An Overview Of Our Solution
Our project is inspired in the concept of plogging - a combination of jogging with picking litter. We created Eco-marathon – hiking, picking up the trash, and at the same time making small short videos to create awareness about the importance of water, keeping our forest and cities cleaned, and why it’s important to create such initiatives. The aim of the Eco-marathons is to fight social apathy and lack of active participation of citizens in environmental issues. We hope to increase the knowledge level of the community in topics like global interdependencies and the level of sustainable lifestyles of citizens in general and trigger positive organizational changes.
- Population Impacted 250,000
- Continent: Europe
Recently, a new type of plastic pollution has been found spreading on rocks in Madeira. Researchers have found small patches of what looks like melted plastic encrusted on rocks on the Portuguese island's shoreline. Scientists are unsure where the plastic comes from or how it could affect marine life, but they have warned that there is a risk of this plastic being eaten by sea creatures and eventually ending up on our food chain. Sea pollution is commonly resulting from household waste, which is poorly collected, poorly recycled, or abandoned in the wild or on the roadside. This waste is carried by the winds, pushed by the rains to take the path of sewers, rivers, and streams, and then end up in the oceans. There is a lack of sensitivity towards sustainable issues and the community is still not aware of the consequences of their actions. There is an urge to educate people about water pollution and its negative impact on human health, environment and economic system.
Describe the technical solution you wanted the target audience to adopt
Negligence, social apathy, lack of sensitiveness and awareness are the main causes of this problem. So, our solution is amazingly simple. We were inspired by the concept of plogging - a combination of jogging with picking up litter. Therefore we created Eco-marathons – hiking, picking up the trash and at the same time making small short videos to create awareness about the importance of water, keeping our forest and cities cleaned and why it’s important to create such initiatives.
Our strategy of using non-formal methods of education to create awareness towards this issue and these simple practical actions can prevent thousands of waste from being left in the nature and increase the risk of water pollution. People participating in these actions become more open-minded, understand the implication of their actions, take responsibility, and are constantly making changes in their lives to accommodate their impact on the world in a positive manner. The all process is described further.
Describe your behavioral intervention.
The key of our success is simple: fun is a must! We combine volunteering, community, youth, art, and ecology. We are a non-profit association whose purpose is to develop activities for benefit of community’s development and education. We organize various projects and we use non-formal education principles as it allows a better approach to reality and promotes active participation of different target groups. Our activities in environmental educational area have inspired hundreds of young people around the island and at international level. We had an increased number of local and international volunteers and many requests from associations to cooperate with us in environmental educational area. In 2019, we were recognized by European Commission winning “The European Sustainability Award” in the category of youth associations which promote and/or develop environmentally sustainable activities. Also, we received from the hands of the President of Republic of Portugal a national award for being considered a reference as a youth organization that promotes ecological behaviors and raises awareness for sustainable development. This public recognition helped us reach remote target groups and motivate a lot of people to participate in our activities.
Behavioral Levers Utilized
As needed, please explain how you utilized the lever(s) in more detail.
During Eco-marathons, we were recording small short videos to create awareness about the importance of water, keeping our forest and cities cleaned, and why it’s important to create such initiatives. The participants were sharing their thoughts, suggestions and appealing to public emotions to be more aware towards these issues.
Describe your implementation
We gathered a group of volunteers who are highly active in developing initiatives with environmental purpose. Together with them we developed the idea of the eco marathons. The process is simple. The team, weeks before, chooses a well-known itinerary that can be in the middle of the nature or between houses in the most rural areas and we schedule de days to do the paths. Later, we open a call for participants who were interested in participating in the activities and we provide all details about the cleaning action. During the day of the activity we gather all the people before starting the walk and we distribute bags, litter pickers, and other essential equipment to do the cleaning. We go along the route and pick up as much as trash as we can. In between participants left inspiring messages that are recorded in small videos and are spread in social media channels.
Our solution, despite being simple, can prevent tons of waste from reaching water streams or being left in the nature intoxicating water sources by infiltration of its chemical components in the soil. The Eco-marathons, inspired in the concept of plogging, started last year, 2020, and we expect to continue this year. In fact, to organize this kind of activity is easy. Everybody wants to join. But sometimes, we face some difficulties such as arranging transportation, bad weather forecast, some of the restrictions imposed by COVID-19, providing meals for the participants and other obstacles. Despite those struggles, we have cooperated with local authorities and entities which helped us to overcome those challenges by providing us some materials or facilitating with some local transport.
We also have a diversified team of volunteers and collaborators which have different levels of expertise and knowledge and consequently reflects on the high-quality standards of our activities.
Describe the leadership for your solution. Who is leading the implementation?
José António Rodrigues is leading the project together with a team of young volunteers aged from 25 to 30. Has more than ten years of experience leading groups and individuals. Coordinates and organizes mobility programs such as Erasmus+ and European Solidarity Corps. Has knowledge of local reality and good relationship with local institutions and authorities. He promotes young initiatives for the local community and other cultural and educational activities, covering the areas of environment, art, entrepreneurship, democracy and active citizenship, non-formal education, volunteering, sustainable development, employment, among others.
