Today it is fashionable to have a canvas bag instead of a plastic bag. However, this was not the case in 1998. In the early years of democracy, the cloth bag was old-fashioned – a remnant of the past that people are trying to turn their backs on. A group of ecologists in Varna is trying to overcome all these prejudices. The first action against plastic bags was carried out by the Public Center for Environment and Sustainable Development on November 21, 1998 in front of the six large supermarkets in the city. The largest daily in Varna at the time, Narodno Delo, followed the action in front of the Macau and Polar Bear stores, and on Monday it published a leading headline on its front page, “Varna residents received an ecology lesson in … a shopping bag.” Volunteers of the organization distributed 450 canvas shopping bags, 450 T-shirts and a dozen educational brochures on two consecutive Saturdays. The actions are part of a large-scale campaign to reduce household waste, funded by the Dutch MilieuKontakt Foundation, the Regional Environmental Center for Central and Eastern Europe and the Municipality of Varna. The first advertising billboard in our country with ecological content is placed within it. In the center of Varna, an innovative for that time advertisement “Far from the eyes, far from the mind!” Appeared against the background of an overflowing container with household waste. The aim was to provoke Varna residents to look at the waste they throw away every day. However, the campaign did not end with visual provocations. Environmentalists from the newly formed association organized a “Christmas cleaning” campaign, or as some newspapers called it at the time, “Garbage Plums.” A specially organized truck with volunteers travelled around Varna for three days and collected paper waste and glass packaging from the applied households and companies. This was practically the first attempt at separate waste collection in the sea capital.

As part of the project, a brochure with seven steps to reduce the flow of household waste was published. Here are some of them, very relevant today: 1. Prefer unpackaged products or those with packaging made of recycled or recyclable material; 2. Although they are comfortable, avoid diapers, use reusables  diapers for your baby; 3. At home or at work, use ceramic cups, saucers, spoons instead of plastic; 4. If possible, use both sides of a sheet of paper; 5. Do not buy disposable goods; 6. Do not dispose of obsolete or repairable appliances; Old, but healthy, clothes can be donated to an orphanage or other needy; 7 Read product labels carefully to find out what you are buying and what the potential dangers of the product are.

At the same time, the Public Center for Environment and Sustainable Development publishes the brochure “Seven Steps to Sustainable Living”, and the organization’s office opens its doors to the general public as an information and resource center for environmental information. Here at that time Varna residents had access to the Internet and a library with environmental information. At the same time, newly established NGOs could receive advice on writing their projects.

Another important environmental event for Varna was organized in 1998 by the Public Center for Environment and Sustainable Development. This was the week of the ecological film “Ecovision” in the Palace of Culture and Sports. This was practically the first ecological film festival in our sea capital.

In 1998 the first application for the creation of bicycle lanes in Varna was submitted. On the occasion of Earth Day – April 22, the Public Center for Environment and Sustainable Development organized a bicycle procession along the central boulevards of Varna. The other focus of this day is the landscaping of the inter-block spaces, so relevant today. Volunteers of the organization planted saplings in the neighborhoods “Mladost” and “Levski”.

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Improving public knowledge about the role of Civil Society Organizations

The project “Improving public knowledge about the role of Civil Society Organizations” shall be implemented with the financial support of Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway under the EEA Financial Mechanism. The main goal of the project is to improve citizens’ awareness of the role of non-governmental organizations in society. This material is established with the financial support of the Active Citizens Fund of Bulgaria under the Financial Mechanism of the European Economic Area. The whole responsibility for the content of the document is held by the Public Environmental Center for Sustainable Development and under no circumstances can this material be considered to reflect the official opinion of the Financial Mechanism of the European Economic Area and the Active Citizens Fund of Bulgaria.