CLIMATE CHANGE AND RELIGION (Ireland) Category: Climate Change

YRE Competition 2022
2nd Place - Article
19-25 years old

By Kate Burke

There’s a Hadith in Islam where the Prophet Muhammed taught that, “even if the sun has risen on the Day of Judgement, you still have the chance to plant a tree.”

Shaykh Dr Umar Al-Qadri, founder of the Islamic Centre Ireland and climate activist, referred to it when speaking to The Green News, and spoke of how people of faith draw on a very strong inspiration from their religion to be responsible inhabitants of the earth. 

Within his own life, Al-Qadri has made significant changes to the Islamic Centre Ireland in terms of sustainability, noting that these practical, small steps matter, but that governments and multinationals need to step up. 

Contrary to the secularisation thesis of the early 20th century, religion is an integral part of daily life for the majority of the world’s population – and that’s projected to increase. By 2050, it’s estimated that 87 per cent of people will identify as being religious, so secular life is very much the exception rather than the rule. 

And for those leading and participating in religious communities, there’s a growing belief that religion is an underutilised tool when it comes to addressing the climate crisis.

For Dr Ciara Murphy, an environmental policy advocate with The Jesuit Centre of Faith and Justice, climate and social justice fits in with religion because there is the sense of “caring for a common home.” 

“I think science is good at explaining what we need to do – and the religious aspect is good at the ‘why’ we should do this,” she said. 

Within Christianity, there has been a growing movement for climate justice, largely attributed to the fact that climate crisis itself is an “issue of justice”, according to theologian Ruth Valerio

Christian climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe has also cited the Christian doctrine of easing suffering as being a cornerstone of her decision to work on the issue. 

However, nowadays Christianity tends to be most prevalent and dominant in western regions where consumerism also thrives alongside it, which has made figures like John Grim, one of the founders of the religion and climate school of thought, call into question the so-called ‘rationality’ of the Homo-economicus. 

Just what kind of rational creature consumes so much and so carelessly that they leave their planet – their home – burning in their wake? 

And while there are figures within the Christian faith working towards climate justice the worldover, by-and-large many followers take on an anthropocentric lens when it comes to their own relationship with nature, which is a sharp contrast to other faith traditions like Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and Indigenous faiths where humanity is a central to nature, not outside of it. 

Within most religions there is also the concept of the afterlife – an eternal next place that for many is determined by how our lives are lived here on earth. 

Assistant Professor at the School of Religion in Trinity College Dublin Dr Cathriona Russell observed that imagining paradise or heaven is a speculative exercise in theology, and the idea of paradise as a garden is one common among the religions. Notably, these locations are usually green, flourishing and abundant – a realm where nature is thriving. 

There’s also the fact that for many strands of faith life here on earth is temporary and the afterlife is permanent, so perhaps “people assume that means that faith communities probably wouldn’t really care about what’s happening in this life…[because] the Day of Judgement is going to come anyway,” according to Shaykh Dr Umar Al-Qadri. 

But he noted that this is in fact not the case in Islam, and referred back to the Hadith mentioned above and stressed that every day on earth we must, “protect the environment. We have to be those that are responsible and not those that create chaos in the world, no matter how long we live on Earth”. 

But perhaps most importantly, given its far-reaching influence and long-standing traditions, religion has the ability to bring “hope to the table,” according to Dr. Ciara Murphy. 

“And it’s not a hope that things will just change. It’s the hope that we need to work towards change. It’s a hope and a kind of guiding force to change,” she said.

DISSEMINATION: Cover Photo Credit: Alexander Cifuente - Unsplash


LESS IS MORE FOR PEACE BAY (Slovakia) Category: Loss of Biodiversity

YRE Competition 2022
3rd Place - Article
19-25 years old

By Michal Mazánik


This natural location in the Trenčín region, located near the city centre, was neglected and polluted for a long time. The situation changed in 2011, when activists from the Centre for Environmental Activities (CEA) began to take care of the space. They transformed the previously unsavoury bay into an environment that ranks among the most sought-after recreational places in the city.

Vanda Mokráňová has been part of the community of volunteers for several years. She sees their work as a way to contribute to a better city and more attractive public space for herself and others: "Young people come here, people with dogs, they sit along the river or have a picnic. In the middle of the city, they find nature and birdsong," she says. In 2021, a municipal protected area of Trenčiansky Luh was declared near the place where construction is to take place.

The main justification for protecting the Trenčiansky Luh is that the floodplain forests on the river Váh River are wetland habitats of European importance. They are home to dozens of species of birds, mammals and amphibians.


On sunny spring days, this natural area is a popular place to relax. (Two weeks before the reconstruction began.)


Volunteers fear that once the investment is complete, the territory will turn into a space that ordinary people will not have access to during times of athletic training. They point out that the project lacks toilet facilities and drinking water for athletes, which cannot be built here because the location is a flood zone. According to a member of the initiative, Klaudia Medalová, a sports facility suitable for organizing races of young athletes would make more sense at one of the primary schools.

In addition to the restoration of the current running oval, the project is to include the construction of two multi-functional playgrounds, a landing pit, and a shot put area. The clay surface of the track is to be replaced by Tartan [polyurethane]. Changing the surface of the running track is one of the reasons the natural character of the site could be disrupted. Also, during athletic training sessions, passage to the bay may not be possible through the running oval.

Erika Sagová, a spokeswoman for the city of Trenčín, sees no reason for concern: "The sports facility will primarily serve the general public. We do not believe that it is necessary to build toilets and other facilities there. People will come, do sports, and leave." She emphasizes that  playgrounds and other recreational areas, such as apartment block courtyards, do not have toilet facilities.


Due to the construction of the sports facility, the bay will be almost inaccessible to the public during the summer of 2022.


Opinions vary among council members. Richard Medal, director of the CEA and member of the City Council, stresses that the original proposal, which would have been welcomed by the ZátOKa volunteers, was for just the restoration of the clay surface on the running oval. It was supposed to be reconstructed in half profile, for recreational runners.

"I think locating a training space in this area, or even a racing facility for athletics, is not right. Trenčín deserves a proper big track for running," Medal said. The project approved by the City for ZátOKa pOKoja, he describes as a "toy imitation".

Since the construction of the Vah Cycling Path is planned in the immediate vicinity next year, one can expect the Tartan track to be damaged in a few months, he said. Consequently, public resources will have to be spent repeatedly on repairs. Trenčín's spokeswoman Sagová responded, "The project plan includes the construction of the Vah Cycling Path. If they damage our track or anything else when building the route for cyclists, they (Trenčín Regional Government) will have to repair it." However, it is still the taxpayers' money that might be wasted.  


The location is a pleasant alternative for Trenčín's residents to the hot and busy streets of the city.


Trenčín resident Janka came to ZátOKa for a walk with her young daughters. She views the announced sports facility positively, because the playground will be used by children and youth: "I don't mind, a lot of people don't come here today, maybe it's better if athletes use it. If there was a training event, we'd take the kids to one of the other playgrounds in the city."

However, Vanda Mokráňová believes that the space has already found its best purpose: "I have always said during meetings that I do not understand why interfere with a space that does not need it. You've got a lot of music here for very little money." In addition to community benefits, this natural element in the central part of town also has another important effect. Richard Medal, Radovan Jambor and Sylvia Mertanová, the drafters of the explanatory memorandum to the proposal for the declaration of the municipal protected area of Trenčiansky Luh, with which ZátOKa is physically and functionally linked, are in agreement. "It is of huge importance in terms of its location in the middle of the city. It performs important eco-stabilisation, health and psychogenic functions, as well as cooling the overheated urban environment," the report said.



YRE Competition 2022
1st Place - Article
19-25 years old

By Youssra elkhadiri - Hiba Amrani Mastari - oumaima stik - siham lomiri - mohamed tafala - wissal moutik

Climate change and uncontrolled human activity accelerate the deterioration of biodiversity and sustainability in eastern Morocco.

With an area spanning over 3,000,000 hectares, the wetlands of the Moulouya River stretch across eastern Morocco. Owing to the river and its biodiversity, the area is, since 2005, ranked among the world's top wetlands by Ramsar Convention. This biodiversity is more than ever endangered by climate change and human activity. The Moulouya and its surrounding wetlands are in pain, so what can be done to save whatever is left before it's too late?

Examination of the climate changes effects on the Moulouya River wetlands.

All along the coastal road (50 km) between Nador and Ras El Maa (eastern Morocco), a yellow veil of red dust and desert sand covers the countryside. This is a year of exceptional drought not seen by Morocco since the nineteen-eighties. Drought is a major cause of climate change, and the region of Moulouya and its river are among the hardest hit by it.

 On arriving at the Moulouya, we encountered laborers of modest means, moving water along the banks of the river to help it reach the outlet. Moulouya for the second time in its history was unable to reach the Mediterranean. Instead, the sea overflowed, increasing the water salinity. Salinity pervaded all the wells that surround it, causing widespread economic, social and environmental damage. This is one of the domino effects caused by climate change in the region over the years, but not the only one.

Climate is ruthless

 The Maghreb is one of the regions most impacted by climate change, according to UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change findings. The latest data from Morocco's Ministry of Equipment and Water shows the country experienced substantial increase in average annual temperatures since 2001, rising a full point, while the country goes through its third consecutive year of drought.

 The river Moulouya and its surrounding wetlands are not immune to these effects. Official statistics show that rainfall, which feeds the upper reaches of the river and sustains its biodiversity, decreased by 39% and 75% respectively in 2020 and 2022. This means the filling rate of the dam fed by the Moulouya Aquarium is down to 9%, which has multiple impacts.

With much sorrow and sadness, Najeeb Bashiri, head of the Environment and Human Association (based in the nearby city of Berkane), says, "Unfortunately, it is the second time in 50 years that Moulouya has not reached its estuary. Salinity rates are up to 7g/m3 at the estuary, while normal percentages should not exceed 0.5%.

 Bashir adds with great apprehension, "Everything is in jeopardy: thirst knocks on the door of all cities along the river. Many crops were damaged or lost. Thousands of young people and families have lost their livelihoods. Production dropped, and the economic performance of activities depending on the river's water disrupted... Things could get worse unless something is done soon."

Human activity exacerbates the situation

M'hamed, a fisherman in his fifties we met at the Moulouya estuary remembers, "Before, we fished all year round and in abundant quantities. We could meet the needs of our families. Biological rest-periods were imposed to protect fish stocks. Our income suffered a little. Unfortunately, in recent years we are only allowed to fish three months a year. Fish stocks are falling, and some species have become rare."

Mhamed, who supports his wife and five children, tries to make ends meet by doing other seasonal work, and he is not the only one. Even those who used to hunt birds in season, can not do so this year. Numbers of incoming tourists also decreased, as the thermal waters of the Moulouya have dry-up and/or waned.

Interview with a fisherman working at the mouth of the Moulouya River.

These according to an official document of the National Office of Drinking Water and Electricity in Morocco (a government institution) include: a decrease in the productivity of groundwater resources due decreasing rainfall, over-exploitation of groundwater for agriculture, and unrelenting acceleration of demand for drinking water.

Berkane environment department, in whose jurisdiction the river lies, lists some of the reasons behind the degradation of biodiversity in Moulouya. The list includes haphazard construction on riverbanks and the chaotic use of the site by tourists, along with what it refers to as poor governance in the joint and integrated management of the area.

Human activity also includes modern intensive agriculture across the region of Berkane and the plain of Sabra, using up to 80% water resources, and causing considerable pollution. On one hand, outdated irrigation techniques and indiscriminate exploitation of water threaten to dry up aquifers and increase water waste. On the other hand, pesticides and chemical fertilizers pollute the water tables, harm biodiversity of soils, and jeopardize many areas that help ensure ecological balance, including bees.

Summer 2011, death of millions of fish caused by human activities pollution. Photo taken by environmental activists in the region.


According to official Ramsar Convention website data published between 1970 and 2015, wetlands are disappearing three times faster than forests at the global level. Economic and environmental sustainability for future generations is at risk.

