Greenitiative is an environmental educational NGO based in Mogoşoaia, just to the north of Bucharest and it aims to instil in people, young and old, a sense of the importance of living more sustainably. It was established in 2007 with the spectacular new, dedicated eco-training centre opening in the spring of 2016. Since then more than 2,000 people have visited this building which, in itself, is an exercise in how things can and should be done – PV solar panels plus roof garden, composting, rain collection, ultimately efficient turf insulation etc.
The key driving force behind this initiative is Felicia Ienculescu-Popovici a committed environmentalist who, in November, won 3rd place in the European Federation of Agencies and Regions for Energy and the Environment’s prestigious Roger Leron Award. This award was for her tireless work in raising awareness about renewable and sustainable energy amongst the Romanian public.
Ienculescu-Popovici’s story of public service begins way back at school, where she was always trying to find causes to help, but by 2003 she had began to realise that, of all the many issues facing humanity, Climate Change was the biggest and the most pressing. “I’d always been doing things like cleaning parks, helping out at orphanages etc but as I began to discover more and more about Climate Change through reading and films such as Al Gore’s ‘Inconvenient Truth’, I began to realise that this was the biggy, we need to do something and soon and there’s simply no escaping this one,” explains Ienculescu-Popovici. And so she created her Greeniniative NGO as a way of “trying to encourage a more sustainable approach across our communities and society.”
A key difference between Ienculescu-Popovici’s approach and that of many others working in the area of Climate Change is that she is unremittingly and unnervingly positive. “We work hard to ensure the message we are putting across doesn’t scare those people we are working with. It’s absolutely crucial that we grasp the enormity of the challenge that we face but at the same time, we mustn’t be scared and we at Greenitiative ensure we engage using fun techniques to explain just what needs to be done and how it can be done.” She continues, warming to her subject: “Yes Climate Change is a threat, and a grave one at that, but it’s also an opportunity, a very big one. There’s lots to do, that needs to be done. Lots of work, lots of jobs that have to be created to lessen Climate Change and to moderate the effects that are coming.”
Ienculescu-Popovici’s optimism comes from her own personal story and she uses this whether she is teaching about sustainability, Climate Change, biodiversity loss and waste recycling or upcycling. “I’m a city person, we lived near the national stadium in a small apartment and now look at us – we live out here in a unique, specially designed eco-house in a small village in the country. If we can make these big changes then the changes that are needed to limit Climate Change across society can also be made. People can change, mankind has been continually changing throughout history, things that seemed unchangeable – slavery, women’s rights, even smoking – big changes can be made, it’s just a question of will.”
Greenitiative has created a whole school curriculum that is being used across the country in over 700 schools. This involves a heap of superb resources – digital textbooks – that are all free. Educators just register on the Greenitiative website greenmogo.ro or the Green Schools Platform website www.scoliverzi.ro. Starting this month, these resources will be available in English too, in a new collaboration of WWF Romania, British Council and Greenitiative. In addition schools and universities visit the centre in Mogosoaia (www.greenmogo.ro. Facebook: Centrul Green Mogo) where the building itself is used as a learning tool. Often these groups combine a visit to the centre with a visit to the fabulous Mogoşoaia Palace just down the road to make a fun and interesting day out for students. Some learn about green building techniques, some learn about upcycling still others learn about biodiversity loss. Sustainability, waste management, energy efficiency, intelligent homes, composting – all are taught and discussed. The ramifications of Climate Change – mass migrations, food shortages, civil unrest all are covered at Greenitiative but everything has an end goal: “We want to make sustainability at the centre of everything we do and we want to encourage as many people as possible to do the same. It should be embedded in who we are and at every level and we want to move as quickly as we can towards a low-carbon economy,” says Ienculescu-Popovici.