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Marilyn Mehlmann, a 70-year-old English lady, who is currently living in Sweden, initiated the programme. According to her, the alarming data published about the energy consumption of the 70’s and the overpopulation motivated her to act. They initially tested the methods on themselves in small groups, which then went on to spreading around the world with growing speed.
It is part of a global ‘going green’ initiative, which has been coordinated by an international NGO, the Global Action International (GAP), since 1990. By today, more than 20 countries have joined the initiative, involving more than a million people. Besides wealthy nations like Scandinavians or Americans, the circles have been successful in developing countries as well, like Vietnam or Belarus. In Hungary, it was the Association of the Conscious Consumers (TVE) that started the spread of the programme in 2010 with the support of the Central Hungarian Energy and Operative Programme.
EcoCircles are small-number learning groups, usually consisting of 5-10 people. The activities normally take place weekly, for 2-3 months. This can of course change, if the members require more contact. At every meeting a topic is brought up, which the members discuss, brainstorm ideas about, and try to find solutions for. TVE contributes to the meetings with an exercise book and other learning materials. Besides this, the members volunteer to try out something in their own households every week. It is inspiring that thanks to the regular feedbacks, the change and success can be seen quite soon.
The EcoCircles aim to make households greener – on an entirely voluntary base. And all this is done in a way so that the economical burdens are reduced and the consciousness and social participation of the participants are improved. With their ideas and personal experiences the members inspire and encourage one another towards a more environment-friendly life.
Anybody can participate who is open to going green. The method can show something new even to those who have been striving at living in an environment-friendly way for years. It is a pre-requisite that the applicant should be responsible for their household themselves, but, in my opinion, if a teenager feels dedication towards the environment, they should be present, as well, because, on the one hand, at home, they can promote a good example and on the other hand, they are sure to lead their future households in a more environmental-friendly way.
EcoCircles provide a good opportunity for getting to know other people, because the people gathered are normally of the same interest. On the other hand, one can get a lot of great ideas about how to spare – financially and at the same time in energy consumption and waste production. One can learn to do their shopping more consciously and healthily. The key is that it’s all done on a voluntary basis, which means that nothing is obligatory. Everybody can decide for themselves what to put into practise in their own household and what are the things that they would like to skip. At the same time, it’s important to point out that it is not a competition – every participant has only themselves to evaluate and compete against.
This year the applications were closed in September and the meetings are already in full swing. But if somebody feels inclined to participate, they can have a look at the website or Facebook page of TVE, where there is always some information about EcoCircles.
This year I also became a member of an EcoCircle, therefore, at the end of the programme, I will come up with a more detailed report. From this, the readers will get an idea about what exactly we did, how I felt and how it influenced my ideas as well as my household.
Written by Andrea Urbin
Translated by Judit Molnár