throw away their garbage irresponsibly if they were fully aware of the consequences. Let's continue to spread the word. It would be amazing for mainstream TV in Greece to air such documentaries such as "A Plastic Ocean" to educate people of all ages.
THANK YOU for your efforts Ms Papadopoulou!
One amazing teacher, Mr. Kostas Sigoulakis, showed A PLASTIC OCEAN to all THREE of the schools he teaches at in Mani (Gytheio, Areopoli and Krokees). A total of 8 classes ranging from 6th grade through to 12th grade saw the documentary.
The screenings were followed by long discussions about plastic pollution - every age group showed to be highly concerned. We, at Plastic Free Greece, urge that all screenings are followed by an activity that helps to reduce plastic pollution, and we make suggestions such as the adoption of a zero-waste day, a conscious re-evaluation of one's habits, an appeal to local bars / restaurants to reduce plastic waste, etc. In this particular case, the students decided to organise a series of beach clean ups on Sunday mornings. The first beach clean up took place this past Sunday, December 3rd, on Gytheio Beach. The beach unfortunately looked like many untended beaches do all over Greece - lots of washed up plastic bottles, plastic lids, plastic bags, a few glass bottles.
THANK YOU for so enthusiastically embracing this cause and making all your students feel part of the solution. Cleaning up beaches is one definite way to reduce plastic waste from entering our oceans and leading by example is the best way to transmit this message to the broader community.
A group of school girls in Galaxidi meets after school on a weekly basis to learn how to sew under the guidance of Ms. Manoloudi and Ms. Stone, two community leaders of the town. But this is no simple sewing class, it has a purpose! They call it the "We Save our Seas" project. The girls make canvas tote bags and they hand them out for free to people in the village to replace single use plastic bags! Each bag is first painted and then sewn together - the bags are veritable works of art!
These are the new Plastic Warriors! We are so proud of them!
Here is an unfortunate example of a good product (organic fruits and vegetables) sold in excessive plastic packaging on Greek supermarket shelves. Organic produce in Greece needs to be either (1) packaged to be "protected" from the toxic chemicals of non-organic produce all the way from the producer through to the supermarket shelf or (2) all points along the sales channel need to be certified organic...the result is that you end up selling organic bananas in plastic bags, organic pears / apples / avocados on styrofoam trays, wrapped in plastic, and pineapples / oranges in plastic nets (which offer dubious protection). How is this possibly good? All these fruits and vegetables already come in their very own packaging - a 100% biodegradable peel. Perhaps the law and definitely the choice of packaging material need to be revisited.
We recommend you DO NOT BUY ORGANIC PRODUCTS (AND DEFINITELY DO NOT BUY NON-ORGANIC PRODUCTS) THAT ARE WRAPPED IN THIS MANNER and prefer to buy them from organic shops (where organic produce is sold without packaging) or at an organic open air market, or laiki, (as long as you bring your own basket / tote bag and don't accept the plastic bags that vendors hand out there). Tell your local supermarket why you are not shopping organic produce from them so they can lobby the government to rethink this wasteful law and lobby producers to rethink their packaging (for example, replace the plastic with recycled cardboard boxes or compostable packaging solutions). We are following activist Anita Horan, who started her #PlasticFreeProduce campaign in Australia with great success and we look forward to do the same in Greece.