In October 2021 the All-Russian Society for Nature Protection organized a cleaning event to clean the Kyrönniemi area from unwanted litter and unauthorized buildings. In total 108 tons of rubbish was removed with the help of 107 volunteers. In Finland similar events have been organized for example around the coastline of the Baltic Sea. Volunteering plays a big role in the fight against one of nature’s enemy: littering.
Author: Kaisu Isomäki
Volunteering in Russia
The All-Russian Society for Nature Protection (VOOP), founded in 1924, is the oldest environmental organization in Russia which has regional branches all over the country. The department of St. Petersburg and the Leningrad region mainly deals with nature protection issues such as organization of ecological events for planting seedlings and cleaning territories and environmental education of the population. Its tasks include the development of ecological tourism and nature trails as well. (Grigoreva 2022.)
Marina Grigoreva, project assistant of VOOP in Leningrad region office, tells that the events are made possible with the help of volunteers. Volunteers are of different ages, but the biggest groups are students between the ages of 18 and 25 and elderly people. The motivations for the volunteering of the age groups are different. Young people want to acquire professional competencies as well as network with other people. For pensioners, volunteering is a way to make life more diverse and to contribute to society. But most importantly volunteers share a common goal: to protect the environment. (Grigoreva 2022.)
Even though the protected areas are located away from the bigger cities, most of the regular volunteers of the Leningrad region office are from St. Petersburg. Therefore, the volunteering groups are transferred to the sites from St. Petersburg. Grigoreva explains that local people rarely participate in volunteering actions since the settlement nearby the protected areas are few. (Grigoreva 2022.)
LAB participates in the project Kurenniemi – Cultural value of Russia and Finland through M. Agricola trail which is funded within the framework of South-East Finland – Russia CBC Programme 2014–2020. Cape Kyrönniemi is located at the shore of the Gulf of Finland near the Finnish-Russian border in Russia. The area is surrounded with hamlets and villages of only few hundred people (Mapcarta).
The power of volunteering in Kyrönniemi and in Finland
The results of the October’s cleaning event were monumental. In total 108 tons of garbage was cleaned from the forests and beaches of Kyrönniemi. Garbage consisted mostly of plastic bags and materials for building unauthorized huts on the shore. 15 buildings made of wood, metal and plastic elements were demolished. 4 large garbage containers were needed to transport the trash to the landfill. Grigoreva explains that the trash collected during the cleaning events is usually dirty and rotten which sadly cannot be recycled in Russia. (Alimpieva 2021; Grigoreva 2022.)
In Finland one large-scale cleaning campaign last year was “The Baltic Sea plogging”. As the Baltic Sea is not only threatened by eutrophication but also by marine litter, volunteering can make an impact. In the Baltic Sea plogging campaign throughout the summer volunteers could rent a kayak for free from 8 locations at the coastline (Helsinki, Espoo, Turku, Pori, Vaasa and Oulu). The kayaks were modified with cleaning equipment. (Laguuni 2021; Itämeri Plogging 2021.)
The campaign culminated on the 26th of August in the Baltic Sea Day, launched by John Nurminen Foundation, where people were encouraged to clean the Baltic Sea from kayaks, on SUP boards, by electric bikes or by foot. After stranding from the sea, participants were asked to bring the garbage to be weighed and recycled. At the end of the summer 2021 the total amount of trash removed from the sea was almost 2400 kg. (Laguuni 2021; Itämeri Plogging 2021.) Besides Finland, also Russia, Estonia, Sweden, Lithuania and Latvia celebrated the Baltic Sea Day by organizing different kinds of events and activities related to the sea. (John Nurmisen säätiö 2021a.)
On the 28th of January, John Nurminen Foundation organized a kick-off event for the Baltic Sea Day 2022. This year the themes are promoting a Baltic Sea friendly diet, getting to know the Baltic Sea, and having a cultural moment related to it. (John Nurmisen säätiö 2021b.)