 Solutions proposed by experts come in many shapes and forms, and the most important one relates to streamlining stakeholders, and ineffectiveness of interventions. Experts suggest creating a national agency for the management of wetlands and the protection of diversity, and the legislative reform of texts governing ecology, provided each ecological problem get legal text that is adapted to its specificities and challenges.

 Legislation and effective coordination through cross-cutting policies and good governance alone are not sufficient. It is essential to activate oversight, tracking and evaluation mechanisms using accurate and up-to-date scientific data, to enable quick and effective measures. This, according to the experts, cannot succeed without a truly participatory approach to decision-making, via involvement of civil society or consultation with the population.

 Our team's journey has ended, and we are all hopeful that the Moulouya River will dive into the Mediterranean once and for all. For this to happen, all should be aware and committed in a transparent manner, as environmental experts emphasize.


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IS THERE PLASTIC IN THE ÖRESUND? (Sweden) Category: Pollution

YRE Competition 2022
3rd Place - Article
15-18 years old

By Lina Persson Giolitti

Plastic is a common and important material in our daily lives. It has many useful features and can help solve many problems and needs. The material is cheap and can for example be used for hospital supplies. However, the way we humans use and consume plastic today is in many cases not sustainable.

Guidance at Råå harbor. Photo: Lina Persson Giolitti

The rain whips against my cold and red cheeks as I walk towards Råå harbor. It is a dark and cold December afternoon. The masts of the sailing boats are whistling and the sea is stormy. I stand behind a fishing shelter to protect myself from the heavy rain.

After a while, I see Thomas Lövström, the manager of Rååbåtarna, a company that runs trips to the pearl of Öresund, the island of Ven, as well as other fishing trips. Lövström greets me to his boat Siam and we sit down in the cold and dark wheelhouse. Outside, the rain is pounding on the boat's small windows. It smells of old wood and tar - just like fishing boats should smell.

– I see a lot of plastic along the beaches when I go out with my boat and not so much out on the ocean. However, there is more plastic than we humans can see. A lot of it is microplastic, and unfortunately many marine animals are affected by it. Not to forget, it also affects us further up in the food chain, says Lövström.

People have generally become more aware of what is thrown into nature. However, there is still room for improvement, but things are moving in the right direction. It's probably a lot about education, learning at an early age that it's wrong to throw plastic into nature. Many preschools also have 'litter picking days' and I think that's a good concept because then the children learn from each other and can spread the word, says Lövström.


All the plastic that ends up in our nature has an impact on the climate, the environment and not to mention all living creatures. Most of the plastic that ends up in the ocean is thrown on land by humans and carried by rain and wind into the ocean. The plastics that end up in the ocean are mostly disposable items. The plastic breaks up into smaller pieces, leaving microplastics in the ocean. It takes a long time for the plastic to decompose and is therefore very dangerous for nature and animals. Compared to a paper bag that takes about 1 month to break down, it takes 10-20 years for a plastic bag to break down into microplastics.

Did you know that:

  • 80% of plastic pollution in the sea comes from land while the remaining 20% comes from fishing and marine activities.

  • 60% of all whales have plastic in their stomach.

  • Every fourth cod fished outside Norway contains plastics.

Source: Greenpeace

– I believe and hope that plastic will decrease in the future given we start reducing our use of it. This is evident in today's society with more use of paper straws and paper bags. When compared to other countries in the world, Sweden is a very clean country. It is honestly frightening to see how much plastic there is in some countries, says Thomas.

- Thirty years ago, I caught a big cod in the Sound and when I filleted it, it had a Donald Duck plastic cup in its stomach. It has also happened that a plastic bag got stuck in the boat's propeller. After those two incidents, I asked myself “where is this world going?”. I could never imagine this to happen because for me the Öresund feels like a clean ocean - but apparently, there is plastic that we do not see or know about either, says Lövström.

Plastic on a beach along Öresund. Photo: Lina Persson Giolitti


– Apart from the plastic, Öresund has become much cleaner. One sign of that is that there have been lots of porpoises this summer. Tuna have also shown up and they are also very large, between 2-3 meters, and can weigh around 400kg. It is incredibly fun to watch because I believe it is a sign of a healthy Öresund. Given this, we also were completely booked during the summer by many families with children. Our industry was one of the few to benefit from the corona pandemic. Fresh air and distance were probably what kept us from getting hit. People enjoyed exploring local places when flights were not heading for warmer climes. However, I would like to emphasize that it is difficult to work in an industry where nature decides. You never know what will happen, Thomas explains.

Thomas Lövström in the wheelhouse of the boat Siam. Photo: Lina Persson Giolitti


One person cannot do everything, but everyone can do something to reduce plastic in nature. Even small actions have a big impact. One of several important things you can do to reduce plastic in the ocean is to recycle it. Even though we Swedes have become much better at sorting waste, there is still a lot of plastic that does not reach the recycling stations and may instead end up in our oceans. Using old plastic to make new plastic is both environmentally friendly and reduces the amount of plastic in the ocean. Our oceans are full of microplastics that are invisible to the naked eye. Microplastics that have been loosened from washing clothes, run down drains and end up in oceans. Therefore, airing and using a cloth can be the most environmentally friendly alternative to washing your clothes. Buying clothes second-hand is also environmentally friendly as it reuses goods, thus saving the manufacturing process and the energy to create new ones. Buying second-hand clothes, therefore, reduces microplastics in the ocean. The first four washes of a new item of clothing is the most environmentally damaging, which does not happen if you buy used clothes.

 The ocean is an important source for our everyday life. Without the ocean, we will not get food from fish, and it will be more difficult to transport goods. It is therefore particularly important that we take care of our ocean and what is thrown into it. Because without a healthy and thriving ocean, our lives will become complicated.


Greenpeace Sverige, Plast i haven: fakta och konsekvenser, published 2021-06-22 CAiAs92MBhAXEiwAXTi25-eL4ud5C6wwU-xQ_en5wF9Qw9c7TF3EzVvO6oGwc5x0AqFy5RqDjBo CiGkQAvD_BwE (taken information: 2021-12-03)

 Håll Sverige rent, Ingenting försvinner- allt finns kvar (taken information: 2021-12-10)

 Naturskyddsföreningen, 9 sätt att slåss mot plasten i haven, published 2021-02-25 (taken information: 2021-12-03)

 Naturskyddsföreningen, plast i havet, published 2021-02-24 (taken information: 2021-12-06)

 Interview with Thomas Lövström, 1 December 2021


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GREENER PORT-LOUIS FOR A HEALTHIER URBAN HEART (Mauritius) Categories: Pollution, Loss of Biodiversity

YRE Competition 2022
2nd Place - Article
15-18 years old

By Chan Kam Lan Serenza, Dostmohamed Farhana, Gourdin Laeticia, Mannaram Isha, Andriamalala Nissiah, Christine Annaëlle, Latour Maëva, and Sarifan Zakkiyah

Our planet is the only place in the universe where life has evolved. Instead of using natural resources judiciously, humans have depleted them to meet their immediate needs, without thinking about the future. We have to face the fact that not all the inhabitants of our planet can have the same lifestyle as the industrialised countries. It is high time to bring changes and learn to live differently for the sustainability of our Earth. It is not a question of renouncing progress but of reconciling economic and social progress with due respect for nature.

 Everything is speeding up in the capital of Port-Louis, which has witnessed many demographic, social and economic changes. According to a comparison of data from Statistics Mauritius, our country has moved from 1,186,873 inhabitants in the year 2000 to 1,265,740 in 2020. Thanks to the economic development since the 1980s to the present, our standard of living has increased. Under the influence of modernity, Mauritians have moved from traditional houses to concrete habitats. New roads have been built, and buildings have replaced green areas over the years. The density of the population in the capital, human activities and transport have consequently generated a rise in temperature.  

The centre of Port-Louis is not immune to global warming.

Vegetation is very important in the heart of our capital city, which is threatened by air pollution and global warming. By increasing green spaces such as roadside verges, gardens and trees, we will not only increase recreational spaces but also improve the living conditions and the environment of Port Louis. Following the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment report, it was recognised that the well-being of our societies is directly dependent on nature when it is left to function in a free and uninterrupted mode. Besides, green spaces regulate certain environmental problems. For example, the leaves of trees bind dust and particles from diesel combustion. Trees also store carbon, cultivated or bare surfaces allow rainwater to infiltrate, and the presence of insects helps with pollination, and to get fruits and seeds.

In addition, a line of trees can lower the temperature of a street by three degrees, and in the context of climate change, this role becomes even more crucial. By increasing the number of spots for plants and animals, a minimum of biodiversity can be established. Plants attract insects, which in turn provide food for birds that sow seeds and help other plants to grow. In this way, the food chains necessary for the functioning of ecosystems are reconstructed. 

In Port Louis, a private company is working with an NGO - Friends of the Environment - which has embarked on a reforestation project on the slopes of La Citadelle, a hill in the heart of the capital. In order to restore the original endemic and indigenous flora of the mountain, a study was first conducted to trace the plant species that were there, explains Jayaneesh Namah, coordinator of the Citadelle Native Re-vegetation Project. The organisation has already reintroduced 14 plant species on the northern flank namely, Bois Clou, Palmiste Bouteille, Bois Reinette, Bois Judas, Bois Bœuf, Bois Cabri, Latanier Bleu, Barleria, Bois Chandelle, Vétiver Indigène, Aloe Endémique, Bois Mapou and Pandanus, taking into account their ability to withstand the arid climate of Port Louis. From 2016 to 2020, FOE was able to plant approximately 5,890 trees and more than 1700 eco-citizens participated in the project. This green space in the capital has become a real biodiversity relay that stabilises the functioning of ecosystems.  

Dumping of electric appliances (here a retired rice cooker) cause severe damage and disequilibrium to nature and plants.

To maintain biodiversity in the heart of the city, it is important to create a more or less continuous green chain. Private, public or company gardens could be the links in this ecological chain. Port-Louis should impose environmental measures and injunctions in urban planning projects. More green spaces on the roofs of buildings, plant walls and gardens instead of concrete courtyards should be considered.  

Plants and flower garden on top of a building in the heart of the capital to reduce the temperature stored on the roof.

According to research, the temperature at the top of a building can reach 50°C in the middle of summer, but with the gardens, it drops to 30°C, thus limiting the use of air conditioning on the top floors.  

By planting in our garden, we could revive forgotten local fruits - Carambola, Corossol, Jamalac among others. By choosing more hardy species that are better adapted to their environment, we would use less pesticides. Natural fertilisers, such as composting household waste to improve soil fertility in the long term, are an option. We could also equip ourselves with a rainwater harvesting system for watering. In this way, we would consume more ecologically because it would lead to less transport, packaging and therefore less waste and pollution. The transport of imported fruits and vegetables requires energy expenditure which increases pollution and contributes to climate change. 

In Port-Louis, natural areas are continually giving way to artificial land. Our capital is not immune to various forms of pollution, global warming and loss of biodiversity. By 2030, we (city officials, citizens and elected representatives) need to recreate Port Louis. It is not only knowledge or laws that will help us preserve the environment, but also education. Practising the solutions proposed above could help us to achieve several goals (including SDGs 3, 11, 12, 13 and 15). However, the solutions are never simple to implement because of the consequences on our lifestyles. We must therefore remember that "We do not inherit the Earth from our parents, we borrow it from our children." - (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry).  


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YRE Competition 2022
1st Place - Article
15-18 years old

By: Roze Aleksa Bogdane

Electronic cigarettes are now very popular among young people and have become an attribute of style. They are sold with different liquids that give the smoke different flavours, and the smell is pleasant, so parents often do not realize that their child smokes. Some people believe that the amount of nicotine in e-cigarettes is insignificant and does not cause addiction or affect the environment. Rarely does anyone think about waste from used cigarettes. Is it really "smoke without a fire"? Are e-cigarettes just an innocent form of entertainment?

