Youth exchange “Say NO to plastic future” held.
The Association for the Protection of Nature and the Environment and the Promotion of Sustainable Development of the Argonauts hosted another youth exchange on the topic of environmental protection and the creation of a “greener” future. The youth exchange entitled “Say NO to plastic future” took place from 14.7. to 7/22/2021 in Šibenik where 42 participants from Croatia, Hungary, Serbia, Latvia, Spain, and Portugal exchanged knowledge, experience, and views on how to say NO to a future full of plastic and how to accept individual responsibility in creating the desired future.
Since the Argonauta Association has been practicing non-formal learning methods and experiential learning for many years, at the very beginning of the exchange, participants were invited to fully experience the problem and participate in a clean-up action. In just 45 minutes, two large containers of waste were removed from nature from the beginning of the promenade through the St. Ante. Although it is not the postcard we want to send to the world, we must not hide the truth that illegal dumps are still quite “alive” and that the multi-level system is not working as it should. However, the participants could not hide their surprise with the comment of one walker who said to them during the action: “Well done, just clean, if there is not enough, I will bring you more.”. After that comment, participants realized that the problem of plastics and waste will not go away without changing the collective awareness of what kind of future we want and what we don’t!
To understand which beliefs and mental models lead to visible problems, they used the Iceberg model to investigate some plastic problems: overproduction, health problems, plastic accumulation in nature and animals, ignoring problems, political lobbying, and lack of education, and then They also organized their own conference “Say NO to plastic future” in order to understand the wishes and needs of plastic packaging manufacturers, journalists, environmental associations and consumers through a role play. With the help of the simulation, they realized how easy it is to manipulate data, information and create a “different truth”.
In order for the participants to learn from real examples, they visited the island of Prvić, which is planning to join the islands of Zlarin and Krapanj in the initiative “Archipelago without plastic”. Through a story with a member of the Otok Association, they found out what problems the locals and employers in Prvić are facing and offered them some constructive solutions in the fight against plastics. In addition, the participants visited the Faust Vrančić Memorial Center and the family farm “Natura Škoj”, which showed by its example how a sustainable and greener future of an island can be built.
Participants also created their own collages of “green future” in which they want to live so that they can make more focused decisions to create the future they want. In addition, they have designed various projects that they will implement in their local communities in order to encourage others to clearly say NO to the future full of plastic. Some of the projects are Zero waste festivals, solidarity projects with workshops on how to hike and camp without plastic, how to avoid plastic when shopping, how to keep personal hygiene avoiding plastic… They have also designed a geocaching activity aimed at reconnecting with nature on which we so often forget.
However, the most important thing we learned was to accept the responsibility of each of us in creating the future we want and clearly and loudly REJECT the plastic bag, plastic cups, and other packaging that is served to us every day. When consumer demands change, so will supply. It’s up to us, isn’t it?
The Argonauts Association is grateful for the Erasmus + programs, which have been enabling awareness of such topics among young people across Europe and beyond for years.