Asia Plus: Tajik Greta Thunberg. Eco-Activist Shares Her Ideas How to Help the Environment

Date: 23 February 2020
Other languages: Русский язык |
This article was re-published from Asia Plus

She believes that the world of the future will be the world, where we will live in harmony with the environment, rather than harming the environment.  

Anisa is a student of the University of Central Asia in Khorog. She is the manager of the "The Green Community" project. The project organizes workshops on eco-activism, promotes recycling of wastes, and teaches people to utilize the environment in sustainable way. 

The turning point in Anisa’s life was the "Fight Like a Girl" project, organized in Kyrgyzstan for young women from Central Asia. The training promoted major principles of civic activism, and the girl decided to put the obtained knowledge into practice. 

Green Community and Separate Collection of Wastes  
One of the goals of the project is to raise awareness among UCA’s students and the general society about environmental issues, promote waste reduction methods and facilitate recycling: 

“It is obvious, that we lack efficient waste disposal system. People put their wastes to bins that are placed by residential buildings; then a garbage truck comes, collects the wastes and brings it to a landfill. But such system is only workable in big cities. I am studying in Khorog. In snowy weather trucks cannot collect wastes, and for the lack of better options people set afire the garbage dumps that are organized near their houses. People complain that Dushanbe does not have enough waste bins, but they simply did not see how things are in other cities of Tajikistan” – says Anisa.   

As a first step, the University community organized delivery of wastes to Dushanbe for further recycling.  

“I searched online and asked friends to advise on places that accept and recycle wastes.  The only solution is to transport wastes from Khorog to Dushanbe. We collect paper and plastic bottles, and send them for recycling. Of course, many people could say that we leave additional carbon footprint by using trucks to transport wastes. But we do not hire trucks specifically for our purpose – we use only those trucks that go to Dushanbe anyway. We have three boxes on campus: for transparent plastic, for opaque plastic and for paper. All boxes are labeled, but students still put wastes into wrong boxes, some of them do it to spite us”, shares Anisa. 

According to Anisa, eco-activists can face negative attitude all over the world. And it’s not only about environmental issues – people do not like it, when you reproof them about anything. Anisa has to regularly ask her friends to stop doing something that is not proper, and as a result many of her friends cut off all contacts with her. And it is even more difficult to ask strangers to behave properly.

“In Dushanbe, people who defiantly put their wastes not in the bin but by the bin are quick to give a rude response to rebukes. It's no bother for me to pick up their garbage and put it to the bin. Once I was walking behind a guy, who threw some garbage to the ground. I picked it up and put it to a bin. An old man noticed this, stopped the guy and rebuked him”, says Anisa. 
“In Tajikistan we organize public lectures, talk about environmental issues and raise awareness about proper disposal and recycling of waste. We have held lectures in Dushanbe, Khujand and Khorog. One of our most important projects is the "Early Environmental Childhood Education". My team has developed a program for children who are 5-7 years old. Today our team has 12 members and many volunteers. By the way, we are looking for volunteers in Dushanbe for future events”, notes Anisa.
 
Anisa also promotes her ides through the Instagram:
“I promote myself as an awareness-raiser. One year ago, I started my own blog to make more people aware about it. And it works. I show them alternative solutions that do not harm the environment”, says Anisa.  

Try to start with yourself 
According to Anisa, the most important thing is to talk about environmental issues, to highlight, to show. Many people say that they do not have the resources and that this should be addressed by the government. But this is wrong attitude, because civil society can change everything. 


“We need education in eco-consciousness.  Factories will not be able to operate efficiently until people know how to sort paper and plastic. Booklets could be developed and disseminated to each family. It may seem that nothing can be done at individual level. But try to start with yourself and your family members. When you need a plastic bag in a store, do not take it, or use shopper and make sure your family also uses it”, believes Anisa. 

Other countries of Central Asia have private factories that recycle many different types of wastes. Tajikistan does not have a workable waste sorting system, but it also has recycling plants.  

“I spent my entire summer looking for recycling plants, and can assure you that Dushanbe has some enterprises that recycle paper, cardboard, plastic bottles, batteries, mercury-containing lightbulbs and glass”, shares Anisa.  

If not you, then who else?
“It is so hard to change people’s attitude. Some people are completely closed for these ideas, but we should keep moving. If people do not support you, if they say that you are doing useless work – do not give up. I keep saying to myself ‘If not you, then who else?’ In such moments I get inspirations from people who are nearest and dearest to me. And also from people with the same way of thinking. I admire Greta Thunberg. She is still a mere child, but her actions inspire the whole world”, says Anisa.    

The girl and her community have many plans. 

Together with other UCA students she developed a business-plan to reduce the amount of wastes generated in Dushanbe. The business plan should now be finalized and implemented. This summer she intends to launch a small eco-school. She also runs  "My cup, please" project. 

“This is an international movement that discourages using disposable plastic cups for coffee and other drinks and promotes reusable alternatives – using ceramic cups in case of café and bringing own cup in case of coffee-to-go. As a part of the project we visited different cafes and encouraged the owners to provide discounts or other bonuses for those who bring their own reusable mugs and do not use disposable cups. We had a meeting with the owners of a popular coffee shop in Dushanbe; we told them that they could promote themselves as eco-conscious business. They said they were not interested. But the progress is still dramatic. We often receive positive feedback and comments”, says she. 

According to Anisa, the consequences can be catastrophic. 
“Our wonderful mountains will be replaced with lofty piles of garbage. In Indonesia the government already does not know, what to do. They have banned plastic, but it is not guaranteed that this measure will bring the desired outcomes. For example, when India banned plastic, people began to cut trees, which was another way to harm the environment”, says Anisa. 

Notions of eco-activism are hard to promote, but the girl does not lose hope: 
“People in Khorog recognize the problem, but they have other concerns – for example lack of employment opportunities. As compared to their own problems, environment is not that important for them. The same is also the case in other cities. But as time goes on, the things will begin to change. I believe that the world of the future will be the world, where we will live in harmony with the environment, rather than harming it”

Tips to help the environment: 
  1. Use canvas bags for shopping
  2. Use eco-bags for fruits and vegetables 
  3. Use reusable drinking straws and thermoses 
  4. Replace dish-washing sponge with eco-friendly alternatives 
  5. Use bamboo toothbrush instead of plastic 
  6. Buy food from local producers 

Anisa has dramatically changed her attitude to her diet and self-care: 
  • Stopped eating red meat and chicken; 
  • Cut down on dairy products; 
  • Gives left over food to animals; 
  • Freezes berries, fruits and other foods for future use; 
  • Cut down on cosmetics; 
  • Stopped using liquid soap and shower gel, and now uses regular soap; 
  • Walks longer distances; 
  • Tries to use public transportation instead of taxi; 
  • Buys clothing that stays trendy for extended period of time, and wears it for as long as possible; 
  • Gives her old clothing to charity organizations. 
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