Photo: Roze Aleksa Bogdane

There are various types of electronic cigarettes and they function in different ways - there are refillable tobacco heaters, but disposable vapes are the most popular. The information on the packaging states that the product contains up to 450 inhalations, which manufacturers equate to one pack of 20 cigarettes. The packaging also states that the empty cartridge must not be disposed in household waste but in the appropriate collecting containers.

Gateway to smoking

Although Latvian and European Union legislation prohibits the sale of e-cigarettes to persons under the age of 18 [1], they are relatively easy to obtain because they can be purchased online or from adult friends. In a survey on electronic cigarette usage habits among young people in Latvia 78 out of 130 respondents were under the age of 18, but 26 of them already use or have used e-cigarettes. The data show a high prevalence among adolescents - a lot of them use, have used or use e-cigarettes in the company of friends. Only nine of the youngsters said that they dispose of empty cartridges at the collecting points. [2]

Infogram: Roze Aleksa Bogdane, Data on the use of e-cigarettes for respondents under 18 years

A study done by the Centre for Disease Prevention and Control also shows that in 2019, a total of 51.3% of 13–15-year-olds have tried electronic cigarettes. The proportion of those who have tried to use has increased significantly since 2011, especially for boys and 15-year-olds from 24% in 2011 to 61.6% in 2019. [3] 

A similar situation is also in other countries e.g., in the United States of America (USA). According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) between 2017 and 2018, the use of e-cigarettes in the USA among high school students increased by 48% which made the CDC call it an "epidemic". Several states have now banned flavoured e-cigarettes altogether.[4]

On April 16, 2021, Scientific Committee on Health, Environmental and Emerging Risks published an opinion on e-cigarettes, stating that e-cigarettes are a gateway to smoking, especially for young people. There is strong evidence that nicotine in e-cigarette liquids is associated with the development of addiction, but the flavours have a significant effect on making e-cigarettes more attractive.[5] 

Are they less harmful than regular cigarettes?

48% of respondents in the survey admit that they are not aware of the e-cigarette impact on the environment. Individual respondents consider e-cigarettes safer than traditional nicotine cigarettes.[2]

Environmental scientist and chemist Jana Simanovska says: "The end of cigarettes consists of cellulose acetate, which degrades in the environment from one up to 10 years. They contain a variety of toxic substances that are toxic to living organisms that encounter them. Do vapes seem to be an alternative? Not at all. They are also thrown into the environment, but now there is also a toxic battery, environmentally harmful metals and plastics that will not degrade during our lifetime and will pollute the environment for much longer."[6]

Jana Simanovska points out that the CDC study warns of the dangers of e-cigarettes, especially for teenagers, as they permit users to take in unlimited amounts of nicotine. In addition, to make the smoke more pleasant, they contain a whole bouquet of fragrances, the dangers of which we know little about.[6]. "People just need to know that they're inhaling a very complex mixture of chemicals when they vape. And for a lot of these compounds, we have no idea what they are. I have a problem with how vaping is being marketed as healthier than smoking cigarettes. In my opinion, we are just not at the point when we can really say that." [7] 

Photo: Roze Aleksa Bogdane

Analyzing the impact of e-cigarettes on environmental pollution, Jānis Ulme environmental expert and leader of the My Sea campaign, says that smoking waste is a very topical problem, as it is one of the largest marine pollutants in the world. At present, in addition to cigarette butts, various new smoking wastes from e-cigarettes are appearing with a rapidly growing trend both in Latvia and globally. The hazardous waste contained in disposable e-cigarettes like toxic batteries and liquid residues enters the environment.[8]

These products are becoming popular among adolescents and they are creating a toxic waste stream. And it’s not a trivial amount of waste. We are talking about billions of e-cigarette waste items each year. And that is a global problem, say researchers from the University of California, San Francisco.[9]

 Jānis Žagars, a representative of the Latvian electronic cigarette manufacturer Pro Vape SIA, emphasizes: "We have set a good example compared to other manufacturers of environmentally unwanted products and packaging, as we provide the opportunity to dispose of used products free of charge at sales outlets, thus collecting about 30 % of used products." The company also informs that the waste is further recycled in an environmentally friendly way at its own expense but adds that it will always be the user's responsibility where the used plastic bags, tires or e-cigarettes are being disposed.[10]

Environmental activist Jānis Ulme, on the other hand, highlight that the device contains dozens of different parts, which, due to the small percentage of collection and technically difficult disassembly, are not actually recycled in practice. There are still no fundamental examples of good practice in the world or even long-standing research about the influence of the disposed e-cigarettes.[8]

The smoke of disposable cigarettes 450 breathes costs nature a lot, creates non-recyclable, hazardous waste and promotes disposable consumption.

Jānis Ulme's recommendation for the necessary action is categorical: "Well, in my opinion, in the context of the EU's Plastics Strategy [11], such disposable devices should not be marketed and manufactured at all. However, this seems too dreamy," adds Ulme. "If they are produced and distributed, stricter ecodesign principles should be set so that many fractions can be easily dismantled and recycled after use, and claims for return - at least an individual deposit, when a new one cannot be bought without transferring the previous one. In my opinion, the first answer would be more concrete legislative action to regulate this industry."[8]

The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control sets out controls and a set of measures to reduce cigarette and tobacco consumption, such as monitoring tobacco use and prevention policies, education on the danger of tobacco use etc. [12],[13] This is an important agreement for society as a whole, which also applies to e-cigarettes, as the prevalence of smoking is a global problem with serious consequences not only for health but also for the environment.


1. Tabakas izstrādājumu, augu smēķēšanas produktu, elektronisko smēķēšanas ierīču un to šķidrumu aprites likums (

2. The author's survey in Google Forms 130 respondents, 02.2022.


4. Home | Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education (


6. Interview in e-mail with Jana Simanovska,, leads the society “Ecodesign Competence Center”, 02.02-18.02.2022. 

7. Johns Hopkins researchers find thousands of unknown chemicals in electronic cigarettes | Hub (

8. Interview in e-mail with Jānis Ulme, the head of the Foundation for Environmental Education Latvia and leader of the My Sea campaign 02.02-18.02.2022.

9. How E-Cigarette Use is Exposing Youth — and the Environment — to Toxic Chemicals | UCSF Science of Caring

10. Personal correspondence in e-mail with Jānis Žagars, Head of marketing Pro Vape / SALT switch, 01.05-05.05.2022.  

11. EUR-Lex - 52018DC0028 - EN - EUR-Lex (

12. PVO vispārējā konvencija par tabakas uzraudzību (

13. World Health Organization. (‎2019)‎. WHO report on the global tobacco epidemic, 2019: offer help to quit tobacco use. World Health Organization. Available here: 


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Urban agriculture for a sustainable city with happy inhabitants (Greece)

YRE Competition 2022
3rd Place - Article
11-14 years old

By Georgia K., Fani O., Eleftheria D., George D., Eleftheria D., Ketevan K.

A green area of the Municipality of Thessaloniki with very special characteristics, unique in Greece, attracted our pedagogical team to deal with it. It is an area of eight acres opposite the Kaftantzogleio Stadium of the city, which houses an urban vineyard, a community vegetable garden and an orchard. It was created in the area of the municipality's vehicles after a decision of the Deputy Mayor for Quality of Life to turn the area into a green area.                                       

The urban vineyard with the community vegetable garden, which is cared for by the locals, is directly related to the phenomenon of biodiversity loss, especially in urban areas, but in the opposite sense. It provides a solution for its development if used as an example for application in many common urban areas, abandoned, neglected and deserted, which are lost urban land, while the locals sit on the balconies of apartment buildings without contact with nature. Activating urban awareness is an important part of developing a city 's biodiversity and sustainability, which is not limited to green spaces, traditional constructions, improved energy systems and recycling.

On April 5, 2022 our team visited the urban vineyard. There we were welcomed and hosted by the Head of Urban Environment Management of the Municipality of Thessaloniki Mr. Matziris with his associates and the Head of the Environmental Training Center Eleftherios Kordelios Mrs. Athanassiou.

In an interview, Mr. Matziris answered questions from students, which focused a) on data related to the urban vineyard, such as what existed in the past in his area, when and who pioneered its creation, how many vines were planted, from what varieties, what is the future planning for further utilization of the remaining space and b) in the community vegetable garden that extends north of the vineyard.

Before the 2004 Olympic Games, the area was a parking lot and maintenance site for the Municipality's garbage trucks. The vineyard was created in 2013. It occupies 2 acres of a total area of 8 acres. Next to it, urban gardens and an orchard were created. The municipality planted 480 vines, 120 roots of each variety. It hosts the Greek wine white varieties robola, malagouzia and the red agiorgitiko and xinomavro.

The first wine was produced in 2014. The cultivation of the urban vineyard is completely organic. The wine "Gorgona" that produces and took its name from the sister of Alexander the Great, is not for sale, but is given at charity dinners and activities of the Municipality of Thessaloniki.

 Three bodies participated in its creation: a) A public body, the services of the Municipality of Thessaloniki under Mayor I. Boutari and Deputy Mayor in the Quality of Life department, current Mayor of Thessaloniki, K. Zerva, b) an educational / research body, the Laboratory Viticulture of the Agricultural School of AUTh. and c) a private and business entity, the Gerovasiliou Estate. The care of the plants was undertaken by employees of the municipality and students of the Viticulture Laboratory.

The vineyard is a "green" place in the heart of the city where people of all ages can enjoy the fresh air and sunbathe on the specially designed benches that have been installed next to the vineyards, to communicate, to share thoughts, feelings, expectations. It is visited by schools and tourists.

The creation of an urban winery is experiencing a boom in recent years worldwide. In Montmartre there is a vineyard under the auspices of the city of Paris. The first vineyard of London is located on the northern borders of metropolitan London. The Dorina variety is revived in the lagoon of Venice, which was the wine preferred by the Doges. There is also a vineyard on the roofs of Brooklyn in New York covering an area of 1400 sq.m. In Vienna, vines are grown on 6,000 acres just a few metro stops outside the city.

Τhe small fenced gardens that extend in the area after the vineyard is the result of the intervention of students of the department of architecture, within the framework of a European program, in collaboration with the locals. The area was chosen for the development of urban agriculture, that is the creation of a green area with a different role and function, which can activate the neighbourhood. The community vegetable garden operates in support of and in addition to the vineyard, currently occupying an area of 1 acre. At the same time, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the liberation of the city, an orchard was created by planting 100 fruit trees.

 In the future it is planned to create a small information kiosk for the activities of the area and for recycling issues. There is a thought of creating spaces of similar function in other areas of the city with the cooperation of the municipal community, as well as the creation of the so-called "pocket" parks, that is small neighbourhood parks utilized in this direction, making a passage through the lawn and ornamental plants to urban agriculture.                                                                                                          

It is obvious, as Mrs. Athanassiou emphasized too, that if neighbourhood gardens are constructed in various remaining areas of the city that remain useless, food adequacy will be ensured for a large part of the population that is below the poverty line. Since the vast majority of the inhabitants of a big city live in apartments, in a way the urban gardens have replaced the gardens of the houses, constituting the yard of the neighbourhood. In addition, they are a place of meeting and communication of the inhabitants of the area.

To summarize, the Community vegetable garden and urban vineyard create a rich urban green environment by attracting other living organisms, such as insects and birds, thus contributing to the increase of biodiversity in the urban environment. They also create a space for communication and meeting of the neighbourhoods in the isolation of life in the buildings of big cities. In addition, their systematic, extensive application in other areas of the same city or other cities that meet the requirements, will help combat climate change and can provide food to part of the urban population that is malnourished. Based on the above, these two elements of urban agriculture that occupied the group, contribute to the promotion of the three dimensions of sustainable development - social, environmental, economic - based on Agenda 2030. They directly serve the goals of sustainable development that refer to sustainable cities and communities, climate action and zero hunger. The fact that the urban environment affects the physical, social and mental condition of the inhabitants and ensures health, also enhances the achievement of the goal related to good health and well-being. In general, the goal of ensuring life on land is also served in the urban environment by combating desertification and reversing soil degradation and biodiversity.

