Ecospeaker Natalia Menkova

“I wish everyone were not so lazy. A gradual change in habits is not difficult. But even on my own I can say that it’s one thing to sit on the couch and think that tomorrow I’ll start losing weight, sort, do yoga, and another the point is to start doing it all the time. For now, I would like people to have more faith that their efforts are useful."



How did your path to environmental awareness begin?

Natalia: My path to environmental awareness began somewhere in 2013. It started with simple things - sorting plastic and paper. At that time, I worked in an office, and it became obvious that we use a very large amount of paper and just throw it away. The office, by some happy coincidence, was located in the current project "Open Space", and there were a lot of eco-projects, including "Separate collection, and "Garbage.No.More" (GNM). I contacted them and they said that you can put a used cardboard box in the office for paper and plastic bottles, it does not require any equipment or a special license. After we put the box in the office, it became clear that we would have to write instructions, that say you can only put this here, but this is not allowed, because unfortunately, it does not meet the criteria for recyclables. The same had to be written with plastic. But nevertheless, the emptying of containers was constantly required, and recycling does not work on its own. At that moment, I realized that I lacked the practical skills of what to do with it. I got to the lecture, which was held by the GNM, it was a mini-lecture about helping the action coordinator, how to organize actions, what needs to be done for this, where to start, with whom to interact, etc. And this short course gave me an understanding of what is needed to do.


How did you organize your personal household?

Natalia: When you live alone, it can hardly be called a household. Joint living with my husband began in 2018. By this point, I was already an experienced person in waste sorting, and therefore it all started with the fact that I explained how important it was. My husband, he knew it existed, but he had never done it. My husband is ethically close to me and loves me very much, so we moved to a higher level without any problems: we don’t just bring packaging to the house and attribute it all to stocks, but we reduce the amount of consumption in general.


Where for you is that line of balance between the efforts that you are ready to spend and are not ready?

Natalia: Extra-efforts, I think, are not needed, it seems to contradict theory and rationality, that is, all eco-habits should suit you, if they do not suit you, think about how to make them comfortable. Our family approached the question of what to do with organics in a constant volume. At first we bought a chopper to push it all into the sewer, but it became clear that the solution was not completely comfortable - it clogs the pipe even in our large high-rise building, not to mention if it is done in the historical center. From such a banal thing that I do - I try to have less water in organics. If something needs to be peeled, I try to wash already peeled fruits, and not soak them with water first. That is, I save resources, but with organics, I'm still looking for a solution.


How did your personal habits develop into leadership?

Natalia: I started volunteering at RS events, then I came to the coordinator and said: “How can I help? Which of the waste collection sectors needs my efforts? Sometimes she helped with the unloading of recyclables. She took part in cleaning, together with GNM, at that time they were cleaning the beach near the municipality of the Sea Gate, this is the Dudergof Canal. Then there was always tea drinking and discussion with the participants. And gradually it grew into enlightenment, I had something to talk about with those neophytes who are afraid to share, they think that it is generally pointless, it’s all thrown out anyway, and so on. I wanted to get in touch with these people, to convince them, to talk about the importance of this, to tell about my personal examples.


Tell us more about your professional activities in environmental education?

Natalia: When I already had a lot of experience in participating in promotions and cleaning, it became important for me to share my knowledge with people who had not tried it yet - to explain how I started, what was difficult, what solution I found. In 2016 or 2017, GNM was recruiting a course for eco-speakers, and I enrolled there. Met even more new people. Subsequently, I joined the "Ecospeakers" project as an expert. The project is aimed at environmental education of different audiences. My audience is adult households and even people of the "silver" age, I also conduct lessons in schools.

Plus, the impact on food manufacturers and attempts to accustom them to selling goods in recyclable packaging. This happened with Petmol when at some point they switched from five to six. After very long… many letters, Petmol made a package that can be easily disassembled into three parts: the lid is one, the foil is metal, the paper is torn off from the glue, and the jar itself is 5. This has already been followed by several other manufacturers.



Ecogame "Sort, don't throw away" from the project "Ecospeakers"


Let's get back to the GNM, tell us about the organizational structure, that is, how many of you are there, how do people join you, how flexible is the organization?

Natalia: GNM has two projects, the first one is “Upgrade Ecolife” if you have zero environmental knowledge and experience of interaction. After passing, you will understand that there are a lot of proposals and projects, and you just need to join them. If after “Prokachay Ecolife” and such successful practices you have a desire to tell people about what you can try, where you can grow further after you have passed a certain stage, then I recommend that you sign up for our Ecospeakers course. Gradually, through enrichment with environmental knowledge and practices, I began to participate in public speaking in order to share experience and say that there is nothing to worry about. You can also join us on social networks.


What changes are required now, in your opinion, in environmental education, so that development would be more intensive?

Natalia: I would like everyone to be not so lazy. Gradually changing habits is easy. But even on my own I can say that it’s one thing to sit on the couch and think that tomorrow I’ll start losing weight, sort, do yoga, and another thing is to start doing it all the time. For now, I would like people to believe more that their efforts are beneficial, because the more people are not perfect, even if not completely, even if not 20 types of recyclables are collected at home, but their efforts are more important than if they just sit at home and do nothing.

If we talk about state regulation, then I am in favor of developing a system to support manufacturers using recyclable packaging. So that the linearity completely disappears: we got raw materials from somewhere, put the product there, then the consumer took the product, and threw the packaging somewhere. To do this, we definitely need to change the legislation, and for this we need the representation of environmental activists, environmental parties in legislative bodies. We need to move to the level where we can create some form of political participation and legislative representation. There are things that have accumulated, and they just need to be solved. It seems that the state at the federal level has set this goal, but we are very vaguely moving towards it. The path that was chosen through the creation of monopolies does not yet bring much progress and help. Probably, if we bring down to the level of the population, as a taxpayer, the consumer, then rational methods can work here. If I, as a consumer, return a percentage of the cost of the goods when returning the packaging and understand that it is profitable, then the population will be more enthusiastic about MS. We don't have such messages yet, this block simply doesn't exist. I would like to start discussing this, this requires representation at the state and legislative level. That is, ideally, in every legislative assembly we should have an environmental deputy or some kind of environmental party who will say that in order to restore forests, we need such a program, for recycling garbage, we need such steps to protect animals, we need some kind of action. And I would like to hear about it more often than I hear it now.