In just under six months’ time Romania will take part in its largest environmental initiative ever. Going under the name “Let’s Do It, Romania,” the campaign will replicate an Estonian model as part of which volunteers managed to collect up all the waste in natural areas in one single day. The exact timing of the initiative – which Romania is the largest country to attempt so far – has yet to be confirmed, but it will be sometime in September.
In Estonia, Teeme ara 2008 took place on May 3, 2008, pooling the efforts of a staggering 50,000 volunteers who picked up 10,000 tons of waste. Since then, the model has been rolled out in other countries such as Latvia and Lithuania. This year, more places should join the roll call, including Portugal this month, Slovenia on April 17 and…Romania in September. Other countries that have added their name to the list for the future are India, Brazil, Serbia and Italy.
“I would dare to say this is the largest ‘Let’s Do It’ project in Europe, as we are the largest country with the greatest number of inhabitants of all the states in Europe that have carried out this project so far,” Anamaria Hancu, coordinator of the communication team, tells Business Review.
In Estonia 50,000 people lent a hand on the clean-up day, although only 10,000 volunteers had signed up. “If we consider that the surface area of Estonia is 5.26 times smaller than that of Romania and the population is 1.3 million, it goes without saying that it is very important that lots of people come out and join us in Romania,” says Hancu.
However, unlike Estonia, Romania has the advantage that there was a precedent, so the organizing team here can tap into that knowledge. The Romanian team even went to Tallinn, in Estonia, to participate in the conference organized by the initiators of the project, in which representatives from Latvia, Lithuania, Portugal and Slovenia also participated. During the Tallinn conference, the decision was made to form an international community called “Let’s Do It, World!” The team in Estonia acts as a consultant to all those in the process of organizing such a venture. But each country is different: in Portugal for instance, the initiative is being organized through 22 smaller projects which are not administered centrally as happens in the other states.
In another bonus, the local authorities are open to the idea. So far, the project has the support of the Ministry of Environment, the Ministry of Education and the National Agency for Environment Protection in Cluj, and other discussions are ongoing with other ministries and local authorities. A partnership has been signed with EcoValor, for the administration of the waste.
The main financial rule is that direct funding is not accepted, in order to ensure transparency and so there are no doubts over how the money was spent. “This is why we can use the help of companies only in the form of products and related services for each stage in the project: GPS devices, sacks, gloves etc,” explains Hancu.
The project comprises seven teams: one that coordinates the volunteers (30 people), logistics (10 people), communication (also 10 people), financing (four), IT (seven) and the management team of three. Last but not least is the so-called ‘Japanese team’ which is in charge of optimizing the activity of the team members, organizing training and team building. “We need people, which is why we have rolled out a recruitment campaign and people have submitted themselves on our site for local coordination all over the country,” says Hancu. The members of the coordination teams will be assigned soon. So far, 581 volunteers have signed up for local coordination of a total of 1,600 needed. And 1,455 volunteers have put themselves forward for mapping, out of the required 3,500.
The teams have to be organized both at a central and local level. The mapping activities are essential for plotting the location of the waste in Romania. The communication and PR campaign is also necessary since the action needs the involvement of TV channels, radio stations, central and local newspapers, sites, blogs, outdoor and indoor advertising companies. The project is being intensively promoted online, already having over 21,000 members on Facebook and over 700 followers on Twitter, while the official site has over 12,000 unique visitors a week.
Since no direct financing is accepted, the teams need to attract companies as partners in the project to provide products and services. Waste management companies should also be brought on board to facilitate on-site activities. Last but not least, local and central authorities also need to be convinced to support this project. The clean-up day is just one cog in the wheel. It will be followed by conclusions and an analysis, after which another country will be given the green light to start the initiative.
Right now, the logistics team is already preparing the first mapping action that will take place in Cluj, which has so far been the most active county with the most volunteers for mapping and coordination. The mapping actions will take place all over the country in natural areas. Through mapping, the project proposes to reach a region outside urban areas that is as large as possible. One small glitch is that in Romania the terrain is more diverse, which could pose some accessibility problems in certain areas. In several weeks, a form will be posted on the site www.letsdoitromania.ro for the cleaning-up activity.
“In Romania more and more NGOs and associations are making their presence felt through actions in the social and environmental departments (…) From my point of view, we are on the right track and this project is a chance we are being offered to develop our civic sense and – why not? – make it appear where it didn’t exist,” says Hancu.