LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas Center for Russia, East European and Eurasian Studies (CREES) is hosting eight young environmental activists from Russia, along with Russian program director Maria Zhevlakova, for a series of activities this week in which the group will learn about sustainability initiatives on campus and in the surrounding community as part of the Peer-to-Peer Eco Reps Program.
CREES and its Russian partner, the Center for Transboundary Cooperation (CTC) in St. Petersburg, Russia, was awarded a major grant from the U.S. Department of State in 2014 as part of the U.S.-Russia Peer-to-Peer Dialogue Program. The grant called for CREES, working with CTC, to identify, train and connect Eco-Reps from the Midwest with their counterparts in Russia. These Eco-Reps designed and implemented projects with the goal of raising awareness and educating others about sustainability, and creating positive environmental, social and economic effects in their schools, communities and small businesses. Once the projects were implemented, they were evaluated by an expert committee, and the best were nominated for a peer-to-peer exchange experience.
According to Zhevlakova, development director at the Center for Transboundary Cooperation, the Russian Eco-Reps had unique and diverse projects:
Artem Pastukhov, Elena Bukovskaya and Anastasiia Denisova developed a system with the student cafeteria at a university in St. Petersburg that allows food waste to be collected and transported to local producers of organic fertilizers. Their project also included development of a separate waste collection program focused on using plastic bottles as containers to feed zoo animals.
Alexandra Kokoreva, Svetlana Vozykova, Alyona Gretchina and Nastya Nikulina developed a “School of Positive Actions,” where they plan to work with students in the villages of the Ustianskiy region and inspire them to create their own projects focused on sustainable development.
Miramgul Ibraeva, from Solnechnyi, developed a youth movement titled “Clean a Provincial Town” as a way of organizing ecological and socially-minded activity for younger generations. She gathered volunteers and environmentalists in order to help her educate the local population about environmental responsibility, and designed various events to encourage participation in socially conscious activities.
Anna Rybalova, from Petrozavodsk, worked to connect all of the eco-friendly activities in the city in order to inform citizens about the environmental opportunities available in their region. She hopes that this will promote a sustainable living style in the community and that bringing all of the various organizations together will make it easier to show everyone that sustainable living is an achievable lifestyle.
On campus, the group is meeting with representatives of the Center for Sustainability, the Biodiesel Initiative, the Student Farm, and Professor Dan Rockhill’s Studio 804. In Lawrence, the group will tour the Lawrence Public Library, the materials recovery facility operated by Hamm Inc., and meet with Douglas County Sustainability Coordinator Eileen Horn. In the Kansas City area, the group will meet with sustainability coordinators at both University of Missouri-Kansas City and Johnson County Community College. Finally, the delegates will travel to Greensburg, devastated by a tornado in 2007, in order to see the changes that have been made in order to make this the “greenest town in the United States.”
The second part of the exchange will take place May 23-30, when the Eco-Reps from the U.S. will travel to St. Petersburg. While there, they will learn about sustainability initiatives in St. Petersburg and surrounding areas as well as participate in an annual Sustainability Expo.
KU is a major comprehensive research and teaching university. CREES is a resource center for the study of Russia, Eastern Europe and Eurasia.