“Who can even remember ?! That was 20 years ago … “. Thus begins another story of the 25th anniversary of the Public Center for Environment and Sustainable Development.
This is a story that still has no end. Because it continues to this day. Sheet by sheet, we have been collecting paper from hundreds of companies, institutions, schools, kindergartens and citizens in Varna for 20 years. In order not to cut down trees for the production of a new one.
It started at the end of 2000. At that time Ilian Iliev, as a leader of a non-governmental organization in Varna, was going to study in London. “Packing my bags, I took my last money and I was seriously considering whether to stay in England,” Ilian goes back to those difficult times.
However, on the day he left, he was notified that the small project with which they were applying to a local donor had been approved. “It totally messed up my plans,” Ilian admits today. So, he decides to go back and fulfill it.
The Leaf by Leaf project is a collaboration with the Mayday Foundation.
It started actively in 2001 with the personal cars of Ilian Iliev and Doychin Karshovski from Mayday. “We took turns – one week we went with my car, one week – with his,” says Ilian. Cars – a little “Renault” and “Peugeot”, were not suitable for this type of activity, but the quantities of paper were not large then. At the beginning, the campaign lasted one or two hours per day. We collected 20-30 kg each, paper mostly from friends and acquaintances. After the action they had an obligatory ritual – they ate katmi from a shop on the Collective Farm Market, as a reward for the voluntary work.
The initiative got a boost at the beginning from Elena Bangieva from Atlantic Radio, “who gave us an hour of airtime every month to talk about the campaign,” Iliev recalls.
During this period, the Public Center for Environment and Sustainable Development also was running an environmental education campaign with environmental training for teachers. During one of these trainings, they told teachers about “Leaf by leaf”. One by one, kindergartens were starting to join the initiative. However, the manager of Varna REB Ecoservice gave impetus to the process. He distributed a plastic paper collection container to each kindergarten in the center and in the Mladost district.
In kindergartens the effect of ecological education from children to adults was obtained. Parents said: “He follows me like a policeman at home – this in the recycling bin, that one in the recycling bin. They can’t throw anything away anymore. ” Or another story in which a mother addresses a child who picks up a piece of paper from the ground: “Leave this garbage!”. And he answers: “This is not garbage, but paper.”
“This effect was expected and it happened,” said Ilian Iliev. He remembers with nostalgia some of the many fun moments during the campaign. “Every time we went to get the paper from a kindergarten, it happened at noon. The kitchen smelled delicious. One day Doychin told the headmistress: “Do you know what torments you are subjecting us to every time we come here? Our mouth fills with saliva. We can barely stand it! ” A few weeks passed and one day we went to the same kindergarten again. The director greeted us with the words: “Dear gentlemen, stop collecting paper for a while! Welcome! ” He set us on a children’s table and served us an actrattive portion of meatballs with tomato sauce. It took us back to our childhood. ”
After the completion of the first project, the Public Center for Environment and Sustainable Development applied for a small grant from the Time Foundation. To continue what has been started. We Received funding for two years – 2001 and 2002. Participants increased. A guide on how to recycle paper and join Sheet by Sheet was coming out.
The Municipality of Varna, the mayoralties, almost all kindergartens were joining the campaign, the schools were starting to do more and more often actions for collecting paper.
At the end of the project, the organizers managed to buy a car for the campaign – a nearly 20-year-old Renault Rapid. Endless repairs of the old car began until it became “almost new”. With it, Leaf by Leaf volunteers travelled until 2010. It allowed them to look for recycling centers in the vicinity of the city (initially, the paper was delivered to small urban locations). “The price of paper was higher and we were able to cover the costs of the campaign. “After the Time Foundation’s project ended, Leaf by Leaf has been self-sustaining for 15 years,” says Ilian Iliev.
However, the difficulties did not end. In 2003, one of the main partners of Leaf by Leaf, Doychin Karshovski of the Mayday Foundation, won a green card and left for the United States. Then the campaign began actively looking for volunteers. The first were Kalin and Sasha (Alexandra Kolarova). In 2004, Casey Lakecock of the Peace Corps joined. On 2005 The Public Center for Environment and Sustainable Development starts accepting volunteers from the European Voluntary Service. The first volunteer is from Germany – Carolyn Lev. At the same time, Andrew Jutkins of the Peace Corps was helping with Leaf by Leaf. Year after year and volunteer after volunteer …. Ellen, Joan, Mael and Adele from France, Narciso from Portugal, Alessandro from Italy, Victoria from Slovenia … and for the last two years two girls from Italy have been helping each other – Valentina Vaggie and Giulia Di Marco.
At the beginning with the funds left over from the submitted paper, were organized annual meetings of the participants in “Leaf by Leaf”, and during this meetings were given certificates for the rescued trees. Due to low interest, this practice was discontinued and the funds remaining from the campaign began to accumulate in the List Fund. About 40 percent of the value of the submitted paper is collected in the fund, which aims to support small environmental projects of citizens. The rest covers fuel, repairs, insurance and other campaign expenses.
About 500 different participants have left their names as tree rescuers in Leaf by Leaf over the years. In reality, however, about 100 of them are still active today.
With the advent of the digital revolution, companies are moving en masse to electronic documents. Fewer and fewer participants are handing over paper today. But they continue to support the idea in one way or another.
“The whole campaign was built from the very beginning, as a game, to look with pleasure at the things we do in our workplace,” explains today, the chairman of the Public Center for Environment and Sustainable Development.
The campaign’s motto focuses on the lungs of the planet – 1 ton of recycled paper saves 17 trees from felling. And environmentalists are focusing on the struggle for those few seconds in a person’s mind when he pulls out an unnecessary sheet of paper from the printer. How many options are there for this sheet other than a trash can? A lot … Don’t throw it away! Save a tree!
The balance for the past 20 years: With “Leaf by leaf” we saved 17,700 trees from felling … This is our small forest. Our common contribution to the Earth we walk on and to the air we breathe … This became possible thanks to you – the dozens of volunteers and the hundreds of participants in “Leaf by Leaf”. Thank you, friends!
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.