We invite you all, students and teachers, to visit it! You will get acquainted with the vineyard, urban agriculture and ecology!

Pictures from the community vegetable garden

Bottles of ¨Gorgona¨ wine available in charity dinners of the Municipality of Thessaloniki

The urban vineyard on April

Pictures from the community vegetable garden



GHOST GEAR (New Zealand) Category: Pollution

YRE Competition 2022
2nd Place - Article
11-14 years old

By Chloe Croft

Every year, hundreds of thousands of tonnes of commercial fishing gear are being abandoned in our ocean. Commercial fishermen have been discarding their nets, pots, lines, traps, and other fishing gear which has been entangling or strangling our marine life and ruining marine habitats. 

In July 2019, Greenpeace reported on research which found that fishing gear from New Zealand commercial fisheries was discovered on a remote Pacific Island, 5,000 kilometres away1. On this particular island, a large proportion of the plastic litter found was from commercial fishing companies, including gear like ropes and buoys, nets, and buckets. Some of these items were still stamped with New Zealand fishery logos.

This shows how far fishing gear pollution can travel with the ocean currents, and how fishing gear pollution has become a worldwide problem. According to Elizabeth Hogan, the U.S. oceans and wildlife campaign manager at World Animal Protection - 640,000 tons of ghost gear is hauled out of the water each year. But some areas are more highly affected than others. In 2016 Elizabeth Hogan reported- One of the biggest areas affected is in Hawaii. “They remove close to 60 tons of gear every single year from the same spot. Since Hawaii doesn’t have a net-fishery, much of this ghost gear travels across the Pacific from those waters where nets are used.”2

The reason this is becoming more of a problem is that the fishing industry worldwide has begun to increasingly use plastic in nets, pots, lines, and ropes, as well as other commercial fishing equipment, over the last two decades. Plastic’s qualities such as durability, buoyancy, and cheapness make it ideal for fishing equipment. Sadly, these same qualities also make the lines and nets a deathly threat to marine life, and the communities around the world that depend on healthy, thriving marine life.

 A lot of Fishermen have been ignoring the cons to this, and have been continuously using these plastic nets. It has become such a problem that “Ghost gear” - meaning abandoned fishing gear- is estimated to make up 10% of ocean plastic pollution but forms the majority of large plastic littering the waters. A study found that as much as 70% (by weight) of macroplastics found floating on the surface of the ocean was fishing-related.

In NZ there are very strict rules about fishing yet fishing gear is either being abandoned here or it is drifting from around the world onto our coasts, strangling our marine life. The sustainability manager for Sealord NZ thinks that discarded fishing gear is not a big problem in New Zealand but discussions with local Hawkes Bay fishermen have a different opinion. Wayne Bicknell of Legasea HB and a recreational fisherman have found that a lot of the fishing gear and other plastic is washing up on NZ shores. Which makes it a threat to seabirds. Wayne says that waste on the beach is mostly fishing nylon and bait packaging. Even though this may not be the outstanding issue in New Zealand right now, it will be soon enough.

 A solution is obvious. We need to make nets, lines, pots, bait packaging, and any other fishing gear biodegradable. Globally, one tonne of new ghost fishing gear is lost or discarded in our oceans every minute. A report on “Ghost Gear” shows that 6% of all nets used, 9% of all traps, and 29% of all longlines remain as pollution at sea3. Not only does this old fishing waste go on killing marine life, but it also seriously damages underwater habitats. If it was biodegradable it would have much less of an effect on the environment.

If making fishing gear biodegradable is too costly or just not a good solution, there are other possible solutions.

 Sealord NZ’s current sustainable process includes using electronic sensors on their fishing nets to monitor the whereabouts of the gear and provide this data to Fisheries NZ. This is a good solution however it is not 100% reliable.

 Hawkes Bay fisherman Karl Warr has a different approach to keeping our marine life safe. The current cage Karl uses is made of stainless steel and it lets under-sized fish swim out of the gaps. It’s a built-in filter for the catch, and it means that more than 90% of the catch is usable.

 The survival rate of trawl-caught fish with a usual net is slim because they are hurt in the process of trawling by the compression in the net. Although the undersized fish are tossed back over the side, they usually float away and die. The cage Karl uses gives him greater control over the things he catches and also means that the fish that have been caught are in better condition and can be sold as higher quality for more money. This benefits Karl and the environment.4

 If we take initiative in the next couple of years we can begin to eliminate this problem before it becomes dangerously big. Keep New Zealand Beautiful! 

BATS DIDN'T LOSE THEIR SANCTUARY (Slovakia) - Category: Loss of biodiversity

YRE Competition 2022
1st Place - Article
11-14 years old

By Cintia Izabela Mrvová, Hana Holbusová


The Greater Mouse-Eared Bats found their home in the attic of an apartment building in Horné Ladce more than a year ago. According to Danka Palkechová, an environmentalist who manages protected animals on construction sites, this is a real flying treasure in every sense of the word: "The Greater Mouse-Eared Bat (Myotis myotis), which was found during the inspection, belongs among species of European importance in accordance with the Decree of the Ministry of Environment of the Slovak Republic No. 24/2003 Coll., as amended, and the social value of this species is set at 460 euro each, which means a colony of 325 individuals is valued at 149,500 euro."

In her view, bats are also important because they feed on insects and other invertebrates active during the night, fulfilling an irreplaceable role that diurnal animals cannot. Bats are important in another practical way – they are an indicator of the quality of an ecosystem. They give birth only once a year, have a low number of pups, and have a long lifespan. Such animals cannot quickly regenerate their populations after suffering negative environmental impacts (e.g. chemical pollution, disruption of the food chain, loss of shelter, physical destruction). Their presence or absence in the environment, or changes in the number of individuals indicate the environment's overall quality - therefore they are referred to as bioindicators. In the tropics and subtropics they also serve as pollinators of fruit trees.

The size of the bat colony was registered by residents only when they planned to renovate the apartment building. Ivana Mrvová, chairwoman of the homeowners community, informed us about how the residents handled this situation: "It was not too much of a surprise. We knew there were bats in the attic. We just didn't know how rare they were, how many there were and how their presence would affect the renovation of the apartment building. When applying for a building permit, an ornithologist's report on the reconstruction is mandatory. We were really surprised by the review." The study says that hidden in the attic is the largest maternal colony of the Greater Mouse-Eared Bat in an artificial environment in Slovakia. It is a really great rarity and the scientific community, the Ministry of the Environment, and the public have become interested in bats.

That is nice on the one hand, but on the other hand reconstruction was conditional on renovating the bats' shelter. The reconstruction company built a shelter of organic materials in the attic and the original hanging beams. There are also safe ways for the bats to fly in and out. The entire reconstruction was carried out when the bats were in their wintering grounds. Zoologists had to be consulted every step of the way. However, the unpleasant surprise was that the cost was significantly increased (by approximately €20,000) and the time for reconstruction was reduced. However, this did not deter the inhabitants of the apartment building.

 They were aware of the subsidies and challenges, which, although suspended during COVID-19 pandemic, would be implemented in the near future. They could cover all the expenses associated with the construction of the nesting site. Residents of the apartment building are also facing responsibilities in the future. As Mrs Mrva told us: 'This is a significant colony of bats, it will be regularly monitored by zoologists, so we cannot afford any misdeeds. But since the nesting site is well secured, I don't suppose there's a problem with that. We cannot smell or hear the bats in the hallway, and they don't really limit anyone. Let them live happily with us."

 In the event of a situation similar to the one in which the inhabitants of Horné Ladce found themselves, the municipal environmental department should be contacted. The process this apartment building went through is a good example of how to support the coexistence of animals and people. 


The largest mother colony of the great bat in the artificial environment in Slovakia resided in the attic of the residential house. Photo: Roman Lehotský


In the attic of the apartment building. Photo: Roman Lehotský


  • website of the Association for Bat Protection in Slovakia







The north textile industry, the ideal network for inventing sustainable and responsible fashion (France)


Article 19-25 years

By Justine Prados

Textiles are the second largest polluter in the world with 1.2 billion tons of greenhouse gases emitted each year. Almost everywhere, we are trying to make this industry more ethical. Through its industrial past, the north of France is a particularly fertile ground for rethinking textiles in a sustainable way.


In Roubaix, the old red brick factories line the streets of the Épeule district. Witnesses to the industrial past of what was called "the city of a thousand chimneys", some of them seem to have been abandoned for years. But at 139 rue des Arts, the former headquarters of François Roussel weavings, textiles are still at the core of activities.


In building C, you have to climb to the first floor using large steel stairs to access the Fertile Plateau. It is the third place installed in the last two years by Fashion Green Hub. Created in 2015, this association is an exchange network between fashion professionals around questions of ethical and sustainable fashion.


Coralie Vancoppenolle is the facilitator of the Plateau Fertile: "The idea of the third place is to have a concrete space to share resources, to think together ... but not only to reflect, to be able to create too!" In the upcycling workshop, the monotonous noise of the sewing machines drowns out the conversations of the seamstresses. They produce pieces from scraps of fabric and unsold items collected from partner brands such as Auchan or Blancheporte. On the other side of the door, a large space clad in metal beams welcomes the designer-residents. Big 3D printers are waiting to be started.

Since 2015, Fashion Green Hub has been the driving force behind sustainable fashion in the North. ©Justine Prados

Since 2015, Fashion Green Hub has been the driving force behind sustainable fashion in the North. ©Justine Prados

Today, Fashion Green Hub has more than 250 partners and plans to expand internationally, but the association remains firmly established in the North. The choice of Roubaix is anything but trivial. Historical capital of the mesh, the city underwent painful deindustrialization during the second part of the twentieth century. For Arielle Levy, vice-president and co-founder of Fashion Green Hub, this trauma has forged great resilience in the territory. “It just made sense: there was this textile ecosystem that had already suffered and that made it the perfect place to invent new models,” she says.


           When local and eco-responsible go hand in hand


Today, the Union of Textiles & Clothing Industries (UITH) of the North estimates that the textile industry employs 14,000 people in the department. This is 10 times less "than in the middle of the 20th century”. But in recent years, local and responsible production has become a differentiating factor in the face of competition from Asian giants. To guarantee this added value, UITH Nord created the “Nord Terre Textile” label in 2014. Regional variation of the “France Terre Textile” label, it certifies that at least 75% of the manufacturing steps of a product are carried out in approved local companies.


"We want to remind you that French manufacturing is much more virtuous than imported manufacturing," says Christelle Perz, head of economic development at UITH Nord. Today, local manufacturing halves the carbon footprint of textiles compared to production in China. This is the conclusion of a survey² carried out in December 2020 by the eco-design expert firm Cycleco for the ITU³.

Campaign carried out by the Union des Industries Textiles to promote local production. © ITU

Campaign carried out by the Union des Industries Textiles to promote local production. © ITU

Today, only 25 companies are labeled "Nord Terre Textile". But this certification is enjoying growing success according to Christelle Perz. “We have more and more requests. Above all, we have noticed that the companies that have best resisted the Covid are those that make made in France with locally sourced products”. For her, the great strength of the region is to benefit from an almost complete textile industry: designers, manufacturers, associations, research centers, training of textile engineers.


An observation widely shared by Loïc Baert, Managing Director of Lemahieu. This family business founded in 1947 manufactures eco-responsible underwear in Saint-André-lez-Lille. "What makes the difference is that everything is made on site, so you don't depend on other players," he says.


The company suffered the full brunt of the dismantling of the industry in the mid-1960s in the North. But if she survived, it was thanks to this local fiber. Labeled Nord Terre Textile, Lemahieu now has 130 employees. This is 40 more than in 2018, when Loïc Baert and his partner Martin Breuvart took over Lemahieu. “There is a real dynamic of relocation of production, we notice a big tension on the recruitment market for seamstresses”, details Loïc Baert.

