Written by Jacy Meyer
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle! Go Green! Hug a tree! Environmental slogans abound – but what´s the state of the environment in the Czech Republic, and more importantly how can you reduce your carbon footprint and lead a cleaner, greener lifestyle?
We´ve all seen them on our street corners – and hopefully we all use them: The blue, yellow and green containers to sort our paper, plastic and glass waste. EKO-KOM is the company who picks it all up, and as recently reported in Aktuálně, Czechs recycle about 50 kilos of waste per person per year. In 2007, the country recycled 52% of PET plastic bottles and other plastic products; 68% of glass and a whopping 95% of paper waste. While all that looks, and is, good there is a bigger problem when it comes to recycling household waste (vegetable waste) and electrical appliance recycling (old computers, cell phones, etc.) Currently, the country is recycling only about 20% of these waste products. Our air isn´t much better. Statistics from Auto-Mat (see below) reveal Prague has the worst air pollution in the country, and 70% of it can be attributed to cars plus two-thirds of the city´s residents are subjected to excessive noise caused primarily by autos.
A recent poll though found that, despite their willingness to recycle, Czechs aren´t much in the way of supporting the environment financially. A public opinion poll conducted by CVVM in May 2008, found that about three-fifths of Czechs would prefer a government funded system to protect the environment. Only 36 percent of those polled would donate money to assist in ecological efforts. Some good news though; 82 percent did say the environment should be protected, even if it did cost time and money.
The Nadace Partnerství (Czech Environmental Partnership, www.nadacepartnerstvi.cz) promotes and supports sustainable development projects throughout the country. It has supported 2100 projects since its founding in 1991. They focus on supporting NGO´s, cities and schools in their environmental efforts, encourage inter-sector cooperation and the participation of citizens in public affairs. They tackle seven major projects: Tree of Life, which helps communities plant trees; Greenways, recreational trails for hiking and biking throughout the country; Public Spaces assist municipalities in creating aesthetically pleasing public spaces; Sustainable Transport Programme focuses on sustainable means of transportation (i.e. not cars;) Schools for Sustainable Development involves school kids in initiatives such as local culture and nature preservation; Partnership for the Kolín Region focuses on sustainable development in this area and finally, the Energy Alternatives program looks at nuclear energy.
Zeleny Kruh (Green Circle, www.zelenykruh.cz) is an association of nearly 30 environmental organizations. Their main goal is to keep its members informed as to what´s happening in the environmental world, and lobby the government. They hope to strengthen the cooperation and communication between the various NGO´s as well as stay involved in environmental policy making and implementation.
There´s a local branch of the worldwide organization Greenpeace in the Czech Republic (www.greenpeace.cz.) The non-profit´s mission is to protect and conserve the environment through a variety of actions in the fields of energy, the oceans, forests and sustainable agriculture, among other things. The Czech branch has recently been quite active in protesting the proposed US radar base in the country. The local website is only in Czech, but if you want to get more involved in their global efforts, check the main site at www.greenpeace.org.
Friends of the Earth (Hutní DUHA, www.hutniduha.cz) is one of the largest and most influential NGO´s in the country. They regularly campaign for such issues as climate change, nature conservation, ecological agriculture, etc. as well as attempt to keep the public informed and involved in environmental policy issues.
Dedicated to environmental pollution, Arnika (www.arnika.org) works on marsh and river protection and preventing toxic pollution, not only within the Czech Republic but with the country´s European neighbors as well. They have a volunteer sign-up form on their website – tasks range from helping out in their office to translating to something as easy as posting notices in your workplace or distributing other materials.
If you want to get involved, but on a more recreational level – check out Auto-Mat (www.auto-mat.cz.) They focus on improving cities through the reduction of car traffic and promoting sustainable public transport, especially bikes. They arrange a variety of educational and artistic events focused on this theme. Animal lovers should check out Společnost pro zvířata or the Society for Animals (www.spolecnostprozvirata.cz.) They work in the areas of finding alternative means of animal experimentation in schools, as well as the conditions for farm animals in the Czech Republic.
The Czech Ministry of the Environment´s website (www.env.cz) has useful information in English, however it doesn´t seem to be regularly updated – the State Environmental Policy is dated January 2001. It is quite comprehensive though and includes items like priority environmental problems (which includes problems in the environmental structure) and sustainable development.
So how you can go green? Recycle everything you can; bring your own re-usable bag to the shops and purchase locally grown and produced food products. Recycle your printer cartridges, and probably save some money by using Ink-Station (www.inkstation.cz,) a refill service for cartridges and laser toners. If you are looking to improve the environmental standards of your place of business; look into the Czech Environment Management Center (www.cemc.cz.) They are a non-profit organization that, among other things, organizes trainings in the fields of eco-efficiency, pollution prevention and sustainable development. Tree Hugger (www.treehugger.com) gives excellent tips on all sorts of green living in their “How to green your
” guides. Learn how to environmentally improve your kitchen, your electricity, your wardrobe – and even your sex life and funeral.
For general information, mostly in Czech about environmental groups, laws and other green happenings, visit www.ekolist.cz or www.ecn.cz.