Image 1: A trash picker stand at the lake Vesijärvi (Image: Kaisu Isomäki)
Actions towards cleaner environment
By making caring for the environment as effortless and fun as possible, people are more likely to get involved even without organized volunteering events. For example, last year Lahti offered free trash pickers and plastic bags in tree locations around the city (Green Lahti 2021). This made it possible for people to do good while enjoying the environment.
Project Satakolkyt encourages people to start plogging and clean up the shores of the Baltic Sea in Helsinki. Plogging is a trendy form of exercise in which people pick up trash while jogging (Siivouspäivä). The trash pickers can be borrowed from libraries around Helsinki. The project website has a map that shows which shores have been cleaned, which are soon to be cleaned and which are not clean. A person or a group interested in cleaning up can book a beach, go clean it and report the cleaned area afterwards. By now 262 kilometers of coastline have been cleared up from trash by companies, school groups and private persons. (Satakolkyt 2022.)
Plogging has also stranded to Russia, knows Grigoreva. Though, due to the age of many volunteers and the difficult terrains in many natural sites, VOOP has not organized plogging events yet. However, they have organized other ecological events with interesting formats such as “clean orienteering competition” where teams collected trash while passing control points in the forest. The winners were the teams with most points and garbage. (Grigoreva 2022.)
People know that littering the nature is harmful. Oftentimes though they need to be reminded of it. Two ways to help people keep the nature sites clean are to offer enough trash bins in visible locations or to make it clear with informational signs that everything a person brings to the nature destination has to be taken back home too. If volunteering and cleaning events are still needed, by making participation easy and fun, it is possible to raise awareness of the importance of the clean environment as by-product.
Alimpieva, D. 2021. Cited 13 January 2022. Available at https://kurenniemi.com/news/107-volonterov-15-samostroev-i-svyshe-180-tonn-musora-na-myse-kyurenniemi-proshel-subbotnik
Green Lahti. 2021. Projects. Cited 13 January 2022. Available at https://greenlahti.fi/en/projects
Grigoreva, M. 2022. Project assistant. All-Russian Society for Nature Protection. 10.1.2022.
Itämeri Plogging. 2021. Yleisinfo Itämeripäivän siivoustempaukseen. Cited 24 January 2022. Available at https://itameri.johku.com/fi_FI/itameripaiva-26-8-2021/yleisinfo-itameripaivan-siivoustempaukseen
John Nurmisen säätiö. 2021a. Itämeripäivää juhlistettiin kuudessa maassa ja yli 20 kaupungissa. Cited 24 January 2022. Available at https://johnnurmisensaatio.fi/itameripaivaa-juhlistettiin-kuudessa-maassa-ja-yli-20-kaupungissa/
John Nurmisen säätiö. 2021b. Ajankohtaista: Tervetuloa kick-off -tilaisuuteen 28.1.2022!. Cited 18 February 2022. Available at https://itameripaiva.fi/tervetuloa-kick-off-tilaisuuteen-28-1-2022/
Laguuni. 2021. Fortum roskalaskuri. Cited 24 January 2022. Available at https://laguuniin.fi/itameri2021/
Mapcarta. Cited 24 January 2022. Available at https://mapcarta.com/N1909967051
Satakolkyt. 2022. Haastamme helsinkiläiset siivoamaan koko 130 km Itämeren rantaviivaa. Cited 31 January 2022. Available at https://satakolkyt.fi/
Siivouspäivä. Mitä on plogging? Cited 31 January 2022. Available at https://siivouspaiva.com/plogging/mita-on-plogging
Kaisu Isomäki, ICT engineer and BBA, works as a project planner in the Business Unit of LAB University of Applied Sciences. In her work, Kaisu strives to solve problems with her technical expertise user-centered approach in mind.
Iluustration: Natalia Gorbachova
Reference to this article
Isomäki, K. 2022. Volunteering for a cleaner environment. LAB Pro. Cited and date of citation. Available at https://www.labopen.fi/lab-pro/volunteering-for-a-cleaner-environment/