At Fashion Green Hub, seamstresses use scraps of fabric for upcycling. © Justine Prados

At Fashion Green Hub, seamstresses use scraps of fabric for upcycling. © Justine Prados

But the North is not just a breeding ground for small textile companies. It is also the birthplace of many large brands: La Redoute, Kiabi and Blancheporte. For these big, well-oiled machines, the shift to responsible production is often more difficult. It is through research that they advance in this process.


           Towards innovation for sustainable fashion


In Tourcoing, the European Center for Innovative Textiles (CETI) opened in 2012. Its ambition: to support professionals in the sector towards sustainability. In the fall of 2020, CETI collaborated with the Okaïdi brand on a series of cotton t-shirts made from 60% recycled fibers (and 40% from organic farming). CETI carried out the tests and invested in the unraveling machine to recycle cotton. The goal: to assess the effectiveness of a solution before it is transferred to companies for industrial use. “Businesses want to improve environmentally, but innovation is always risky. CETI takes this risk for them and helps them move forward” analyzes Marie-Pierre Chapuis, head of operational marketing at CETI.


The presence of CETI stimulates the search for sustainability for the entire sector in the North. The research center, unique in Europe, is funded by several local institutional players (the European Metropolis of Lille, the Nord department, the Hauts-de-France region). "There is a desire on the part of the public authorities to highlight the region's textile expertise and to bring it back to life through innovation," said Marie-Pierre Chapuis.


Although far from being successful, this dynamic of responsible relocation has the merit of existing. “Two years ago, we would never have put together big and small actors. Today, it is clear that the entire value chain is being reorganized locally in the service of the same vision” summarizes Arielle Levy of Fashion Green Hub.


Creating new possibilities: this is the challenge of the textile industry today. The local level makes it possible to reconnect the players in the sector to jointly rethink production methods. The North is the ideal example of a territory that uses its strengths for the benefit of responsible values. And it could, perhaps, inspire other regions to dust off their industrial sectors and invest in sustainable restructuring.



¹ INA, “ Crises and changes in the textile sector in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region ”, April 16th 1965, <>

² Payet, J. (2021). Assessment of the Carbon Footprint for the textile sector in France using Life Cycle Assessment. Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050; CODEN: SUSTDE). MDPI publisher. Date of submission : January 13th 2021, <>

³ Union of Textile Industries, “Manufacturing in France halves the carbon footprint of textiles while supporting employment”, January 28th 2021, <>

© 2021 YRE Competition

Article, 19-25 years

1st Place
Title: The north textile industry, the ideal network for inventing sustainable and responsible fashion
Country: France

2nd Place
Title: Villages at the foot of Luštek landfill inspire the whole Slovakia
Country: Slovakia

Honourable mentions
Title: “Moulay ali natural bathes” ... a natural healing water source that is not rationally used to support the community development of “awlad Stoute”
Country: Morocco

Title: Montijo: An Option For The Future Or An Announced Crime?
Country: Portugal

Avian inhabitants of the housing estates (Slovakia)


Article 15-18 years

Authors: Ella Radimská and Júlia Noščáková

In the last decade, the conditions in urban ecosystems have changed significantly and several bird species have suffered. Not only are species in the wild disappearing, but species living in cities are also under threat. It was confirmed by the Report on the Status of Birds in Slovakia (1), according to which the number of White-tailed Godwits has declined by 100 000 pairs in six years.

The decline in bird numbers is linked to human activity. People living in housing estates want to live more comfortably and so they are changing their dwellings and surroundings. As birds need a stable environment, dynamically changing landscape and destruction of ecosystems are causing life-threatening problems for them.


Pupils of the Narnia Church Elementary School in the Bratislava housing estate have also noticed it. They decided to investigate the causes and make changes to the situation in their environment. With the help of experts, František Cimerman from NGO Živica and environmentalist Tomáš Kušík, they looked for answers and took steps to change the situation. 

One of the reasons for the dwindling number of birds on housing estates is the lack of cavities to build nests in. "Cavity nesters have the 'disadvantage' that if no one creates a cavity for them, they have nowhere to nest. The same is true if someone destroys or closes their cavity. Therefore, those species that almost exclusively nest in cities on buildings - the common swift, the souse sparrow and the common house martin - suffer greatly when buildings are renovated. Common swift and house sparrows lost all their nests when building were insulated - so they have disappeared. Fortunately, bird-sensitive insulation of buildings has been largely successful in Slovakia with our project Protecting Common Swift and Bats in Slovak Cities. With the passage of time, we are even more aware of its uniqueness, because nowhere in the world has anything similar been implemented on such a systemic scale," says Kušík.

Another threat to birds is also increasing light pollution, which disrupts their life cycle, changes their behavior, orientation in space, and migration routes. Housing estates are illuminated all night, including sidewalks, high-rise buildings and parks. Increasing noise levels also has a negative impact on the behavior and life of birds.

In the construction of new buildings, there is again a problem with façades - inappropriate forms of insulation or large glass panes. Birds crashing into the glazed parts of buildings usually result in mortality, and this is a huge problem that requires a targeted and systemic solution.

The clearing of lawns and the disposal of bio-matter (grass clippings, leaves, branches and shrubs) outside housing estates cause food shortages. "This is, among other things, a problem from the point of view of pollinators (which are also food for birds), which do not have enough flowers - nectar and pollen - on the frequently mown grass. This again reduces the biodiversity of the environment and, in addition, the fuel burned for mowing increases the carbon footprint," Kušik stated.

Other species are bothered by the clearing of shrubs, or the destruction of trees and bird nesting sites. For example, the common magpie, the hooded crow, the rook, the eurasian collared dove , the common wood pigeon, the common kestrel, the common blackbird, the long-eared owl, the mallard duck, the goldfinch, the nightingale and others build nests to survive.


Fourth-grade pupils from the Narnia school decided to take action. With Eco-Schools expert F. Cimerman, they created a plan to restore a housing estate's biodiversity and began to implement it. They also presented the plan to the Mayor, Matúš Valo, and received financial support for its implementation from the City of Bratislava's Children's program.

A dark corner with trees was equipped with student-made nesting boxes. In winter, they stocked the bird feeders with a mixture of food from different types of sunflowers seeds. They only added seeds when the feeder was empty. They learned that the plastic feed nets sold in stores for hanging on trees were a common trap for birds, in which they would get tangled, and die. Therefore they hung apples from the trees as a natural food source. They planted herb beds and shrubs with berries edible for humans as well as birds. They are turning part of the lawn into a meadow.

Thanks to the efforts of the students, birds have gotten used to finding food in bird feeders in winter, and are now nesting here.


There are many ways to support bird life in the city. Peter Lipovský, a practical nature conservation expert from BROZ (Bratislava Regional Conservation Association), praised the initiative of the pupils and added further advice: "Birds need to be provided with sufficient nesting places - birdhouses, rarely mown meadow areas and proper feed. There are many examples of good practices in Bratislava - for example, Karlova Ves, where thousands of bird houses have been installed in the facades of houses. There are also meadow areas, which are mowed only twice a year. The situation is getting better in other districts of Bratislava, towns and villages in Slovakia, too. The ideal situation would be if the local governments would deal with this issue on their own and not expect someone to do it for them."

The pupils' project is also supported by parents, the school and residents. They all appreciate the return of the birds to the environment. With their children, they have watched students feeding the birds and hanging their birdhouses. One of the mothers living in the housing estate described it this way: "It is very nice to be able to watch the birds at the bird feeders when we stayed at home. Our movement to the countryside was limited and the morning birdsong that we now hear every day in the housing estates makes everyone happy. It improves the mood and helps relieve the stress of the pandemic."  

Wildlife-friendly school garden. The untended lawn increases biodiversity, and provides food and shelter for insects. Photo by Ľubica Noščáková

Invitation accepted. Birds nesting in prepared safe places. These are three-week-old Black Birds just before leaving their nest. Photo by Júlia Noščáková

Feeder with fruit. A feeder on school premises during winter. Photo by Ľubica Noščáková


1) Stav ochrany vtáctva na Slovensku v rokoch 2013-18 (State of Bird Protection), published by Štátna ochrana prírody (Nature Conservation state authority) in 2020, ISBN: 978 – 80 – 8184 – 084 – 5

© 2021 YRE Competition

Article, 15-18 years

1st Place
Title: Avian inhabitants of the housing estates
Country: Slovakia

2nd Place (shared)
Title: Construction waste and dangerous waste – here on our backyard
Country: Israel

Title: Turning off the lights at night
Country: Switzerland

Shimmering Dust (Latvia)

Article 11-14 years

By Darja Skripkina (10), Latvia.

Photo: LETA, Ieva Leiniša

Photo: LETA, Ieva Leiniša

Fireworks usually associated with celebrations. People organize fireworks at weddings, birthdays, but cities use them to attract people to street events. However, it is essential to understand the impact of fireworks on the environment and the awareness of the Latvian citizens.

Over the past two years, the need for fireworks in Latvia has been topical, and the possibility of refusing fireworks at the state or local government level has been discussed. The public began to think about the value of fireworks and the benefits of a short moment of joy. Also, important worry is the impact on public health and the environment. In 2019, the initiative "For Holidays without Fireworks" was published on the portal [14] This petition may start a new tradition of celebrating Latvian holidays.

The Story and Promotion of the Initiative

“The first reason for beginning this initiative was the idea that during holidays we spend so much money on entertainment and forgetting that this money could serve other social purposes, such as charity” — said Maija Priedite, author of the petition "For Holidays without Fireworks". 

At the end of 2019, she called society to support the idea of completely banning the spending of taxpayers money on fireworks. In February 2021, the initiative has already been supported by more than 12,000 residents. 

Answering the question about her contribution to the promotion of the idea, Maija admits: 

“I didn`t do much. I posted the information on my personal social network Facebook profile, but it didn't get any publicity. At the end of 2019, when the initiative was published on everything happened by itself. Now petition is being considered by the parliament of the Republic of Latvia”. [17]

The Dark Side of the Shimmer

Even without considering the social aspects of fireworks, it is clear that together with radiant beauty, fireworks negatively affect the environment. It impacts the air, water, soil and people health, as heavy metals, other toxic chemicals and dust particles enter the environment during fireworks (Figure 1). [4][5][6][7]

Figure 1 Environmental pollution resulting from the use of fireworks

Figure 1 Environmental pollution resulting from the use of fireworks

Dust particles damage the respiratory and cardiovascular systems. During holidays, the concentration of these substances in large cities is more than ten times higher than the norm. [8] Also, there are other reasons for avoiding the fireworks during the holidays, such as:

1.    animals, including pets, are frightened and do not know where to go at this time; [8][10][11]

2.    pyrotechnic explosions in the atmosphere lead to carbon dioxide emissions, for example, in the United States on Independence Day, the amount of carbon dioxide emissions can be equated to the amount during forest fires on 1093 hectares of land; [8]

3.    safety — despite the popularity of pyrotechnics, these products can cause various injuries. [8][10]

The opposite opinion and readiness of the society to change

In February 2019, the residents of Riga were asked to express their attitude to the need for fireworks at state and city festivals in Riga. The survey data shows that the majority (72%) of respondents supported the fireworks in Riga. Critical attitude to the organization of fireworks was expressed by 24% of the study participants (including the answer "categorically do not support" was noted by 9%). [15]

In turn, representatives of the pyrotechnics industry note that both in terms of environmental impact and for financial reasons, it is still too early to abandon fireworks. [14] During the consideration of the initiative “For holidays without fireworks”, it was reported that festival fireworks cost a citizen of Riga 0.15 euros per year per person. Also, there are no cases of inpatient injuries in hospitals over the past 2-3 years, and environmental pollution is not even comparable to the pollution of mineral fertilizers during the cultivation of flowers. [17]

Classmates didn`t participate in the Riga city survey. Therefore, it was decided to run a survey to determine their attitude to the need for fireworks. The survey involved 17 respondents, most of whom (70.6%) support fireworks (Figure 2). Its means that the opinions of classmates and adult residents of Riga almost coincide. [16]

Figure 2 Opinion of respondents about the organization of fireworks [16]

Figure 2 Opinion of respondents about the organization of fireworks [16]

Also, during the survey, it was found that 58.8% didn`t even think about the impact of fireworks on the environment. At the same time, it should be noted that 64.7% are ready, and 23.5% may be ready to give up fireworks after learning about their harm. [16] It means that by telling classmates about the negative impact of fireworks on the environment, it is possible to change their attitude. As well, they can tell it further to their families. It can convince people to abandon, for example, private holiday fireworks and thus reduce the harmful effects of fireworks in general.

