The bride was radiant, the groom distinguished, and the location perfect. Well, except for the litter, that is. But for young couple Eleni Kazelas and Andrey Voloshin, the rubbish strewn across the beautiful Paramali beach on which they were to be married was not an issue: the two simply buckled down and cleaned the entire area themselves. And that was the beginning of two good things: a partnership between a loving young couple, and Let’s Make Cyprus Green.
A local non-profit, LMCG was founded when Eleni and Andrey later rallied volunteers to clean more of the island’s coasts. The first event, a clean-up at Ladies Mile, saw over 70 volunteers from all walks of life clear more than 100 bags of litter. That was in 2018. Since then, the non-profit organisation has been slowly but surely expanding: Andrey and Eleni combining their expertise in green issues to develop school programmes, informational events, and even a product line of eco-friendly, ethically made items.
“Education, Action, and Prevention are our watchwords at Let’s Make Cyprus Green,” says Eleni. Just 27, she exhibits all the enthusiasm of youth coupled with a dynamism and problem-solving abilities well beyond her years. Where others would simply envisage the enormity of making the island a more ecologically responsible place, Eleni see an opportunity to make a lasting difference…
“Of course we knew it wouldn’t be easy when we began,” she smiles. “But you have to try. You can’t wait for the government or the municipalities to take action for you. You have to begin things yourself, otherwise who knows what kind of future our island and our planet will have!”
By breaking down efforts into three, more manageable categories, Eleni and Andrey have been able to make a great start. “Much of the change begins with the next generation, and education is always the first step,” Eleni acknowledges.
LMCG has developed a comprehensive educational programme that encourages children to become involved in and learn about eco-issues through a programme of classroom presentations and field trips for students. But the education initiative also targets adults: many companies in Cyprus have already availed themselves of the organisation’s environmental training sessions for staff, and the duo post regular Green Tips on their website, reporting on sustainable choices in energy, water, recycling & waste, air quality and food, as well as sharing information on climate change and the environment.
Then there’s the Action side of things, and this is where the general public come in. The clean-up initiatives are still going strong, with events held roughly every five weeks. “Just a few months ago, we had a corporate clean-up event with TSYS Payment Solutions,” says Eleni. “Over 50 members of staff and their families joined us at Nicosia’s Grammiko Park in an effort that saw us collect more than 200 kilos of waste. It’s events like these,” she adds, “which really raise awareness and inspire people to change their everyday habits.”
At the same time, LMCG are actively building a network of contacts worldwide, people who can help in the fight against waste and pollution; starting or publicising important petitions to those in power; and hosting informational evenings to further our understanding of pressing social and environmental issues. In fact, this Friday sees the screening of one of the most important works of environmental film-making since An Inconvenient Truth.
Entitled Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret, this ground-breaking feature-length environmental documentary follows intrepid filmmaker Kip Andersen as he uncovers the most destructive industry facing the planet today: animal agriculture. “The leading cause of deforestation, water consumption and pollution, animal agriculture is responsible for more greenhouse gases than the transportation industry, and is a primary driver of rainforest destruction, species extinction, habitat loss, topsoil erosion, ocean dead zones, and virtually every other environmental ill,” say the film-makers. “And yet it continues almost entirely unchallenged, even by the world’s leading environmental organisations.”
“This is a documentary that’s essential viewing for everyone,” Eleni suggests, “because animal agriculture not only affects our environment, but also our health. With this screening, we’re asking people to think about how the impact of their food choices: nobody’s expecting you to become vegan overnight,” she laughs, “but this amazing film might just make you think twice about how your food is being produced.”
Which brings us to the last of LMCG’s undertakings: prevention. And here, we can all pitch in and take responsibility, says Eleni. “Littering is a man-made problem and, therefore, entirely preventable,” she explains. “Most of the damage to the environment comes from plastic, especially single-use items, so if we all start substituting reusable products, we’d be helping our planet while protecting ourselves from the harmful chemicals plastic contains.”
To this end, LMCG promotes a line of eco products which – along with donations, sponsorship, and membership fees – help support their non-profit organisation. Alongside the locally-produced EkoNest brand of sustainable alternatives to single-use plastics (including bamboo straws, reusable make-up removers, and recycled produce bags) LMCG sell PAT Shoes’ ethically-made footwear, Georganics natural toothpaste, Aphrodite’s Secret menstrual cups, and FOS Cosmetics’ natural soaps.
“In building our shop we’ve adhered to strict environmentally-friendly principles,” Eleni explains. “Plus, wherever possible, we like to support our community by working with local freelancers and other small businesses. Every small change helps when you’re working towards making an entire island a more environmentally-friendly place for residents and visitors,” she adds. “And whether that’s using a glass straw or a Fairtrade soap, volunteering at a clean-up or attending a screening, every effort makes a difference!”
And that, in a nutshell, is the essence of Let’s Make Cyprus Green. Changing a whole island for the better may be a mountainous task, but if each of us just makes a few changes, we’ll get there in the end. After all, Let’s Make Cyprus Green didn’t begin with the rallying cry of thousands, but a simple beach clean-up from a couple with heart.
For more information on Let’s Make Cyprus Green, visit https://www.letsmakecyprusgreen.com/
Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret will be screened on January 31 at 7.15pm at the University of Technology, Limassol. Entrance is free and everyone is welcome. For more information, visit the Let’s Make Cyprus Green ‘Events’ page