No waste is good waste - bringing sustainable lifestyle, environmental protection and trash awareness on the shores of Lake Baikal! It was honor and invaluable experience for Kulturlabor Trial&Error to coordinate Erasmus+ youth exchange "Baikal cleanup 2017 - environmental awareness and active citizenship of young people", that took place in Ulan Ude & Baikal lake, Buryatian Republic, Russian Federation, 11th - 20th of August 2016. Together with team of 28 youngsters from Germany, Poland, Georgia and Russia we have learned about precious environmental resources, meet young people from other countries, get hands-on experience in environmental preservation and develop ideas for trash-free society.
We arrived from different cultures, time zones and with different expectations, how to learn from each other, how to deal with the daily life challenges, explore the situation at the Baikal as well as make some practical impact and set a ground for future cooperations. We arrived, not knowing that the Baikal shore is a holy land for the native Buryatians and meanwhile a playground for the political and economical games - that big companies have an eye at the unique drinking water resource and UNESCO heritage site, to change laws and build industrial sites directly at the shore. We brought with us a rich experience in working with young people, doing environmental and artistic education, building communities, campaigning in social media and implementing international projects. Together with our local partners we managed to clean a significant amount of waste in the shore, get to know each others culture, background, waste problematics, share personal experiences with waste and environmental as well as develop ideas on how to engage young people with environmental protection. Amongst others, we discussed such ideas as pop-up DIY festivals, movies, Instagram, yearly trips to Baikal shore combined with clean up actions with pupils. Some of us also worked on concept of environmental hands-on education, idea about providing opportunity to take care of areas of the shore in exchange for advertisement, make an eco-label and reward those who choose less packaging and many others.
After 8 days of camping and working at the shore of Baikal we returned to the capital of the Buryatian republic, Ulan Ude, where we shared our ideas, impressions and work in a cozy evening in the theater. During the evaluation session some participants shared, that it was a life changing experience, some of us also got valuable insights in managing youth initiatives, or motivation to start international campaigns to save the Baikal lake. Thanks to Kulturlabor Trial&Error team, together with our local partners "Молодёжный художественный театр" (Russia) as well as partner organizations Stowarzyszenie Nie Po Drodze (Poland) and Georgian Youth for Europe (Georgia), who bravely accepted the challenge, this unique project was possible. We are looking forward to spread the word and maybe, who knows, meet at the Baikal next year again!
The project was cofinanced by European Union, ERASMUS+ Jugend In Aktion KA1 as an international youth exchange.