Are there any alternatives?

Even though environmentally-friendly pyrotechnics are being actively developed today[9], it is rational to think about giving up such a relatively expensive and short-time entertainment in favour of laser performances.

Such multimedia performances can be changed, supplemented, placed in several places so that more people can see them. Laser performances can be accompanied by music, held on the water or in the sky, on buildings or fountains. In addition, in the future it will be possible to use electricity from renewable sources. Even now, about 50% of the electricity produced in Latvia is provided by hydroelectric power plants. [18] In Riga, for example, the International Light festival "Staro Riga" is trendy, and this year Latvian cities were also beautifully decorated with light installations for Christmas (Figure 3). [12][13]

Figure 3 Liepaja "Christmas balloon"

Figure 3 Liepaja "Christmas balloon"

A century ago, a prominent Latvian poet Rainis wrote: "What changes, endures". Times, technologies, people's attitudes are changing. However, some values do not change. One of them — the well-being and health of our nature. Considering the results of the research, we can conclude that the moment has come when each of us, even a school student, can think and evaluate whether shimmering beauty is so necessary for our holidays.




















© 2021 YRE Competition

Article, 11-14 years

1st Place
Title: Shimmering Dust
Country: Latvia

2nd Place
Title: The dark and murky messaging of the major watch brands
Country: Switzerland

3rd Place
Title: What the pandemic packed for us
Country: Slovakia

Honourable Mention
Title: Love protects Sinjajevina
Country: Montenegro

Once a month (Puerto Rico)

YRE Competition 2020

Puerto rico.PNG

What things happen once a month? We usually see the full moon once a month. Some people get their salary once a month. But do you know what happens to all women once a month? Menstruation, our period. This topic has always been a taboo in our society. Talking about menstruation is never something we feel comfortable with, and discussing all the menstrual waste we produce in just a few days each month, can be even harder. According to the United Nations (UN), on average, women who use menstrual pads are equivalent to 60 kilograms of waste from this product during their lifetime. We can infer that tons and tons of menstrual pads and tampons end up in our landfills daily. Currently, there are more sustainable, economic, and healthy alternatives that allow us to avoid disposable menstrual products.

The Women’s Voices for the Earth (WVE), organization created in 1995, has the mission of amplifying women’s voices to eliminate the toxic chemicals that harm our health and communities. According to this organization, research shows that many of today’s menstrual and vaginal care products contain a host of chemicals that may cause cancer, disrupt hormones, or cause unnecessary allergic reactions. Some of these chemicals include styrene, chloromethane, chloroethane, chloroform, among others. More alarming, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)— the USA government agency responsible for protecting the public health by ensuring the safety, efficacy, and security of human drugs, biological products, and medical devices— does not require companies to test for all harmful chemicals. Moreover, the FDA does not require manufacturers to disclose ingredients to consumers. This situation presents a serious problem considering that the skin of the genitalia area tends to be thinner and more absorbent than other parts of the body, making it a sensitive area. The regulation of the chemicals used in menstrual products is crucial since they remain in contact with external genitalia for extended periods allowing the absorption of possibly harmful chemicals into the reproductive system.

In recent years, the topic of reducing single-use plastics has been a worldwide trend. Still, when it comes to this topic, disposable menstrual products are never mentioned and often not even considered a source of single-use plastic. The reality is that most disposable menstrual products contain a large percentage of plastics. Tampons usually are made from cotton or rayon, but sometimes include a thin layer of plastic in the absorbent part and an outer layer of synthetic fiber (polyethylene and polypropylene) to prevent fiber loss and create a smoother surface, according to Elizabeth Peberdy, a researcher at the Anglia Ruskin University. They are also wrapped in plastic and come with their plastic applicator. On the other hand, Peberdy establishes that the menstrual pads are made up of various layers: a permeable top layer made of a polymer such as polypropylene or polyethylene; an absorbent layer made of cellulose; an inner core of “superabsorbent polymer” or “smart foam” and a lower layer of polyethylene. Due to the complexity of the materials with which these products are made, it is estimated that a regular menstrual pad or tampon can take 500–800 years to break down in landfills. According to Peberdy, these estimations of degradation are based on respirometry tests in lab conditions. In reality, what actually happens to these products in landfill could be very different, referring to the possibility that there are materials that, by their nature, cannot be decomposed under landfill conditions.

Starting from the fact that 1.9 billion women globally are in their menstruating age, we should divert our attention to more sustainable and eco-friendly ways to manage our period. On average, women spend 2,400 days throughout a lifetime dealing with menstrual blood flow. This is equivalent to six and a half years. The most common eco-friendly friendly product options are organic tampons and menstrual pads, reusable pads, menstrual cups, and period underwear. Organic pads and tampons are made of organic cotton so that they can be composted. They can also be discarded with regular garbage since organic cotton decomposes much faster than the materials of regular disposable options. Reusable options such as the menstrual cup, reusable pads, and period underwear have the advantage of lasting for years. Pads and underwear last 3 to 5 years, with proper care, and usually are made of natural fibers such as cotton and bamboo. On the other hand, the menstrual cup is made with medical-grade silicone and usually lasts from 3 to 10 years, depending on the brand. Despite the many challenges these options face, such as high prices, poor accessibility, and poor education for women on the subject, more and more women are willing to make the change.

Research conducted on the public awareness of the environmental impact of menstrual products showed that most women are not aware of the ecological implications of these products. However, they also showed that women who are aware tend to make better decisions about the menstrual products they consume. In Puerto Rico, “More women want to make the change, some for fashion, others for empowerment and awareness,” said Valeria Solero, the creator of the reusable menstrual pads brand Manchada. (V. Solero, phone communication, June 11, 2020). Solero mentioned that, aside from helping the planet, since you avoid generating more garbage, switching to reusable menstrual pads helps us avoid “many toxic chemicals that significantly affect our health and body, causing allergies, infections, and diseases.” She also suggests that another important benefit is saving money, since “you make an initial investment and with proper washing and care can last 3-5 years,” avoiding the monthly purchase of products.  

In the middle of the 21st century, menstruation and its management are still hard to discuss due to the lack of education. We must stop seeing it as something terrible and disgusting and start viewing it as a beautiful biological process. The change to more sustainable options is not only beneficial for the earth, but also for your health and pocket. The world is waiting for you.

Author: Antoinette Cedeño

Residents demand better used clothes recycling (Slovakia)

YRE Competition 2020

In Spišská Nová Ves, residents can recycle used clothes through collection containers. However, these containers are often targets of looting and vandalism. The city is dealing with this problem by reducing the number of containers. Residents are still looking for ways to give unwanted clothing a second chance.

Have you ever wondered about the long and difficult path your clothes underwent until they arrived in your closet? From planting cotton to transporting the clothes to the store, it is months of work, huge amounts of water and energy, and thousands of miles traveled. Nevertheless, 5.8 million tonnes of clothing are thrown away in the European Union every year. Of this huge amount, only a fraction is recycled, and the rest goes to the landfill. There are many ways to recycle "old" textiles. Donate clothes to friends, charity, or an orphanage, or make new products out of them, such as a bag or toy for a dog. Special collection containers for clothing are available to those who do not have anyone to donate their clothes to.

(Un)successful placement of collection containers

Early 2012, special containers for clothing were placed in the town of Spišská Nová Ves. A total of almost 30 collection containers were placed throughout the city. The containers are managed by the local branch of the Polish company Pphu wtórpol, which supplies used clothing stores, exports some clothes to Africa and Asia, and processes the rest into various products. As early as 2014, however, the first complications and complaints associated with these collection containers appeared in Spišská Nová Ves. "The worst part is that what they don't like is thrown aside. They make a mess around the containers," wrote a resident on the Link website for the mayor.

Ing. Juraj Sad, PhD ., the then head of the municipal service department, said, "The city warned the operator about the repeated looting of clothing. As a result bars were welded onto the containers to restrict access." The situation recently culminated in the removal of several containers. Ing. Slavomír Krieger from the municipal service department said, “Containers were removed from some places. They were withdrawn by the city due to vandalism or at the request of citizens.” He also said that the city does not plan to return the containers, despite the fact that no new cases of vandalism or looting of containers have been officially recorded in the last 6 months.

Citizens versus the city

A survey of the city's residents by 16-year-old student Ľudmila confirmed that they are interested in moving their clothes along, but they do not like looting. Of the 400 inhabitants that took part in the survey, 41% stated that they use collection containers for recycling clothing. The amount of clothing collected per year also corresponds to the high rate of use. In 2019, it was 78.13 tonnes. The containers are emptied approximately eight times a year. One very startling finding was that three-quarters of the residents surveyed had recently witnessed looting and damage to a container or noticed scattered clothing around the collection bins.

The city is not currently considering improving the clothing collection service, such as changing companies, securing containers better, or placing containers in a collection yard. Ing. Juraj Sad explains, "The city does not plan to expand the number of containers. The existing company is now probably the only somewhat functional clothing collection company in eastern Slovakia. "

A second chance for clothes

Of course, Spišská Nová Ves is not the only town in Slovakia in which collection containers for clothing are not working out well. What could inspire city council? In Trenčín, the so-called “social wardrobe”, located in the city’s economy building, has been operating since 2013. The “social wardrobe” is managed by a group of volunteers. Donors can bring clothes, shoes, toys as well as household equipment and furniture. These donations can be picked up every Wednesday by socially disadvantaged residents.

Improvement of the used clothing collection service in Spišská Nová Ves is unlikely to happen in the near future. However, the residents’ willingness to donate clothes is great: 90% of those approached would be interested in donating their used clothes. Some proposed their own initiatives at the end of the questionnaire.

I would suggest organizing a collection of clothes on a regular basis. People would always bring their used clothes in bags on a specific date to a designated place. Usable pieces could be donated to Spišská Charity or to an orphanage, and the remaining blankets and sheets could go to the animal shelter for dogs and cats ", suggested an anonymous survey participant. Another inhabitant of the city wrote, “Young people like to change wardrobes. They wear one piece of clothing only a few times. Organizing a piece-by-piece clothing exchange would certainly please many. "

One thing is certain. The residents of Spišská Nová Ves want to recycle their old clothes, but the city has not yet offered them an official alternative to collection containers, and according to the staff at the municipal office, it is not planning to make any changes. However, if the city decides to respond to citizens' suggestions and the importance of this issue, it will receive a positive and very active response.

Bad look, poor function

Unfortunately, this mess around the collection container, after it’s been looted, is not an exception in housing estates.

Unfortunately, this mess around the collection container, after it’s been looted, is not an exception in housing estates.

An invitation to loot

Overflowing used clothes containers in Spišská Nová Ves are often subject to looting.

Overflowing used clothes containers in Spišská Nová Ves are often subject to looting.

Good example from Trenčín

The social wardrobe with its founder - otília divilková. Photo credit: Erik Stopka

The social wardrobe with its founder - otília divilková. Photo credit: Erik Stopka

Authors: Ľudmila Slivová and Timea Dimitrovová

Toxic Finger Food (Slovakia)

YRE Competition 2020

Cigarette butts are the most common type of garbage in cities and nature. Throwing them to the ground is considered to be a common and safe way to dispose of this waste. The team of pupils from Cirkevná základná škola Narnia hit the streets of Bratislava and explored how to minimize the most overlooked disposable plastic.

The students asked people in Bratislava whether they were bothered by cigarette butts on the ground. Many see cigarette butts as a "normal" part of the street. Many consider them to be an "aesthetic problem". They believe that discarded cigarette butts will decompose over time and disappear.

