Interview with Roman Sablin, co-founder of the Green Driver movement, motivational speaker, environmental trainer.
СС - Circular Citizens, RS - Roman Sablin
CC: What motivates people to take up the topic of sustainability and what inspired you?
RS: There are several options for that. The first option is getting to know an authority that inspires by example. Now there are thousands of such people, and in 2010 there were only a few of them. I was lucky, I accidentally came to a conference on anti-Chernobyl posters, which was then held by Tatyana Chestina, the founder of the EKA movement (https://ecamir.ru/). We got to talking and I started volunteering with them. And then a month later she proposed an experimental project "EcoLoft on Pyatnitskaya". It was a city apartment in Moscow, where we studied for a year and trained to live environmentally. I must say that even before this acquaintance I saved water and electricity - thanks to my dad and mom (I grew up in Siberia, in a mining village, there was taiga around). But then I first learned about the eco-footprint, about reducing the burden on the environment through changing habits, and this idea inspired me. It turned out that there are dozens of everyday habits that can trigger irreversible processes of change. The second option is the search for new meanings. When I lived in Moscow, everything was fine with my career, there were parties and a good salary (I worked as the head of the press service of the TechnoNIKOL corporation). But I got bored there, at the age of 29 the question of meaning of life arose - why go, where to go and what to do? In response to the request of the universe, yoga first came to me, then vegetarianism, and then, as a result, eco-activism.
A scene from the film "The Green Beautiful".
The third option is similar to meeting a person - this is reading a book about ecology. I know hundreds of people whose lives have changed after reading my book The Green Driver, which came out in 2013. Someone was changed by Bea Johnson's book A House Without Waste. The fourth option is watching eco-films. I saw the film "Beautiful Green" and it influenced me greatly. Today I can recommend the film "2040" to everyone. The fifth variation of the entry point is what I call the label. This is when people think about what they eat, what they drink, and start reading labels about the composition of food or detergents, through this they come to take care of themselves, and through "eco-egoism" they become environmentalists and eco-activists.
CC: Your current business is in eco-education. What are you teaching?
RS: We already have 5 online courses. The first course is free, it is a video course "School of a separate waste collection", you can connect to it at any time. There we regularly do webinars and answer questions. The Second School of Environmentalists is teaching eco-habits in 16 areas, including eco-events, the use of eco-cosmetics, eco-life, eco-tourism. We also have schools for eco-professions. For example, the Eco-Trainer School lasts 5 months and is dedicated to training eco-consultants for businesses who implement segregated collection and responsible purchasing in companies. And at the Eco-Bloggers School, we teach how to educate the public about the environment through social networks.
CC: What kind of audience comes to you?
RS: 90% is female audience, but men also appear and we are very happy about that. There is an explanation for this gender distribution, starting with eco-masculinity, which is largely absent in our country (men are shy). Our listeners write that their partners are sometimes ashamed to go to the store with an eco-bag, they consider it not manly. A frequent question from the listeners is what to do if the boyfriend/ husband does not understand me and threatens to throw out the garbage collected separately from the balcony? I always say that there is no need to force and that if everything is good and harmonious within the couple, sooner or later men will begin to help and get involved. Also, women in our country are still more engaged in the household and are faced with a large amount of garbage in everyday life, and they are also worried about the future of their children. And also, women come to us in search of themselves, many on maternity leave and after it, they do not want to return to the office. Some are self-educated. But at the same time, there are eco-activists who want to make money on their knowledge in the field of sustainability.
СС: What is important for the spread of sustainable lifestyles in Russia? Many people say that education is important, but what else?
RS: I have been observing this process for 11 years, and for the last 4 years it has been on the increase, in 2017 was the Year of the Environment, a lot of budget money was allocated to it, large number of events took place, eco-projects were launched and people began to actively join the eco-movement. On the Dobro.ru website (supervised by Rosmolodezh), there are already 39 thousand people who have indicated eco-volunteering as their interest in Russia. Of course, eco-education is important, you need to tell, show and inspire even more people. The main question at our lectures is: "Why should we do this, and not the state and business?" We answer that we are just influencing what is happening, and this is just about civil society. The state is us, you need to start with yourself, changing your way of life, if you have enough energy - to connect to eco-projects and engage in activism to lobbying in the State Duma to ban single-use plastic, which happened a few days ago.
СС: What advice would you give to someone who wants to start making their life more sustainable? Where to start, where to go?
RS: The first is to assess the number of disposables in your life and try to reduce it. Get a thermos or a reusable bottle and stop buying bottled water. Have a reusable mug for takeaway coffee. Use eco-bags and eco-shopping bags to reduce the number of bags and packaging. At the School of Environmentalists, we offer 40 disposable alternatives and 40 replacements, from diapers to cocktail straws. The second is to start practicing separate collection, find out what is convenient to recycle near your home, start collecting waste paper, plastic bottles, and then gradually increase the number of fractions of separated waste. My family and I hand over about 30 fractions of waste in St. Petersburg. The third is to connect to some eco-project, join the eco-community, find out that you are not alone and find people like you. There are eco-communities in every city in Russia. Once upon a time, 3 people came to the eco-networking that I conducted on Sakhalin, and now there is a chat called “Eco-friendly Sakhalin” and there are more than a hundred people there. At each stage you need to study, study and study again. I invite everyone to our free school for separate waste collection "Green Driver". You can subscribe to eco-bloggers who write well and actively, for example, Anastasia Prikazchikova, Boris Lorer (youtube channel "Pererabotkinskaya"). Move gradually, realise that this is forever. Life will never be the same again.