an exciting dialogue with Anastasia Smolentseva*, director of the Business International Development of Eco–Social Community “Green Off/On“ (Ottawa – Canada)
– Eco-friendly – is a fashionable trend (and like any fashion will pass) or we can talk about a serious social concern globally? How do you think ?
– Having been exposed to environmental issues more professionally for nearly two years now, I can say that in the light of major natural disasters that have been happening more often all over the world, the concern of the effects of climate change is growing. More people are “awakening” to the fact that certain actions of individuals, companies, and governments have consequences and effects on the environment, which could be quite crucial.
However, what we saw when we started our company is that being eco-friendly, eating organic, buying fair trade, driving hybrid and electric cars, and so on is indeed growing as a fashion trend (I mean, even with Tesla technology – besides the amazing job done by engineers, the car’s design is simply elegant, which is appealing to a lot of customers. Especially to women because they buy with their eyes. I am a woman, so I can say that ! 🙂
– It is a way to get on the market …
– Yes, course. But I think it’s not a bad thing. I am fully and completely supporting this trend! Our online portal has interactive blogs written by young ambitious charismatic individuals (i.e. we have a guy who works for an embassy, studies Masters at King’s College of London, and writes for us on the subject of nutrition & health – an experience of a real normal guy who made a candy out of his body!), posting interesting green news (like the recent one where Arnold Schwarzenegger said that he intends to fight for a green energy future ‘until the end’ while making his crusade ‘more hip, more snappy, more modern and more sexy’), connecting people, and so on. And, sure, hopefully, for many “going green” would become more than “I do it because everyone does it” or because it’s “cool”, but would become a lifestyle with permanent implications.
– If we look at media agenda and government institutions, we see that climate change concerns are more subject to press releases and less of concrete measures. Can you contradict me?
– It’s definitely easier to find news on major environmental catastrophes than positive changes, initiatives, and concrete steps many of the governments are currently undertaking and supporting, many of which don’t even make the news, not to mention headlines. But it doesn’t mean that there aren’t any. I will give you some example: Kazakhstan, a country rich in oil and gas, kick-started a “green revolution” and will spend 1 percent of annual output every year until 2050 to increase power generation from greener sources, cutting its dependence on coal far faster than some of the world’s big polluters.
Or the Vietnamese wind power dream has recently become realistic with Bac Lieu wind power plant now providing electricity to the national grid from the 10 turbines with the total capacity of 16 MW.
A country with one of the worst pollution problems, China, has agreed to cap greenhouse emissions by 2016, after previously refusing to commit to global guidelines. Beijing’s regime change signaled a move to a greener policy, as rising levels of toxic pollution in China are suffocating industrial centers as was announced by the China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) – the government organ responsible for socio-economic growth planning.
On the other hand, the U.S., which refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, is an interesting example because on June 25th, 2013 President Barack Obama said that he will use his executive authority to instruct the Environmental Protection Agency, for example, to initiate regulations on carbon emissions from existing coal and gas-fired utilities by next June, and to kick-start similar rules on new power plants. Yet still haven’t ratified the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). However, the new plan to fight climate change proposed by Obama is still a step forward.
And look, in Bulgaria, just recently, drastic retroactive cuts in the fees paid to renewable energy producers has prompted a furious reaction from what was a fast-growing sector, and will probably scare the investors away.
– What means exactly to be environmental-friendly? Many of us think quickly about a eco-friendly car, solar panels, renewable energy… but I think that basically means something more…
– In all honesty, I think that it means different things to different people. For some, it means ditching the civilization and living in the wilderness, for others it means to simply recycle and that’s the extent of their “green” behavior. I think the key here is to educate and show both youth and adults different, for example, little things that we can do in our daily lives that can have a big impact in the long run. It can be achieved from simply visiting our website, to government programs, to companies educating their employees, to special curriculum programs in private and public educational institutions. “Knowledge will give you power”, as Bruce Lee said. Power to use that knowledge to improve your lifestyle and also help out our Mother Earth, even a little bit.
– Yes. You know, there is a saying “Drop by drop a lake/river is made” …
– Right. It depends on all of us and each one to change something.
– How do you think about: ecological self-sustainable communities are a temporary alternative when we want to escape from urban congestion? Or a permanent option which will become increasingly preferred in the future?
– When we use the term “Eco Social Community” we think of a linked community of individuals, companies, associations, and institutions worldwide that promotes and acts on being environmentally friendly, socially responsible, healthy (i.e. through eating habits and/or having gyms at a workplace), and humane (helping others). Everyone choses their own reasons to becoming all the things mentioned above and for how long they want to be a part of it, but in our opinion – the more people are educated, the more companies and governments take action, the more it will become a lifestyle aka a permanent option, whether we are talking about metropolitan cities or eco self-sustainable communities from outside. Which will, in turn, benefit all of us in the long and short term.
– If we wish to do the top 5-th countries that already have well-structured ecological communities, to whom we should look first?
– Each year, Yale University determines the greenest countries of the world based on the Environmental Performance Index (EPI), a ranking system that rates countries based on their environmental performance. For 2012 they determined 7 greenest countries, from 1st place to last: Switzerland, Latvia, Norway, Luxembourg, Costa Rica, France, and Austria. So Romania has some awesome green neighbors. 🙂
– Romania has already taken steps in shaping its ecological communities. And you’ve even started a discussion on this topic in the group ascribed GreenOff/On on Linkedin network. There is an exchange of views on the subject? Are Romanians interested to find more about ?
– Romania is working hard with the European Union and the United Nations Development Programme to become a greener country and economy fitting EU and worldwide standards. Unfortunately, recently the Romanian government adopted a decree cutting incentives for renewable energy, which in the opinion of experts, could drive investors away and put on hold a booming industry. Wind, solar and small hydro-power producers will only get around half of the “green certificates” they are entitled to receive as a stimulus to develop clean energy and will have to wait until 2017 or 2018 to get the balance. However, despite the move, Romania is still committed to its target of having the share of renewable energy reach 24 percent of total output by 2020 as we learned from the news. Nevertheless, Romania became the first country in Europe to have developed a recognition system for the eco-tourism destinations based on the criteria developed by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) and on the European Eco-Tourism Labeling Standard (EETLS).
We posted both news on LinkedIn and we’ve had Romanian communities from Romania and those living outside of the country react strongly. Romanians are a progressive nation that is advancing rapidly, but the recent government decisions made towards renewable energy were considered a setback. What’s actually very interesting is that out of all our members and vendors worldwide, one of Romania’s green energy companies has been the most active in participating in discussions and posting interesting relevant green news on all our social networks! We really like that dynamic, and would love to see others be just as active in the sector.
*Anastasia Smolentseva has lived, studied, and worked in Tyumen (Siberia, Russia), San Francisco (CA), Moscow (Russia), and currently Canada’s capital city of Ottawa. She has degree from Carleton University in European, Eurasian, and Russian Studies & International History in 2010 and has worked in the international business sector for the past seven years, taking on various projects in Russia, Europe, and Canada. For the past two years she has worked with international and national non-profit organizations as well as World Bank on various projects helping teenage youth, entrepreneurs and the Canadian national startup eco system, social welfare programs development in Eastern Europe, as well as facilitating Canada-Russia-Eurasia business relations through Government Relations.
interview made by Gabriela Ionita