Member of the European (MEP) Martin Hojsík told the students that there was more to this:

"I think people notice the problem of streets littered with cigarette butts, but they overlook the fact that, like straws or shopping bags, cigarette butts are a disposable plastic." 

Hojsík considers raising awareness of this problem to be a great first step to changing the situation.

A “small” problem

The problem has two levels. Cigarette butts, littering the streets and nature, are made of plastic. Also, when burned they absorb substances from tobacco and become toxic so, when they are thrown away, they contain several harmful substances. At best they end up in municipal waste, at worst they are dumped on the ground. They are the most overlooked disposable plastic in the ecosystem. The chemicals are released into soil when they come into contact with water. The students collected cigarette butts from 1 m² and soaked them in water. The water changed color and became a dark brown, smelly leachate. 

According to research, when three butts are added into a one litre aquarium with a fish, the fish dies within 24 hours. Watering seeds of shamrocks with this water would result in 30% less of them sprouting than the same sample watered with normal water. MEP Hojsík gave this answer:

The filters in the butts are made of cellulose acetate, which is actually plastic. When the cigarette is smoked, they absorb substances in the tobacco, and therefore this plastic contains nicotine, heavy metals and other chemicals. So, it´s also about serious pollution.”

Only 3.5% cigarettes have filters which decompose in nature, due to costs. While plastic bottles and bags are taxed and straws are being replaced, no one notices butts.

It’s not enough to protect non-smokers

Students noticed during their research that butts are mainly found near bus stops. Their first step was to create a campaign to increase awareness of this problem. They discovered that there is one trash can at their bus stop near the school, but there is no ash tray. Smoking near bus stops is forbidden. This is highlighted with pictograms, signs, and bus-stop area is monitored by camera. Smokers go to smoke behind bus stops, out of the camera’s view. When they finish smoking they throw their butt on the ground. 

According to the town council of Bratislava, dropping cigarettes butts on the ground is a violation and fines can be as high as 33€. In 2019 city police issued fines for 1295 offenses of cleanliness laws in public locations. This number includes cigarettes and other forms of pollution.

Students act

Students contacted the city with a proposal that bus stops should have a special bin for cigarettes 5 m away. The distance would be marked by footsteps on the ground and be marked for smokers. Similar social experiments have been done before and were effective. This was a children´s initiative in Bratislava, but the city didn’t support it, so they created a mini campaign. 

They marked one square meter and cleaned it. There were 131 cigarette butts. Over a month 184 cigarette butts were collected over repeated cleaning dates (an experiment in Cambridge collected 128 butts in 1 m²). At the bus stop they marked cigarette butts in the 1 m² with „canapes“ flags. When people asked what it was about, the cigarettes became very evident.

Problem with no solution?

The students did not give up and informed the Magistrate about the results of their experiment of collecting cigarette butts at the bus stop. They added facts about the collection of butts at other bus stops. For example, near Aupark there were 10-times more cigarette butts than at the experimental bus stop. They inquired about how the bus stops were cleaned. Mr. Peter Bubla from the mayor’s office said, that the cigarette butts are disposed of by Dopravný podnik Bratislava (public transit) along with the communal waste collected at the bus stops. According to him, it is not possible to place waste bins with ashtrays at bus stops, because it is prohibited by law to smoke there. The most frequented bus stops are cleaned several times per day.

The problem seemed too complicated, so the students asked the MEP if he was aware of possible solutions. He used the example of Japan, where there is an absolute ban of throwing cigarette butts on the ground. There are separate zones reserved for smoking and often there are campaigns, motivating people to dispose of their butts in designated places. Smokers in Japan use private ashtrays in which they collect the cigarette butts and then empty them in trash cans. This doesn’t address the problem of decomposition and recycling. 

Better legislation could help

The key to solve the problem is to change legislation. Individuals do not have enough power or the right tools, like the European Parliament has.

Cigarette butts can be defined as the most overlooked single-use plastic in the world. This fact inspires the students to go on with the project. Even though, according to the city council, marking smoking areas at bus stops is not realistic, the students believe that once they meet with the mayor, they will find a solution.

Cigarette butts covering the ground behind the monitored bus stop area. Photo: Patrik Poltársky.

Cigarette butts covering the ground behind the monitored bus stop area.

Photo: Patrik Poltársky.

Pupils made a mini-campaign at the stop. They marked cigarette butts with colored flags for canapés. Photo: Patrik Poltársky

Pupils made a mini-campaign at the stop. They marked cigarette butts with colored flags for canapés. Photo: Patrik Poltársky

Hundreds of people pass by them every day, but they only started to notice them when students marked them. Photo: Leo Klein, bus stop Budatínska, Bratislava

Hundreds of people pass by them every day, but they only started to notice them when students marked them.

Photo: Leo Klein, bus stop Budatínska, Bratislava

Authors: Michaela Hermanová, Leo Klein, Emil Slimák, Patrik Poltársky

Climate change: looking back for a solution of today (Singapore)

YRE Competition 2019
19-25 years

When we think of solutions against climate change, we think about being more environmentally friendly and wasting less. Many view this as an inconvenience and a modern phenomenon we need more to adapt to with a similarly modern approach, as seen with the metal straw craze and sudden "ban-on-plastic".

However, the last people we often think of practising such solutions this is our grandparents. I remember the second-hand embarrassment as I watched my grandfather pull rolls of plastic bags in NTUC, before stuffing it into a trolley and walking away. I never knew where all those plastic bags went, and maybe I don’t want to know which landfill or ocean it is in now.

Yet, what if I told you one of the ways to mitigate the effects we have on climate change can be drawn by our grandparents?

My Grandma and Her Mini-Garden

My Grandma and Her Mini-Garden

On the 5th floor of an old HDB estate, you’ll find two rows of plants lining the sides of the walkway. Mdm Siew Cheng will be there with her trusty spray bottle and scissors, tending to her garden every day without fail. While she may not be a gardener, she is my grandma and her small garden is one of the ways she practices responsible consumption.

This small garden is home to 16 different vegetables and plants, which my grandma has tended for the past 20 years. Every morning at 6 am without fail, she prunes and sprays her mini-farm and these vegetables feeds our family. Her chye sim with soup and her rosemary with steak are utterly delicious, and our family goes over every Saturday to collect our "share of the harvest".

When I ask her why she goes through the trouble, she responded, "it’s yummy and I save money". Yet, she isn’t aware of the impact her tiny garden has had on the environment other than the fact that it has kept our stomachs filled.

Watering System Installed for the Potted Plants

Watering System Installed for the Potted Plants

To save on money, she has installed recycled plastic bottles to water her plants so that she doesn’t overwater them and only sprays her plants with water when necessary. Her pots are all taken from her neighbours or from the rubbish bin downstairs, recycling what would have ended up in a landfill.

Natural Fertilizer from Leftover Vegetables

Natural Fertilizer from Leftover Vegetables

In her attempt to live healthier, my grandma turned her farm organic as well. Leftover vegetables that would have ended in the dustbin are used as fertiliser for her plants. And after trial and error, my grandma’s home-made pesticide was simply an orange or banana peel left overnight. She found after trial and error that snails and other pests would fester on the peel and she could simply remove them from her vegetables after leaving the peels overnight.

"I don't have to throw rubbish away often now… it's good for my legs too and saves money" was her reason behind all these little actions. However, I was met with an "aiyo no la" and "sure boh" when I shared with her of the positive impacts her actions have had on the environment.

However, one of the biggest impacts her farm has had was reducing plastic and pollution.

When we purchase vegetables from supermarkets, they are often wrapped in plastic and these end up in landfills or polluting the oceans, harming sea creatures. And on tiny island Singapore, the food seen in supermarkets and goods such as pesticide are more often than nought imported from other countries. Yet, we tend to forget the pollution produced when moving these consumer goods from country to country, whether transported by ship, land or air.

Her small actions in making her farm were done to save money and effort, but yet has had such impacts on our environment. Yet ironically, our reasons for not being more environmentally friendly or taking actions against climate change are because it costs extra, or it takes extra effort.

So maybe we don't need an all too modern solution which requires us to buy more metal straws or ship something from overseas. Maybe what we all just need to do is to look at our grandparents' older consumption habits… or just a pot with vegetable seeds.

Bees in the city: small insects, big problems (Slovakia)

YRE Competition 2019
15-18 years

Bees’ natural environment is increasingly threatened by air pollution, temperature fluctuations, pesticides and loss of biodiversity. Bees do not have enough food and die. Paradoxically, in cities the selection of flowers and flowering plants is expanding, so bees get closer to people in the cities. It is an opportunity for practical training in bee and apiculture issues. Students at the Jan Adam Rayman Grammar School are very interested in participating in a beekeeping club, but they have come across misapprehension.


The idea for this project was first presented at the Jan Adam Rayman Grammar School in Prešov by a new informatics instructor, for whom beekeeping is a passion. The project did not remain in the realm of just thoughts and words. A year ago, the first beehives were placed on school grounds and a beekeeping club was offered for the first time. The leader was the teacher, Mr. Shurin, who described the beginning as follows: "Bees were shipped at the beginning of the season when the weather was still unstable. Bees are more nervous at this time, as the bad weather bothers them. They were also irritated by the move.”


At first there were no problems, and the club began to work. But gradually people started to worry about insect allergies caused by stings. Therefore, information boards with basic facts about urban bees, as well as first-aid steps for insect stings were installed in the school yard. After that the neighbours, Salesians from Don Bosco, visited the principal with a petition for the removal of the hives. Their justification was that they have a playground right over the fence. They felt threatened because some had had bad experiences with bees. There were also concerns within the school itself.

Mgr. Matúš Šurin: “Abroad, in towns, on the outskirts of parks, on railway tracks and in other locations, they set up gardens, plant crops, try to use every available piece of the earth, while here things decay. We have English lawns without flowers in our gardens."


The school took action to maintain good neighbourly relations. A bee-proof barrier was installed on the fence to meet all the requirements and regulations of beekeepers in residential areas. The students created leaflets about how people should behave near bees. They offered the leaflets to their neighbours, but they refused them. Neither did they accept an invitation to come to see the bees in the school garden along with professional lecture, even with protective equipment.

As the complaints continued, it was suggested the bees be moved even further from the common fence, or that the bee-proof barriers be multiplied. However, these solutions were not optimal because the bees had not gotten used to their surroundings.

Principal Mgr. Viera Kundľová said:

"Dissatisfaction with the bees in the school yard and people's concerns led me to study "insect bites". I have read that bees and bumble bees are not "naturally" aggressive, while wasps and hornets are very aggressive and will attack. But people's concerns were the deciding factor and led me to take the hives away from the school yard."


There are many student beekeepers in the world, even in kindergartens. School apiaries are also starting up in Slovakia, in Bratislava, Zvolen, Lučenec and other locations. Unfortunately, in East Slovakia, namely Prešov, this has not happened yet.

One cannot disagree with Mr. Shurin, that having a beekeeping club in times when there is a huge interest in beekeeping, and where there is no such opportunity, is something amazing. Even if the honeybees’ pollination is not counted as a benefit, the school could have been a trendsetter in keeping urban bees in eastern Slovakia.

Finally, the bees were supposed to be in the garden for only a month and a half, because they should only be there during the season when they can be worked with. Unfortunately, they had to go prematurely.


When solving this difficult situation, everyone agreed with the Assistant Principal Ing. Daniela Bučková: “Children's health comes first; it is better to avoid a problem than solve it later."

Young beekeepers also asked the other side - Don Bosco's Salesians - to express their opinion. In the beginning they were very willing, but when it came to setting a meeting date, they did not respond. Further attempts at contact were futile.

Despite everything, the club is still meeting!

Although the hives have moved to Kendice, where the beekeeping club is run under the patronage of the Slovak Union of Beekeepers, the subject of bees is still being studied at the Jan Adam Rayman Grammar School. In May, an article will be published in the Včelár [Beekeeper] magazine. The club has generated enormous interest and it is at full capacity. The large number of candidates waiting to get in testify to the quality of the club. These are the reasons the school’s management is still considering the possibility of returning bees to the school garden in a way that all parties are satisfied







The upcycling solution (Slovakia)

YRE Competition 2019
11-14 years

Since plastic shopping bags are not free at the cashier, most people have gotten used to carrying their own. However, the ultra thin plastic bags for fruits and vegetables are still free and heavily used. A consumer will bring home more than 500 of them a year. The solution may be bags made of old curtains or similar fabrics.

