Ecology is Taught
For most of us, recycling or objects made out of eco friendly materials are a new thing. For the young these are notions that they learn in school and use every day. Children are more receptive to the eco spirit. Dozens of schools participate on a monthly basis at competitions of this sort and more and more students take up optional classes on environment protection.
"Turn the light off when you leave the room. You'll have more money for groceries!" This is the message that jumps at you as soon as you enter the hallway. It is not the hallway of a household saving money during the economic crisis but that of a school. School no. 79, in Bucharest. The walls are plastered with eco friendly messages.
Newspaper clippings and eco-oriented drawings make the walls seem very green. The young ones already know what ecology means. The Eco Carnival - with eco costumes - is a matter of fact for the children. "Ms. tissue", " the robot" and fairies made out of PETs, used paper or plastic lids were this year's stars. The children understand what ecology is. " If you have never planted a tree, it means you have lived in vain" a 4th grade little girl teaches us.
Teachers themselves are involved in environment protection projects. " We offer an optional class on ecology. The children are very receptive." says Mihaela Badea, physics professor and coordinator of the teams that participate in environment protection contests. Elementary school students are fascinated by recycling, in their innocent way.
Toys made out of recycled materials or cardboard hats make them smile in handwork and handicraft classes. " I made this airplane out of a water PET, wheels out of bottle caps and the propeller is made out of cardboard" a 2nd grader prides himself with his new creation.
In most Romanian schools, environment protection appeals to children. And they involve their parents as well. At School no. 79, parents help their children with designs of eco magazines and drawn boards. But the children think far: flowers made out of plastic bottles or a replica of the Eiffel Tower made out of waste. They are all exhibited in their school.
Eco activists admit that responsibility towards nature is acquired . " From my experience I can tell you that environmental education must begin in elementary school. It is already too late for adults" says Anamaria Bogdan of "Save the Danube and the Delta" Association.
It is not a given that students who now learn environment protection will become responsible adults, all the more so since in high schools with "natural science" profiles, ecology classes are no longer compulsory. The difference in perception over ecology between children and adults is obvious every step of the way. School yards are clean and full of trees, while street corners are filled with garbage and cigarette butts.
"I agree with introducing ecology as a class in schools" says Serban Copot of Animal X, at present an environmental activist. He is certain that children are perceptive of these issues. He even reminds us of a European study in which children were asked to draw houses. " Those educated in an eco spirit drew the house with a garbage bin nearby" he added.
Young adults careless towards nature
According to an online study, " Ecology in Romania", people under 35 are the least concerned with ecology. Therefore, almost 20% of the urban participants in this age category said they have never heard of any ecological initiative until present and most of them are skeptical about concrete results of such campaigns.
Only 34% of people living outside Bucharest have participated in an ecological campaign in the last year. From those over 35 years old, more that 56% have joined a campaign of planting trees or collecting waste.
Even so, ecological campaigns are just being introduced in our country and there are very few specialists. " Adults have great difficulty adapting. If you are not educated in this sense, it's very hard to change" they believe. This is acknowledged by very many: 88% of Romanians believe there is no environment protection rhetoric in our country and most of them are unhappy regarding green spaces in their respective cities.
More so, over 80% admitted that their own behaviour is the main polluting factor, with automobile pollution and industrial agents coming in a close second and third. Regarding measures they are willing to take, they mentioned water consumption and energy cutbacks.
Eco living is expensive
Living eco friendly is considered expensive by many of us. Studies show that only 1% of Romanians consume eco food, even though they are valuable to human health.
Organic food is obtained through ecological agriculture, which forbids use of genetically modified organisms, synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, stimulators and growth regulators as well as hormones and antibiotics. High prices are the main reason we can't have organic food.
However, hypermarkets and supermarkets have launched their own portfolios of organic products. Food products are not the only ones we should pay attention to. Some buyers take into account the social foot-print of a company that offers certain products. A study made by the Association for Communal Relations ( ARC ) shows that 69% of the interviewees consider " better not to buy a product of a firm that is detrimental to health and the environment."
Spirit of competition
When they learn by playing, teachers say, children develop an ecologic spirit. If there is also a competition involved, garbage turns into the most beautiful objects. Students at School 79 are currently participating in a competition on eco-civic themes organized by Petrom. They didn't limit themselves to one team; instead they formed three.
The first stage of the national eco-civic contest "Scoala lui Andrei " ( "Andrei's School" ) collected almost 1.000 qualified projects and 5.000 students enrolled in the contest, from 239 schools across the country.
The first prize of the contest is participation in the camp "Tabara lui Andrei" ( "Andrei's Camp") which will be organized this year in Durau, Neamt county. The winner will also receive a 10.000 Euros fund for the project.
Any picnic and barbeque should be followed by collecting the garbage. Approximately 60% of Romanians said they are willing to pick up waste produced by themselves. In reality, the classic barbeque in the woods results in dunes of garbage.