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City Friends Club: leading the charge for environmental sustainability

City Friends Club (CFC) is at the forefront of fostering a sustainable future through its solid commitment to waste reduction and environmental stewardship, says Anna Gubareva, CEO and Founder

“By engaging communities, and local businesses, and leveraging educational programmes, CFC is not only cleaning up Limassol but also nurturing a culture of responsibility and sustainability across Cyprus, proving that collective action can lead to significant environmental change.”

Anna Gubareva is the founder of CFC, a non-profit organisation based in Limassol, Cyprus, recognised for its efforts in environmental sustainability and waste management.

Established in 2020, CFC has grown significantly, driven by the goal of reducing waste and promoting a cleaner city. The organisation has mobilised hundreds of volunteers and garnered the support of numerous individuals, reflecting its community-centric approach to environmental conservation.

Gubareva, who has been a resident of Cyprus for over two decades and has a background as a certified art therapist, shifted her focus towards human ecology and the critical interaction between individuals and their environment. Gubareva and her organisation believe that a clean environment is essential for a healthy life, and they work towards this goal by engaging the community in clean-up campaigns, educating on sustainable living, and advocating for responsible consumption and a zero-waste lifestyle.

How can City Friends Club (CFC) projects prioritise waste reduction and promote sustainable waste management practices?

City Friends Club is primarily a community of like-minded individuals who share a passion for making a positive impact on our environment, specifically addressing the issue of waste not only in Cyprus but on a global scale. We’re firm believers in the power of the zero-waste movement to cut down on trash and encourage mindful resource consumption.

Every day, you’ll find our dedicated cleaning crews hitting the streets of Limassol, to rid them of garbage. In 2023 alone, our efforts led to the clearing of 49 parks and collected 25 tons of general waste, seven tons of PMD (plastics, metals, and beverage packaging), and 19,5 tons of bulky waste.

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Additionally, we conduct monthly volunteer cleanups of public areas, open to anyone willing to help clean up natural areas of litter. We also raise awareness among residents and offer the use of our mobile app, which allows users to pinpoint illegal dumpsites on the city map and take action to clean them up, all in the name of preserving our environment and enhancing the city’s charm.

Our educational initiatives always emphasise the importance of proper waste disposal and further processing, helping to return resources to the production cycle and reduce landfill growth, while also promoting the development of environmental consciousness among Cyprus’s residents.

In what ways can we engage local businesses and households in bulky waste collection initiatives to ensure environmental sustainability?

The City Friends Club acts as a platform fostering knowledge exchange among local companies empowering them to achieve environmental sustainability.

We offer local businesses not only our expertise in sustainability, with a focus on ESG but also corporate programmes such as ‘Green Office’ and ‘Eco Quiz’. Corporate clean-up events organised by the club not only promote corporate social responsibility but also serve as effective team-building activities for companies, involving employees in the club’s initiatives and fostering community engagement.

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What strategies can be implemented to increase community participation in street cleaning and other environmental preservation activities?

We are supported by a significant number of people, and we always strive to encourage this enthusiasm! We try to recognise the merits of our heroes not only with awards for participating in street cleanups but also through public acknowledgement. We conduct interviews with them, run social media campaigns, and partner with CFC ambassadors to offer valuable and enjoyable prizes.

How can we measure the impact of initiatives by organisations such as CFC on local communities and the well-being of island residents?

In our work, we’re constantly keeping track of all the important changes happening in the city. We influence the urban environment and public opinion.

We have organised a series of ‘Trash Talks’, bringing together industry experts, business analysts, investors, and government representatives, to exchange views and develop solutions for the island’s residents’ well-being. We engage the art community for our environmental art projects – the urban festival and the eco-art exhibition RE:SOURCE. We invite foreign and local artists to join our events. They help us to show through art the importance of the principles of mindful consumption, recycling, reusing, and waste reduction.

The total number of visitors to our art projects has exceeded 5,000 people. Our CFC community consists of over 1,300 volunteers who have directly participated in 22 actions, resulting in the removal of 15 tons of bulky waste, processing of 799 tons of waste for further recycling, and collecting 1094 bags of other waste.

To engage young people, CFC organises open lessons, workshops, and excursions for schools, inviting university students to participate in open calls. We collaborate with like-minded communities and organisations to further enhance outreach. Public recognition through various awards validates our contributions to improving the city’s appearance and protecting Cyprus’ natural areas.

How can we ensure that public events are organised in an environmentally friendly manner, minimising waste and promoting recycling?

In our example, we showcase the possibility of hosting events without causing harm to the environment. For instance, when preparing for the RE:SOURCE art exhibition, we use digital billboards and refrain from printing paper materials.

This year, we also initiated participation in the carnival as a special brigade to collect all recyclable waste, which we then send for recycling. To achieve sustainability in public events, organisers can take measures to reduce the use of disposable materials. To ensure the sustainability of public gatherings, organisers can implement strategies to minimise the use of disposable materials.

Additionally, providing separate waste collection containers and educating participants on the importance of environmental protection can foster more responsible behaviour.

City Friends Club has already successfully collaborated with various festivals such as Reflect and Beonix, providing them with waste separation containers and supporting waste disposal at such events.

How can educational programmes and awareness campaigns be designed to foster a deep understanding of ESG issues among Cyprus citizens?

To effectively engage with diverse communities, it’s crucial to speak their language, ensuring clarity for all. City Friends Club tackles this task through various communication tools. For example, for the younger generation (kids aged 4-12), we use a gaming format – environmental quizzes that demonstrate the importance of ESG and playfully teach environmental social responsibility.

With schools and universities, we aim to act as facilitators, helping to realise talents and satisfying the need to contribute. So that through active actions, individuals can make their contribution to protect the environment. For the wider public, we develop guides and instructions, as well as explore various communication methods to convey the essence of ESG to everyone.

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In what ways can schools and local organisations collaborate to educate the youth about the importance of sustainability and social responsibility?

During the environmental exhibition RE:SOURCE 2.0, we invited schools and universities to participate, offering them not only the opportunity to attend this significant event for Cyprus for free, but also to take part in various masterclasses and workshops. Through the creation of art (and not only art) objects, students were also able to enhance their awareness of sustainability issues and engage practically with charity organisations and different experts in this field.

The mission of RE:SOURCE 2024 is to raise awareness about environmental protection and natural resources in Cyprus. Through artistic expression, we try to involve the audience in meaningful discussions about sustainable development and our connections with nature.

In what ways can urban planning and infrastructure development be guided by ESG principles to promote sustainable living environments?

They can integrate sustainable development ideas into urban infrastructure and building planning. For example, using renewable energy sources, applying energy-efficient building design and sustainable waste management, and creating green zones and public spaces.

By considering environmental aspects at all stages of design and construction, cities can become more environmentally friendly and energy-efficient, benefiting both natural resource conservation and the overall well-being of residents.

How can we get as many citizens as possible integrated into urban planning processes to ensure that development projects align with local ESG priorities?

We can involve a larger number of residents in decisions about city development using a variety of methods like surveys, focus groups, and public discussions. It’s crucial to create an open platform for exchanging ideas and opinions among citizens, so everyone can contribute.

The City Friends Club is actively working on raising awareness and consciousness among the population through our projects and programmes; we believe in collective action. We’re thankful to everyone who supports us with donations, suggestions, and hands-on help.

Moreover, the success of social initiatives hinges on government regulations (like fines for illegal dumping) and boosting environmental awareness through social ads on TV, radio, and other media. Currently, we’re spreading the word through our events and setting an example of responsible environmental care. In the future, we also plan to expand our presence to other cities in Cyprus.

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