Lídia Canha co-leader of the project and is a social educator which develops local and international projects in the areas of volunteering, global education, active citizenship, and environment. She has developed previously various Environmental awareness activities in the areas of waste, water, biodiversity, and energy.
Share some of the key partners or stakeholders engaged in your solution development and implementation.
Our work is beneficial for all communities and for this reason it has good receptivity among locals. The environmental crisis is a problem of men and it is our responsibility to solve it. We live in an increasingly globalized world, and our actions influence the lives of other people, animals, and the planet. To achieve sustainable development, it is important to reflect on our role as global citizens. It is urgent and indispensable to raise awareness about the deficient adaptation of human societies to the circumstances imposed by the planet. And this is the biggest challenge - changing mindsets to change behaviors. Only awareness about the environmental challenges, real emergencies, will lead to the adoption of more sustainable behaviors. Moreover, as it is stated in the 2030 Agenda, for sustainable development to be achieved, it is crucial to harmonize three core elements: economic growth, social inclusion, and environmental protection. Members of civil society are becoming more sensitive towards these issues and public pressure is essential to make companies change their working systems for more sustainable ones.
Who adopted the desired behavior(s) and to what degree? Include an explanation of how you measured a change in behavior.
We worked mostly with young people aged from 18-30 y.o. These youngsters are aware that they are part of a future generation who will become more conscious about these issues and they will be the ones who will suffer more from the consequences of human inaction to change the situation. They were invited to be part of the solution, therefore they easily joined to the cause. People left messages during the activities, they shared online, talked with friends and families about the actions and spread the message around. It is not easy to quantify in numbers how many people were reached indirectly by the actions, however we produced participants lists in which we can manage to understand how many people came, who participated in all the actions, who shared in social media, how many posts, clicks, etc. After the first Eco-marathons, as we had also teachers involved, they took the idea to their schools, did the same with their students and shared with us the positive results of this activity.
How did you impact water pollution? Please be specific and include measurement methodology where relevant.
Tons of waste are disposed in nature every day. During the paths we encountered a lot of waste. We estimate around 1 ton of waste collected during each eco marathon. All participants, 38 in each hiking, received a bag with capacity of at least 10 kgs of weight. The volunteers filled the bags many times during the trek and on the way were emptying them in the trash bin. All Eco-marathons together sum up around 4 tons of trash that were recovered and disposed in the proper places.
How has your solution impacted equity challenges (including race, gender, ethnicity, social class/income, or others)?
This is an inclusive project where everyone is invited to participate. Rules were clarified at the beginning of the project. No prejudice, intolerance or risky behaviors were accepted. We take into consideration each participants' needs and adapt as much as possible the activities in order to include everyone. The Eco-marathons usually are with a very low level of difficulty and whoever wants to still be part of the project but couldn't hike, stayed behind helping the staff members with the logistics of the events, meals or any other support that was necessary.
What were some social and/or community co-benefits?
We mobilized people to work in teams, reinforcing the values of friendship, cooperation, responsibility and mutual respect. We educated for the conservation of the environment. Strengthened the skills of young people in social and civic areas. Enhanced the acquisition of environmental knowledge, as well as the critical sense for situations of and active participation in environmental protection actions.
What were some environmental co-benefits?
The project prevented more waste from being improperly disposed or being left abandoned in nature. We prevented sea creatures or other small animals from confusing waste with food; we reduced the risk of toxic materials or chemicals infiltrating the soil and contaminating water sources or causing any damage to human health and we could diminish the negative impact that human activitis have on the environment.
What were some sustainable development co-benefits?
According to the 2030 Agenda, for sustainable development to be achieved, it is crucial to harmonize three core elements: economic growth, social inclusion and environmental protection. Only awareness about the environmental challenges, real emergencies, will lead to the adoption of more sustainable behaviors, so, there is an urgent necessity to change the way we think, work, and live. We believe the project contributed to change mentalities and will trigger positive organizational changes.
Sustainability: Describe the economic sustainability of your solution.
The solid partnerships we have with local authorities allow us the acquisition of some materials and equipment we need for our activities. We also have the same support for transportation and another logistical purpose, when it is needed. We are a non-profit organization and we depend on some government subsidies and grants from projects we apply to various contests.
Return on investment: How much did it cost to implement these activities? How do your results above compare to this investment?
The realization of the Eco-marathons costs us around 2000€. The main costs are related with buying cleaning equipment such as bags, gloves, litter pickers; meals for the participants and staff team; transportation, and video/camera professional services. Even though it's a simple activity, investing money in it encourages more people to participate as we have more resources to guarantee that we have all the essential equipment and make the participants feel as comfortable as possible. Also, the impact of the activity is bigger as we reach more people, more trash is collected and the message is spread further.
How could we successfully replicate this solution elsewhere?
The solution can be replicated anywhere according to the author's creativity in managing the non-formal methodologies to get the group motivated and inspired to take action.
The Eco-marathons are also not an expensive project, however, to ensure a good quality project and involve as much as people as possible, we need the following:
- cleaning equipment such as bags, gloves, litter pickers
- meals for the participants and staff team
- video/camera professional
We cooperate with the local City Hall, schools and other local NGOs which work in environmental protection.