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Read the Italian website article about Food for the earth - Good for All on:

Below you find the english translation;


A great little sustainable innovation in the city of Sofia
October 29, 2013

• Tags: innovation, sustainability, eco-friendly development, irena sabewa

Can a good tendency represent a sustainable innovation for a whole capital of Europe, so revolutionary as to increase the quality of life of the citizens and contribute to reducing the cost of waste disposal?
The answer is yes, if we talk about Food for the Earth, Bulgarian winner of the EU competition "A World How You Like It". The idea of giving food to the earth' is of Irena Sabewa, social psychologist, president and co-founder of "Our District," an association which works in Sofia for the development of eco-friendly practices. With “Food for the Earth”, the volunteers of the association will run a special composting site in the neighborhood where people will bring their organic waste and garden clippings, receiving in exchange the compost to fertilize their flower beds. In the proximity of the composting site, a small playground for children, which will include the possibility to hold cultural events, workshops and laboratories for the recycling of material, will be created. An innovation not only sustainable but also socially responsible. Planet Inspired interviewed Irena Sabewa.

Irena, where was the idea for this project born? Can you give us some information on your background?
"In Bulgaria there are no municipal systems for the separate collection of organic waste and the problem of the dumping grounds is very serious. The municipality of Sofia where I live has a program for composting at the household level, but in our neighborhood people do not put it into practice. In the DNA of my family we have the 'gene' of respect for the environment, so in our daily lives we try to implement as many eco-friendly practices as possible. We do composting in our garden as a very simple and responsible step for the mitigation of climate change. Instead of this method, the people of the neighborhood throw away their organic waste in their garbage bins, mixing it with all other waste. For us it was very ugly to look at, and so one day my husband and I decided to start looking for a solution on how to avoid the bestowal of organic household waste and garden cuttings in the dumping ground and increase environmental awareness in people. Our idea was that we should address the problem in a way that would increase the cohesion of the community, would produce the composting on the premises and would be efficient. CO2 emissions will be reduced by reducing the costs of transport; high-quality compost will be ready and people will have a chance to get together to do something useful by taking care of the environment. It is along these lines that ‘Food for the Earth' was born."

It seems that a key element of the project is the relationship developed among the people. Can you explain how this works and how you reached this particular approach?
"The idea is exactly this: to raise ecological awareness in the individuals by providing access to composting facilities, increasing at the same time cohesion in the community. The project "Food for the Earth – a benefit for all" is still in the initial stage, but I could testify that day after day each one is striving to cooperate. We are well aware that this change takes time and steps to increase motivation and information. We also try to involve the neighbors in beautifying their neighborhood - to clean together, to plant flowers, bushes, trees, and to build a small park with a children's corner. Some of the people are very supportive and, together with the volunteers, the activities are going on well. We still have a lot of work to do and we intend to continue neighborhood by neighborhood, across the city."

How were the reactions of the people so far, and what results do you have at this point?
"Over the years, the municipal garbage collection service has created the attitude in people that waste is a problem that does not concern them, because it is the responsibility of the local government, and also the belief that it is a simple service that all one has to do is pay for it. The team that put together the project understands very well that to change these attitudes it takes time and reliable support from the government. We are very happy for the meeting we had with the mayor of Sofia after the award of the European Prize. The mayor of Sofia Fandakova has expressed her readiness to support us by looking for tools for the implementation of "Food for Earth – good for all". For us this is a very important and necessary collaboration. We expect the first quantities of compost to be ready in the spring. The estimate is that about 10-20% of the raw material becomes compost. At the same time, it is estimated that organic waste constitutes at least 30-40% of the volume of all waste going to the dumping ground. If we imagine how many tons of organic waste could turn into "food for the earth," it means uniting climate-friendly behavior with a deep respect for nature and humanity."

Dnevnik Newspaper 

On the  6th of November the newpaper dnevnik published an article about Food For the Earth. Read the article in Bulgarian here.

Neighborhood you like

For nearly a week there are some billboards on Sofia streets from where an affably woman is  smiling and a composter can be seen at the background.  Through that approach of smiling Irena Sabeva achieved most things in life, and this is obviously profitable. The billboard campaign is the award for Irena and for all members from the Association for sustainable practices, "Our neighborhood" for their neighborhood composting project.

This community initiative is a national winner in the European Commission Contest "A world you like, with a climate you like." But in practice its implementation steps are made in four consecutive Sundays in "Knyajevo" neighborhood.

It's mainly for sturdy physical work with a shovel, hoe, rake and garden secateurs. At the beginning of the week the three Irena's children circulated in neighborhood mailboxes polite invitations for inclusion in the activities.