Miletičova Market in Bratislava is a popular place to buy vegetables and fruits. During the weekend, depending on the season, it is visited by between 300 to 1,000 shoppers. The Market has been open since the 1970s. Approximately 150 permanent vendors currently sell their goods in its booths: 55 vendors of fruits and vegetables, 55 of various other foods, snacks or food and drinks, and the rest is clothing, electrical goods, hardware and flowers. In addition, there are an additional 5 to 50 seasonal vendors of fruit and vegetables, as well as about 25 growers and vendors of seedlings and saplings.

Watching life in the market, you can see that more than two-thirds of the shoppers use eco bags or alternatives: traditional baskets made of pedig or willows, newer canvas versions with aluminum handles, or cotton and polyester bags. The rest uses mixed-material or plastic bags. The survey confirmed that more than 80% of shoppers do not use plastic bags, which were much more common before people had to pay for them.

"It´s about personal responsibility," says environmental consultant Petra Ježeková from environmental association Živica. "I always wear a backpack, so I can put my purchase in it, unless it is dirty. I try to have a few reusable bags in it (I am not always successful, but I am improving.) I have a pair of ultra thin plastic ones, two from old curtains and occasionally a bag I paid for. I definitely recommend having a durable bag or net bag, and a pair of little sack in your handbag - ideally linen, or ones upcycled from an old curtain."

Where to Put Fruits and Vegetables

A small marketplace survey shows that even the majority of those who carry their own eco-bags or baskets have their vegetables put in coloured plastic bags. These are sacks marked with the HDPE 2 label, which vendors still give to people for free, just like the thin plastic bags. When asked why they take plastic disposable sacks from retailers, shoppers give two basic reasons:

  1. It´s free, and when I put the vegetables in my bag, they don´t dirty my bag (basket), they stay organized and easy to handle at home.

  2. Fruit and vegetables do not dry out and remain fresh.

With a normal consumption of 5-7 such bags per purchase and the high traffic in this market, despite the fact that shoppers usually carry baskets or cotton, paper or PES bags with them, approximately 1500-5000 such bags are distributed in the market during a single Saturday, depending on the season. Annually that means up to 250000 plastic bags just for Saturday purchases.

Upcycling Old Curtains

The Narnia Church Primary School team of reporters sought to reduce the consumption of these bags by people, even though they are free.

They found the answer with Dana Kleinert, a fashion designer, activist, and ambassador of Bratislava Old Town. At the time of her candidacy for mayor, she launched a social responsibility campaign called Old Town Curtains.

"I collected old curtains from people, and our deaf seamstress sewed them in a sheltered workshop into sachets that we distributed in the market. This effort included discussions about waste, and people became aware of their personal responsibility and started using our bags. As a result, disposable bag use was significantly reduced."

After talking to Mrs. Kleinert, the Narnia girls decided to try out this project. They started collecting old curtains and bedding and sewing them into eco sacks. They are making good progress and you can meet up with them at the Good Market in Jakub´s Square, where they will talk to people about their eco-sacks and give them out for voluntary contributions. 

“We hope that people will add them to their eco-bags and stop taking disposable bags from vendors. That's our goal. Because each one can be used for years to prevent the use of hundreds of disposable bags. And that’s worth it,” say the girls.

Giving new life to old curtains

Giving new life to old curtains

OUR upcycling solution

OUR upcycling solution

Tan Tan: From a garden watered by running water to a barren wasteland looking for drops of water (Morocco)

YRE Competition 2018
19-21 years

"Malika, (35 years old), leaves her bed at the crack of dawn, and she moves quickly while she is still falling asleep, towards the water tap installed in the entrance hall. Bottles of 5, 10 and 30 liters are put near the water tap waiting for drops of water. Most of the time, Malika, who lives in Sheikh Abdati neighborhood, waits for long hours without succeeding to fill these bottles and barrels with drinking water, a suffering which is repeated every day and becomes more complicated with the coming of every summer. "

City connected to water

"It is said that one of the nomads was lost in the Moroccan Sahara until he got thirsty, he was about to die. He searched for a well of water to satiate his thirst and that of his cattle but did not find it, continued to search with all hope to have a drop of water, passed near a lot of dried up wells. He went on walking until he reached a very deep well, he could not see anything in it, he doubted about it, he threw a small stone into the well and heard the sound of the stone dangling with water, making a sound like "Tantana". So, he named this well "tanatina" Which will later become the first nucleus of a city that will take its name, It is "Tan Tan", a coastal city located between Guelmim and Tarfaya. Passengers traveling to the south or north must pass through this city, that's why it is called the city of "transit", its population reached 73.209 thousand people.

The establishment of "Tan Tan" was associated with water, because without this well, there wouldn't be any constructions or buildings. There were many wells that were established by the population of this city. Its fresh water was highly appreciated by its users. Decades ago, when the city was under construction, the water-laden carts were roaming the streets to sell water to the population. At that time, the price of water was very cheap. After that, the residents connected their homes to the potable water network, benefited and were supplied with water at low prices. The population did not know that this water will dry up one day.

A city that exports water

When visiting the cities of the southern provinces, including Laayoune, Smara, Boujdour, Tarfaya or even Dakhla, you will remark water tank selling water to the inhabitants of these provinces. People prefer to buy water from these trucks because of its high quality. And when you look more at these tanker trucks, you find the words written very clearly "water of Tan Tan". This name has become a brand associated with water quality of this region. Demand for water in this area becomes a source of profit for a number of truckers who prefer this kind of trade. A few years ago, a factory was established to fill various sizes of bottles with this water and sell it in different cities of the Kingdom.

The beginning of the crisis ... the end of the drop of water

Almost two years ago, these water taps installed in houses were no longer supplied with water at any moment because of the successive interruptions during the day. But sometimes, these interruptions continued for many days. At first, the inhabitants did not care about the matter. They thought that this problem would disappear after a short period. But in fact, these interruptions were caused by the diminution of the well water. The city suffered from a suffocating crisis that threatens the future of generations. The groundwater of this area has been depleted for many years and the wells in the region of "Taassalt" are no longer sufficient to meet the growing needs of the inhabitants.

The Arabs say, "Ironing is the last medicine." Officials of the National agency for Drinking Water tried to save the city from thirst engendered by the overuse of water. This attempt involves the construction of two seawater desalination plants. The first was established in 2003, and the second in 2014.

To know how desalination plant operates, we visited "Khank Lahmam" plant, which supplies the city with drinking water. The water quality engineer Mustafa Adenani says that this plant operates according to the "reverse osmosis technology", which passes through four processes, including pre-treatment, which remove plankton and impurities, then the stage of treatment, which is done by high pressure to separate salts from water, because water Extracted from the holes in the region of "Ras Omlil" is salty by an average of 4 and 5 grams per liter. The obtained filtered water is added to a percentage of salt water to restore balance. The plant produces a total of 35 liters per second of safe drinking water stored into four water tanks with a capacity of 3,000 cubic meters, to which is added chlorine solution of 0.5 mg / l.

Awareness is the solution

After the suffering experienced by the inhabitants of "Tan Tan" due to the depletion of wells, and after many attempts to solve this problem, it became necessary to think of "raising awareness" of the importance of water among the youngest generation. This sense should be translated into behavior and practice. The waste of water is a violation of the right of future generations to live in a stable world. This natural wealth is a common property that should be preserved.

YRE field visit to the desalination plant “Khank lhmam”

YRE field visit to the desalination plant “Khank lhmam”

Morocco 2.JPG
Water tank selling water

Water tank selling water

Written by students from Morocco.

When youth hostel goes with eco-friendly tourism (France)

YRE Competition 2018
19-21 years

While tourism is responsible for the emission of 26,400 million tons of CO2 per year, can we bring tourism and sustainable tourism together? This is the challenge Samuel Boggio and Alain Berhault set themselves by opening, last April 24th, the first écollective youth hostel in France. Based in the 9th district of Lyon, the “Alter’hostel” tries to integrate travellers in local life of Lyon while reducing their ecological footprints.

A form of tourism that cares about the environment

Eco-responsible travel with affordable prices: this is the goal of this youth hostel welcoming foreign globe-trotters as well as young French people settling in Lyon or even school groups. This goes with a strong will to reduce the hostel’s carbon footprint. In that regard, the lightning is timed, the showers’ water debit is controlled thanks to a compressed air system and dry toilets were put in place. Composts, sorting trays in each dormitory, recycled rainwater… Nothing is left to chance, even the handmade washing-liquid.

“What we decided to put to practice is not rocket science! You just have to want to invest in it. The dry toilets cost up to 2,500-3,000 euros so it should be taken into account but afterwards you save money every year. Lots of people come to us because of our ecological concept so it actually incites other hostels to follow the same principles” explains Samuel, whose idea started to grow during a round-the-world tour. The managers also chose the renewable energy supplier Enercop, even if it means paying 15 to 20% more on the electricity bill. This hostel is of a new kind and does not have anything to do with a simple greenwashing marketing plan. “The concept of an ecological hostel allows to learn more on what can be done to preserve the environment” testifies Marina, who is delighted with her stay.

A new approach for travelling: more open to local life and sharing

At the bar, you can have local drinks with the “Cola’rdèche” soda or “Canute Lyonnaise” beers. Travellers can also pay with the local money, the “Gonette”, even if Samuel admits that this is quite rare. The hostel multiplies local partnerships in order to involve the travellers into the local Lyon life. For instance, the latter can get involved as volunteers for “Les Restos du Coeur” or give the “Acte 2” ticket-counter a hand, the theatre next-door. “It is not only a hostel, it is much more than that” Samuel sums up. With concerts, polyglot evenings, Christmas markets, DIY workshops, the hostel is abundant with events and good mood in an atmosphere where multiple nationalities casually meet. The hostel organizes different workshops of awareness to the environment in partnership with local associations like “Awareness and Ecological Impact”. To Gabrielle Frutos, administrator of this association, “it is a very beneficial cooperation that is justified by the values shared by both these structures”.

Moreover, it is also possible to rent kayaks and bikes. “We are really happy we could associate with the Alter’Hostel to re-use bikes rather than buying new ones and waste them” explains Thierry from the “Change your Chain” association. The hostel also welcomes some young people doing their civic service or doing “woofing”. Everything is made to incite the travellers to become actors of their stay in a convivial atmosphere.

A project that saw the day thanks to collaborative financing

“We are not geniuses, it is just that we have ideas and motivation. We are often said to follow our dreams and that is right (…). We should be creative, not be afraid to try things even if people say it will not work” advices Samuel. To fund their dream, the two young managers did not indeed lack creativity: “We paddled down the Rhône in kayak from Switzerland to the sea. We raised 21,000 euros of funds, 300 people contributed to it.” Then they called for financers from social and solidarity economy such as the “Nef” and the “Crédit Coopératif”.

An inspiring concept, the echo of a new aspiration coming from young people

As it was prized last January with the label “Lyon, Sustainable and Ethical City”, whose goal is to promote practical alternatives to consumption, the Alter’Hostel has a bright future ahead. Samuel seems confident: “we can launch different tourisms, we are the proof of that, and currently it is working. People are often happy to come here, they support us.”

A buzzing innovative concept? “In other cities of France we heard that other projects similar to ours are blossoming”. This dynamic goes to testify the emergence of an eco-responsible awareness, in particular among young people who are more and more attracted to solidarity and eco-friendly travelling. “Sustainable development, in terms of economics, is characterized by exploding markets: there are no risks to take. In terms of personal welfare, it is great because you can meet people with the same values. Suppliers and partners all create a benevolent community. (…) This is the future” concludes Samuel with an optimistic look.


Written by student from France.