Monday, 27 September 2010

Going green in Moscow

The eco-warriors are on the march. While headline-grabbing protest rallies over Khimki forest have made the most noise, there’s a day-to-day revolution taking place in a city centre flat.

Five campaigning friends have decided to prove that leading an eco-friendly life in the centre of a megalopolis is possible.

The experiment has been running for a couple of months and is thriving – despite the plastic bags occasionally brought by not-so-similar-minded visitors.

Concern over 5.5 million tons of un-recycled rubbish in Moscow every year has brought together Roman, Tatyana, Ivan, Yana and Andrei who have taken it upon themselves to change the situation – at least on their doorstep.

From shaving their heads to save on shampoo to furnishing their home with cast-offs, all decisions in their eco-friendly commune are taken with the environment in mind.

EcoLoft is based in a former “kommunalka”, a flat shared by several families, 15 minutes away from the Kremlin. The flat’s communal past has very little in common with its present incarnation as re-cycling is the main guideline for its occupants.

They take donated furniture, consigning less useful things for the dump. They also sort out rubbish and take it in a special bicycle-cart to Moscow’s very few recycling points, and use solar-powered gadgets.

To spread the green word EcoSchool was launched from the sitting room where they held weekly workshops and meetings about natural food, green design, handmade cosmetics and dealing with police. The most successful gatherings had up to 60 people and there is room for more, organisers say.

To minimize their carbon footprint the friends are currently researching a compost container they are going to install in their flat, to grow herbs in.

“We haven’t decided yet if we would like to have a container with worms, or a different technology based on active blends,” Yana, one of EcoLoft dwellers, told the MoscowNews. “We could certainly grow at least spring onion and salads for ourselves.”

A tiny patch of land would not be enough to realise ambitions for another resident in the commune. “I’m thinking about moving out of the city by spring, and starting an eco house there,” says Roman.

His plans for the future include opening a consultancy agency that would help transform offices into eco-friendly spaces and save money at the same time.

The summer smoke has made a huge impact on Muscovite’s minds and environmental problems further up the agenda. EcoLoft mau have appeared at just the right time, although the day of its opening was the smokiest day this summer.

“Last week we had visitors who volunteered as firefighters this summer. After the fires these guys feel like continuing and are looking for a something they could help with,” says Roman

Harmony does not always reign supreme and indignant squawking breaks out when an extensive collection of various plastic bags is discovered on the windowsill. Clearly the walk is harder than the talk.

“If someone breaks our rules this person meets public censure or has to do some communal chores,” he says. “If it happens again they can be expelled from EcoLoft for a day, or even forever.”

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