Interview: Eco-friendly practices in St. Petersburg

We continue our series of interviews with regular members of eco-communities and their leaders. We discuss the personal motivations of participants from both countries (Finland and Russia), and the difficulties they face in leading eco-friendly lifestyles. The collection of interviews will approximately last until the end of June 2021. If you would like to share your experience, please send a request to our email circular.citizens@gmail.com


Respondent 2

age: 27

education: higher, architect

city: St. Petersburg

gender: female


Photo from the personal archive of the respondent. The action "Razdel'nyy sbor " in St. Petersburg.


What practices do you understand as eco lifestyle?

This is what is called conscious consumption, not only recycling, but also not to buying too much. Thinking about where to buy and when to buy. It is supporting local manufacturers and purchasing goods without packaging, certification support. I also often think about giving up eating animal foods, but this is too controversial a topic to discuss now. It seems to me that at least a lot of people should think about this. I personally try not to impose this point of view.

Do I understand correctly that giving up meat is more sustainable way of life?

Of course ... soil depletion for growing livestock feed, pesticides, water pollution, etc.


Which eco-practices have you incorporated into your life?

I split and recycle packages, most of what can be recycled except for hard and foamed plastics. I honestly try to buy only what I really need and make the most of it without changing gadgets once a year. I try to buy everything without packaging, but often it takes more time and does not always work out. I know where you can buy goods without packaging, but it is often easier to go to a store near your home and buy the goods you want. Sometimes I come across shops where all of the vegetables and fruits are packed and I have to go to look for unpackaged ones elsewhere. Sometimes it’s hard because I don’t use a car and I have to carry everything on myself. I don't use plastic bags at all, because plastic can only be recycled once, unlike glass, for example. I believe that plastic should be completely excluded from production. There is also an issue with paper, I heard that a lot of water is used making it and not all recycled paper is accepted here either - for example toilet paper sleeves and egg packaging.

In the summertime, I prefer a bicycle and, if possible, refuse transport.


Photo from film "Fast Food Nation", 2006. Source: https://www.kinopoisk.ru/



How did your experience start?

Recently, I remembered that in our school, in English lessons, we had open lessons in the format of seminars and we studied the topic of waste in various industries. It was the mid-2000s. We were researching, looking for information, but at that time no one, of course, processed anything. Then it was the main issue for a person to bring his cigarette butt to the trash can, and he then they are "a good citizen". I was left wondering: we produce so much, both emissions and waste, and what to do about it?

Then, probably an important stage, I stopped eating meat, and I have not eaten meat for more than 10 years. I watched Fast Food Nation (2006), in general a film about the problems of the meat industry. There are several issues: how migrants from Mexico are brought in and have to work almost for free in production; how eco-activists opened pens of livestock and tried to release the animals; the fast food industry in general. I understand perfectly well that just quitting eating meat will not solve a global problem. This is not only about meat, but also about milk, shoes, clothes. By the way, in the case of shoes, this is a big question for me, which is more environmentally friendly? It seems to me that here we should separate the issue of attitude towards animals and the issue of environmental friendliness. Because in the case of shoes, in my opinion, it is much more environmentally friendly to buy high-quality leather shoes and wear them for a long time than artificial leather shoes. I have a bunch of questions about artificial leather's subsequent disposal. But this is still an open question for me.

Then I always recycled paper waste. It was convenient, I got used to it. This is probably still from school. I saved up paper and just took it to school and didn't really think about it. Bottles, for example, were not collected from us, and we had direct “hot” reception points, where they had their own recycling point. Therefore, I did not use them either.

I don’t remember that I shared something after school, because it was not clear where to take it all, and there was not much time. And then I started working as an apprentice in an ecological store. It was very interesting to work there. We had to know everything about the products, so I learned about eco-labelling and certification and this was superimposed on my recycling habits. Everyone then became eco-bloggers and in my information field it all came together in one picture. At first I went to one collection action, handed over the paper, it turned out to be not super difficult. But in a separate collection point there are some rules that can not always be read and I learned some details of the process. I even wrote out information for myself, and at first I was very upset that some kind of package was not accepted ... but then I became more calm about it and got used to it.


As time passes, we find a balance, as the most radical views have already passed. I can occasionally buy some product in non-recyclable packaging, if I really wanted to, I think I can afford to do so.

How much has consumer demand changed? If you find quality, inexpensive products, but the packaging is not recyclable, would you prefer expensive products from an unknown manufacturer with recyclable packaging?


Almost everything I buy myself is recyclable without problems. But there were times when I bought myself something in plastic number 6 and I wondered what to do with it later. As time passes, we find a balance, as the most radical views have already passed. I can occasionally buy some product in non-recyclable packaging, if I really wanted to, I think I can afford to do so.

I would also like to add that when I worked in an eco-store, I learned a lot about marketing and certifications. When the manufacturer writes that it is eco and bio... but in fact it is completely different. Or, for example, the product may not be tested on animals, but in non-recyclable packaging. And it is quite difficult to choose and monitor...

Or, for example, environmental brands that wanted to enter China's larger market, where testing of products on animals is imperative. And a large selection of brands have to decide to be green or not lose some of the profits.

In addition, later I rented an apartment where all the neighbours were very environmentally friendly, sorted garbage, were vegetarians, made soap and it was very easy to go with the stream. But now everything is getting easier, eco-goods stores appear and the entire infrastructure is developing.

But overall, I'm such a fickle person. At first, I tried to introduce certain eco-habits into my lifestyle to the maximum, but then, feeling discomfort, I seek balance and gradually give up something. It also depends on time.



Delivery of goods from the Zara online store. Source: instagram.com




What are the difficulties you are experiencing, leading eco-friendly lifestyle?

I really don't like that we have all sorts of rare plastics. It seems to me that they need either to be removed from production or to expand the collection line. Electronics recycling is also an issue. Containers now collect a fairly limited set of electronics. Not long ago I faced the problem of disposing of Aquaphor filters for water. They are plastic and cannot be twisted in any way. I called the manufacturer a year ago, they answered, no, we do not accept them. On the one hand, they can be used for a long time, but on the other hand, the question arises of what to do with it later and no one can answer it. It was kept there for some time on the balcony, but recently I threw out two filters. I was very upset that the "Bush" stopped pouring coffee with them into their containers, I do not want to use this glass. Or the delivery of products from a scooter, they packed each apple, I don't understand why there is so much packaging. You can make a button in the online store “without additional packing ”and add a separate payment for packaging and there will already be an incentive to reduce it. Disposable masks, wet wipes and all this also confuses me a lot. Sometimes I do not have time to wash the reusable mask and I have to reluctantly use disposable one. Or at work, when something is presented in a beautiful package, what to do with it? Sometimes I reuse gift bags, but the bows and films have to be thrown away. That is, not everything can be controlled, it would be great if the society also changed for better.


What would you like to add?

We need to come up with a more centralised system for the common usage of these containers. Here we have a recycling point near the Okay store, but it is always somehow filled up. And I am still very confused when people throw everything in there without reading the instructions. I'm not sure if it will be sorted somehow, and if it is sorted, whether it will all go for processing. I don't use all containers. Most often I choose the ones that have worked well for me, despite the fact that they are located further from my house. I would very much like to find out what happens if a person puts package in the wrong container? I do not use regional collection points, where they still give you money for it (glass, metal), they look unsafe, but it seems to me that they will definitely recycle everything.