Text: Yulia Hudoshnyk, Kateryna Vereta, Oksana Udovyk, Oleksiy Moskalenko, Ievhen Kylymnyk; Translation: Tetyana Kononenko, Euan Macdonald
How can you find an eco-solution for your district in just two hours? More than that, how would you start implementing it right away? Eco-activist Kateryna Vereta, who is engaged in a composting experiment at the Zhytniy Market in Kyiv, knows! Her story is one about obstacles, the drive to act, and the importance of having a dialogue with local communities.
Katya, a first-year student at the Faculty of Biology and an activist of the Zelena Khvylia Environmental Club, does not take coffee-to-go if she forgets her reusable cup at home. She has a rule of not buying lunches in plastic boxes. She always has her own fork and eco-bag.
“I always wanted to take care of nature,” she says. “I remember collecting and handing out scrap paper when I was at school and for the money I got from this I used to buy medicines for animal shelters. Of course, it was all at the school level. I aspire to do much more. That is why I decided to join the university eco-club. It is easier to act when surrounded by like-minded people.”
Now Katya is one of the participants in the UNDP’s Community Safari initiative. What is it all about? A Community Safari is a quest to identify environmental issues and rapidly develop innovative solutions to tackle them using nature-based solutions.
During the first Safari, five teams of activists explored the territory of Podil district in Kyiv, looking for problems, and for nature-based solutions to them. The initiative was launched jointly by UNDP, Agents of Change and the Zelena Khvylia Environmental Club of which Katya is a member.
“We didn't know who would be in which team or which topic would work on,” Katya says. “During the Safari itself, someone mentioned Zhytniy Market. This topic troubles all of us. We want Zhytniy Market to become more eco-friendly and closer to European standards. The moment we saw a pile of organic waste inside, the idea was there: let’s put a composter here. What if it could become a role model for other markets in Ukraine?”
However, according to Katya, the installation of the composter is just the beginning.
“We’ll make sure that it all works properly: that compost is produced and there’s a positive impact, that is economic benefits for the market. In future we want to launch a sorting station at Zhytniy Market. Not only for market workers, but for all residents of Podil district.”
Meanwhile, Katya's team is working not only on a technical solution to the problem but also on social aspects. They decided to turn the “inconvenient” waste, that people just want to get rid of and prefer not to notice, into something aesthetic, and in this way to break the existing negative stereotypes about organic waste and thus promote composting – which essentially means turning organic waste into fertilizer. See the results of this unusual experiment and learn more here.