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Valentin Afanasiev: Eco-habits for those who are always on the go

Updated: Dec 8, 2022

My name is Valya Afanasiev, I am a father of four children. We are a family of travellers. We constantly, like vagabonds, move from one country to another, never stay anywhere for more than 4 months, we live like migratory birds. We love sports, we love swimming, diving, running, cycling. I am also a free diving instructor, hiking instructor, head of the PIK tourist club. We take a lot of people to the mountains, and about 7,000 people go to the mountains with us during the summer season. In addition, I try to educate my children in the conditions of travel and try to instill in them what is important to me. We educate, we teach them harmonious relationships with nature, and we support environmental initiatives and even initiate something on our own.

CC: What does harmonious interaction with nature mean in your understanding?

VA: We believe that while traveling, a child can learn no less than at school, we believe that from interaction with mountains, with sea animals, with nature, you can also get a lot of information and we are testing this theory on our children. Naturally, this does not exclude conventional training.

In addition, we lay and respect for nature. This is what we tell our children and all the participants of our trips. This year almost 500 people learned to dive with us. Of course, people's attitude to nature is very important for us, we always say that it is impossible, for example, to step on corals, touch marine animals, well, about garbage - of course, about recycling. Here in Cirali in Turkey, we sort garbage, because the infrastructure exists. We sort the main fractions: plastic, glass, organic. Children, in general, support us in this, and sometimes they even remind us.

CC: So, despite the fact that you are so actively moving around, you still try to engage in recycling?

VA: We try, it's not always easy, but we try to build habits. Recycling is not possible everywhere, but where it is not, we simply minimize packaging waste. In general, we do not use disposable bags, we replace them with all sorts of bags. We try not to buy bottled water, well, buy as little as possible, and pour water into our own bottles, where possible. In terms of toys, we also try not to buy extra junk, the best toy is a stick and a pebble.

СС: How did you realise at first, that you need to recycle?

VA: I can't say that we do it all the time, but we try. We travel a lot, and when you see a beautiful sea or a beach, but the place is littered with rubbish, it is clear who is to blame for this ... a person. And here, I want to change something in. In the mountains and forests, garbage is also there and I want to change it.

СС: As I understand, you gradually began to promote these values, also in the Peak tourist club?

VA: Yes, that's correct. About 7,000 people traveled with us during the last season. We try to convey these values ​​to all these people. We make sure to send out newsletters. We have a letter “how to go camping in an environmentally friendly way”, people receive it, read it, learn about how to go camping so as not to harm nature. It says that it is advisable not to use stretch film at airports, what alternatives are there, what shampoo, what cosmetics you can take with you ... well, and many other questions. This letter has become mandatory along with letters of payment, contracts and other organizational issues, we think this is important. Well, of course, we ask you to give up wet wipes, now there is a very good alternative - wet toilet paper, we recommend people a bottle of water, toothpaste, cosmetics, there is even hygiene products for girls, about washing dishes without chemicals and so on. . In general, there are a lot of practical tips on how to prepare and what to take with you on the trip so that your trip leaves a minimal trace in the nature.

СС: Getting ready for a hike is not an easy task, especially if you are doing it for the first time. There is also a huge amount of other information about equipment and so on. Do you think people perceive it positively?

VA: Well, I can't say for sure, but it's important to us. Maybe someone does not need this, then they may not open this letter or delete it. All this information is broadcasted on our website in the equipment section, how to get ready. This is a separate letter and it does not fall out with all the same information, something is broadcast by the instructors right on the hike, when the hike is already underway. At the level of recommendations, of course. At the level of the tourist club, we introduced this more aesthetic thing into the public equipment ... this is a toilet spatula. Because it's not very cool at popular tourist sites to go away from people and stumble upon a clearing with poop there. That is why we are trying to instill in our tourists such a habit that you can dig out and then bury it.

Among other things, I adopted an environmental code for myself, which I compiled together with the people who work in the tourist club. We are trying to broadcast it too. There are three main points, each of which is deciphered into 3-8 sub-points. I handed them over to the leaders of other tourist clubs, everyone agreed and said that they would broadcast it to their participants in one way or another. Thanks to the eco-code, we were able to get together with 50 other leaders of tourist clubs on social networks and disseminate these principles more widely. In the eco-code, the three main theses are: leave the parking lot cleaner than it was, take care of nature and put out the fire.

Organic Camping Tooth Powder. Ph:

СС: So, it will be some kind of common ideological framework for Russian tourist clubs that share these values?

VA: I would like it not to be only for tourist clubs, but also for everyone who goes to nature in Russia. Until I figured out how to do this, I thought about some kind of viral advertising, something that would spread itself, repost all sorts of large publics, Peekaboo and so on. But I haven't come up with it yet, I'm still looking for designers or creators. We have already held a competition on this topic, I would like to see a visual story that you can tell and share with everyone. There were provocations, up to very harsh provocations, which I did not dare to spread. Yes, there were drawings with Hitler, with homosexuals - all this could of course shoot, but I'm not sure that this is a good reason for viral advertising. That's why I'm still looking for a solution on how to do it better. You need to find some edge.

