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Karina Ivchenko: From a volunteer to the head of the organization "Trash. No. More"

Updated: Dec 8, 2022

Karina Ivchenko is the president of the Trash.No.More organization, eco-educator and organizer of eco-events.

Фото: из личного архива

Photo from personal archive

CC: How did you adopt the values of sustainable lifestyle, and what sustainable practices do you have in your life?

KI: I have always loved nature, we lived in our house in a village on the shore of the bay. We looked after the area around the house, grew vegetables, fruits, flowers. For me, it is crazy - to litter or break a tree or a flower. From childhood, my mother instilled the habit of collecting waste separately and collecting organic matter for compost. At school, I enjoyed participating in subbotniks.

In 2014, my husband and I visited Italy, we lived with an Italian who told us about the system of recyclables collection, showed us and taught us how to recycle by. When we arrived in St. Petersburg, we thought, why don't we sort the garbage here? We began to look for opportunities to introduce recycling at home. At that time, there were very few containers in the city and collection points were located very far away. Once a month, the city hosted actions to receive raw materials, and I began to participate in them as a volunteer. In 3-4 months, I became an expert in sorting. Thus, the first basic habit was formed - separate collection.

Saving resources for me is also a fairly natural process. There was no running water in my childhood home, and we got water from a pump 10 minutes walk from the house. Conserving water was commonplace. You will not waste excess water when you carry it yourself in winter and summer.

Later I found out that there are communities for exchanging various things. I began to buy most things from second-hand stores. For me, this was normal since childhood, relatives often gave away things. When I found out about Spasibo stores, I started visiting them.

Then I started thinking about reducing consumption, replacing disposable things with reusable ones. Today, my husband and I generate very little waste: about two bags of 400 grams per month, we hand over the rest for processing and composting. We also try to reduce recyclables, usually this is a large package, which is taken out by the Ecotaxi service every 3-4 months. We use a lot of reusable products and do not buy extra.

My husband and I have no desire to consume, we are people of new formation who do not seek to buy housing, furniture, cars and the like. This is alien to us. We rent everything we need, do not buy extra, and spend the money on education and travel. Of course, someday we will have our own house outside the city, but we will try to adhere to minimalism there as well.

CC: Tell us more about your waste minimization method?

KI: It comes with experience. It took us 5-6 years. The important thing is that we are vegetarians, our main waste is organic. A lot of packaging is formed from meat, fish and dairy products. We periodically take organic matter out of town to our parents. I take fruits, vegetables, dried fruits and nuts by weight in my bags, so in our house soft packaging accumulates mainly from sweets.

I started vegetarianism in 2015, my husband joined gradually. Over time, we abandoned dairy products, yogurts, cheeses. We can eat these products in a cafe or at a party, if we really want to, or if there is nothing else to choose from. We also did not immediately come to the recycling of organic matter. We usually store organic matter for a month and a half in a freezer in a special box or in a special cooler bag and does not smell. Then we take it to the countryside to my parents.

CC: How do your parents feel about your lifestyle?

KI: They're already used to it. They were initially skeptical about separate collection. They were surprised that we would spend half day volunteering for separate collection actions. I could not understand what surprised them, because in Soviet times they sorted everything perfectly! My mother kept a note of school years about the delivery of waste paper by students with her photo. And yet it seemed strange to them that we sort, hand over, take away, and no one pays us for this. Over time, under our influence, they themselves began to wash the container and put it in a large bag. Once every 2-3 weeks I come to them, sort everything and order pickup. At the same time, I did not insist on anything, did not force, but simply explained why this was necessary. Parents saw what we were doing and soon understood why we were doing it. Even my grandmother got involved and collects waste separately. Of course, parents do not do everything perfectly, but I do not overload them with information about markings and help them sort.

The husband also resisted at first: “I won’t wash it.” But he still helped me carry the RSO to the shares and soon got used to it. My husband switched to vegetarianism easily, because he used to practice both a raw food diet and fasting. His mother also eventually stopped eating heavy meat food. This is how we influence the whole family.

CC: There is a perception that a sustainable lifestyle is not easy and takes a lot of time. And how long does it actually take?