CC: I know that Peak, in addition to what we have just discussed, also organizes interesting events, for example, cleaning up natural environments or volunteering eco-tours. Could you please tell us more about this?

VA: Yes that's right. Several times, already eight times, we have held contests. We asked people to take a “before” photo and an “after” photo, so... and people actively participated. Now we have more partners, with whom we just recently completed one competition together. In addition, there are competitions for planting trees, well, we play all sorts of valuable prizes. Ecological trips, we also have, there are ecological trips to Elbrus, Ladoga, Arkhyz. Kamchatka is planned for this year. And together with various environmental organizations, with Clean Vuoksa and Clean Games, we held several events. With Pure Vuoksa, we cleaned the islands of Vuoksa and also cleaned the islands of Ladoga. We worked quite closely with Pure Games. They are also very cool guys with good game mechanics.

CC: Why do people go with you on volunteer trips and how do you choose places in general?

VA: As for volunteer camps, we make them very cheap, of course, or free of charge. Most often, people just need to buy a ticket to the starting point. We pay for transportation, food, provide accommodation in tents, supply everything necessary - bags, gloves and take out the garbage that was collected. In addition, we organize some entertainment program for them, that is, go and see something, not only clean up all the time. For the fourth year, it seems, this event has been held on Elbrus, in Arkhyz the second, on Ladoga it has already happened several times. In general, as soon as we open the registration, our group usually fills up right away. We could drive a lot more, but unfortunately the tourist club has a big financial burden and we do as much as we can afford. If we found some partners for this business, we could do much more.

СС: Yes, great initiative! Tell me, maybe there are some other things in the plans that you want to implement, but so far for some reason it has not been possible?

VA: I want to set up volunteer camps, right in all our major destinations, where we take more than 5 trips a year. Crimea, Sakhalin are not covered, Kamchatka, you can even do more than one trip there, more than Karelia from the plans ... I still want to promote the eco-code in order to be heard not only by tourists, but also by common people. In fact, tourists do not have as much garbage as people who just drive out in cars and leave barbecue and garbage. Cleaning works very well, but also the placement of signs, “it was cleaned here, please do not litter”. It turned out that if you put such a sign in a dirty place, it unfortunately does not work, but if you remove the garbage and put up such a sign, then people begin to litter less. In general, we always think something like this, come up with something on this topic, and in the near future we will have a separate section on the site dedicated to ecology, which will be filled with all sorts of interesting things.

In fact, I forgot about our main initiative, which is currently under development, we are doing a course on ecology. This will be a free 5-lesson course on how to go hiking in an eco-friendly way. Now one script has already been written, even two have been written, and we are recording the third one. The topics are: how to get ready for a hike in an eco-friendly way, the second topic will be about the eco-friendly organization in the parking lot, what is worth doing and what is not worth doing, then one topic will be devoted to the fire, the fourth topic will be about garbage and it's disposal, sorting and so on. Another lesson will be based on the results of the course, on the introduction of eco-habits. Naturally, this course will focus more on hiking. Ecology on a hike or on a trip to nature, you can position it like that. It will last about a week, this is a short course that can be watched in 5-8 minutes. We have such a big initiative and we are working on it now. All this needs to be removed, then packed, and I think by next summer we will definitely have it all done.

СС: What do you think, in general, your personal contribution, the contribution of your family, your company, how significant is it from the point of view of the overall environmental agenda? How much does it change the situation for the better, do you get any return from this?

VA: This is a very difficult question and I always have different feelings about this. Sometimes, I think, wow, very cool, really great! They took out two cars of garbage, it’s just very cool! And now this island or the camps have become clean. And sometimes you come to the ocean and there is so much garbage after the storm that you think that this month you need to clean up a big team. Damn, and such despair ... not despair, but still, somehow it must be organized... of course, one can say that everyone must make responsible choices for themselves, well, probably, the state should somehow be connected to this. And not a single state, if we are talking about the seas, then it happens that all kinds of different things sail from other countries. In general, in different ways, sometimes I feel inspired, and sometimes powerless, because what we are trying to do is insignificant and does not work.

СС: Finally, maybe a few words for those people who are just trying to figure out what sorting is and why all this is needed. What can you wish them, how to simplify your life?

VA: I would like to advice them to start small. Well, from a very small point. For example, just take away everything from the forest. It's simple, it's not difficult. Well, or even bury your organic waste. Then take the next step, for example, take

to divide organic matter and not organic matter, but to bury organic matter, for example. It is also simple and easy. Then add something else, like paper. Collect and burn in a fire. And so on and on, slowly, gradually, add yourself some good habits. Get yourself a glass or a bottle that you go to the gym with or carry everywhere with you, refuse disposable bags in which you will collect packaged garbage. Well, in fact, it is important not to drive yourself to exhaustion. Now we have the opportunity to share, but I'm not perfect in this regard at all. I remember that when you start to plunge into it, then naturally it is difficult, and therefore you don’t need everything at once. Gradually, little by little is better.


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