KI: For beginners, it's difficult at first and takes time to get used to. It makes life much easier to learn from someone else's positive experience, to read short instructions. In my case, the training took place in the process of volunteering. After three campaigns, I was already familiar with the types of recyclables, I understood what could be handed over and what not. Now it happens automatically: I eat it, rinse it, put it in a recycling bin. Before handing over raw materials to Ecotaxi, I spend 15 minutes putting individual types of raw materials into different bags. This is not for long, as the skill has already been formed.

CC: How do you organize your life: where do you go for food, clothes and other things?

KI: There is a “Crossroads” near the house, I buy vegetables and fruits there in my bags. I buy nuts and dried fruits by weight, I come with my jar, they don’t ask questions, they drop the tare weight and weigh it.

Bulk stores have not really taken root in our family, because they are far away, and it is expensive to pay for delivery. There you need to buy a lot at once, not just one kilogram of cereals. When we bought a lot, we got bugs. We have given up on this, plus we don't have much space in the kitchen to store supplies.

In principle, I never liked to buy clothes. I was annoyed when something was torn, spoiled, and I had to go buy clothes in a store. Now I try to buy from second hand stores, for example, at Avito or at the Spasibo store.

CC: What supports you, inspires you: books, films, people?

KI: I don't watch eco-movies much. I remember one in which the family set up an experiment on how to live without oil. I also read little books, although the Green Driver inspired me on the initial path. I am constantly in the information field in general: articles, exchange of information with colleagues, posts. Preparing for lectures and speeches requires you to study a lot of information. I don’t go to eco-events anymore if I don’t perform there.

I have support inside. I clearly understand why I'm doing this, I just like it and I don't need any external factors. I didn’t even care when at first there was no support from my husband and parents. I am a leader, the main thing for me is to believe in my own business.

Of course, not everyone is like me, and someone gives up because relatives do not support or they feel negative from friends and acquaintances. The main reason for abandoning an eco-friendly lifestyle is burnout. You need to learn to help yourself: go for sports, walks, attend events, go out of town to switch and restore the resources.

СС: What primarily motivates you to be green?

KI: Real environmentalists are eco-egoists, they do everything for themselves. Our planet does not need to be saved, it lived billions of years before us and will live after us. If the supply of fresh water or clean air runs out, then we will disappear as a species, and the planet will remain, turn into a kind of Mars, where other species will appear instead of us.

For me, the main thing is the moment of awareness, I understand that my actions can lead to negative consequences, but I am in control of the situation and I can fix it. My husband and I change houses every two years, every time we review our belongings and give away extra “junk”. This encourages not to buy too much, to leave only what will fit in one car when moving. I like this independence from things, because all you need is yourself. Things cannot be taken with you "to the other world", so there is no need to surround yourself with them.

Another motivation is to save money, I prefer to spend on travel and education. My husband and I often learn new things and we travel a lot. Our acquaintances are surprised, because we have a regular average salary, and in my social circles I receive a small salary, but we manage to go on vacation three times a year, simply because we do not buy anything extra.

CC: How did you get into Trash.No.More, and how did your path in the organization develop?

KI: When I participated in actions, I communicated with people a lot. I wanted to share information and conduct lectures and classes. I have loved performing since my school days. Then I found out about "Trash. No. More": they recruited people who were ready to conduct lessons and perform. I attended one of the lessons, and then we had a joint lecture with a colleague and got some experience and feedback. I went into the specialization course of “performances for adults”, later I began to independently organize events and coordinate the Ecospeaker project. Since 2018, I have been actively applying for grants. I have structural thinking, I like to sort things out, so writing grants was quite simple and understandable for me. I have won several awards in a row. The former leader began to retire and offered me to take the post of president of the organization. I took over in 2019. I managed to go from volunteer to manager in 3 years. There were no restrictions in this area, the initiative was not punishable, but, on the contrary, led to something good.

СС: How do the activities of the organizations “Trash.No.More” and “Razdelniy sbor” combine with each other?

KI: It used to be one organization. Initially, "Trash.No.More" was engaged in cleaning the territories, the guys held many actions, about 500 cleanings per year. Then we began to do promotions of "Separate Collection", and at some point this team decided to go separate. It's normal when a project grows and becomes independent. Now it is more interesting for us at Trash.No.More to work not with the consequences, but with the causes. Therefore, we have focused on education and today we are conducting lessons, quests and quizzes for children, and lectures, webinars, quizzes and online courses for adults.

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