Compost area "Kniajevo"

On the corner of "Mecha Polyana" (near Panoramen Road), where she lives, Irena and several volunteers, neighbors and their children, built up gradually  40 sq compost area for garden and kitchen vegetable waste, which will benefit everyone in the neighborhood. An excellent example of how a collective effort can prevent the disposal of biodegradable waste and use them for their own purposes. And this waste is at least 40% of the "garbage", which is one of the reasons for the formation of greenhouse gases.

"Here each of us has the opportunity to participate directly in the natural process of converting garden waste in an eco-fertilizer with which to maintain green areas, and there will be enough for anyone who needs a fertilizer for their garden", says Irena with her ​​radiant smile. We are walking around the site. We find that freshly planted the day before the infront the composter area hydrangeas are broken. We wonder who could have done this. Days later, Irena realized that the culprits were goats, which usually go there. "I hope the goatherd led them on other paths," she wrote me no other comments on the case.

Their project is not just about compost area. The idea is close to it to be delineateed some pleasant places where people can relax, meet and communicate, children to play - with each other and with nature. So cleaning the ravine of the river that descends from Vitosha mountain, cultivate green spaces, restoring small forest trails and build a safe forest playground with a sandbox in the park "Knyazhevska Forest" – theese are other important things that are happening there gradually.
While Irena was telling me  this things, a man with a dog came right up on the purified forest paths,  approaching to the sandstone and saw daisies planted in the shape of a heart. Gasped appreciatively of the change around.

Living together

It's all part of the project "Living together" which was developed by the Association and approved for implementation by the Sofia Municipality under the program "Green Sofia" 2013. The project's name speaks for itself and reminds something essential that for a long time and severely lacking in our neighborhoods.

On an area of ​​3 acres volunteers mainly prune shrubs, cleaned of weeds and stones, and piles of construction waste into the ravine, many of which "were planted deep in the ground." With this latest action we even succeeded to liberate the natural course of the river. Hoeing and planting (in season) flowers and other suitable vegetation. There are already hundreds of planted shrubs and 400 tulips, 200 daffodils, many carnations and daisies, and 180 shrubs that form a "bed" for "River of the Flowers." So far, some of the seeds and seedlings were stocked in the yard of Irena`s family, who has consulted for color selection with a landscape architect. Municipal finance is 90% of the materials and flower bulbs, shrubs, trees, pergola and benches, but the labor is voluntary.
During the last campaign volunteers received spontaneous support from the owner of the store from where  they buy construction materials for compost area. "Having realized that doing something voluntarily, he said:" I can not believe someone makes such things. Then, the construction of the door of the composter will be free, and we want to help in this good initiative." People was stopping their cars and visibly enjoyed the change we've seen. A man advised volunteers to employ guards to protect "that good thing, because vandals live here."
The municipality has promised to deliver colored containers for separate disposal. They intend to procure a shredder which fit perfectly in use in this type of neighborhood, explains Irena to me, near by the pile of branches, which the municipality has promised to transport out.
So far, at the site there are two wooden benches, stiff from a fallen tree, and will be set more. Around the compost area is planted evergreen hedge of Ligustrum, which will provide fast decomposition of organic waste.

"Our neighborhood" is going to be prettier

"Our neighborhood" is beautifying with the general voluntary efforts of all of us, wrote in the recent invitations to neighbors and friends Irena, and to the question of why we do all this she said, "We want to create something beautiful with a tangible effect on improving life in the community and put into practice a better relationship with nature around us. We believe that this will help us to learn to live together again. "
This weekend we took a walk with my children into the cleansed forest. After a long play in the sandbox we went down to the little river. With a smile we found traces of volunteers - a small bridge have built there and we could see prints of hands on it of all participants in the project.

Details and photos of the project for composting read in the blog Food for the Earth.

Association for Sustainable Practices "Our neighborhood" is currently seeking funding to continue the project "Food of the Earth" in order to implement it in other neighborhoods in Sofia.

The Bulgarian radioprogram Dariknews made an interview with Irena Sabewa.  

Read the article in Bulgarian here:

Irena Sabewa

She composts, deals with psychotherapy and believes that the soul is pure.
Psychologist. She graduated in Social Psychology at Southwestern University and her secondary school was with electronic technician profile - nuclear electronics. Irena is a part of the Association for Sustainable Practices "Our neighborhood" which recently won on the national level the competition of the European Commission "World you like, with a climate that you like." On top of all she is a mother of three children. 

Irena`s idea about neighborhood composting was born and has been awaiting it‘s implementation in the street since 2011. The idea, in fact started with her personal experience to solve the garbage problem at home. Because the understanding in her family is that the organic waste is a valuable resource and must go back into the natural cycle. Instead, daily, tons of this resource go to recycling dumps, where they start rotting , but ultimately the process fails, because enters into complex reactions with all other materials, and while the process is going on they release huge amounts of greenhouse gases . Thus the first draft of the neighborhood compost project was born and in order to find its funding, Irena creates a small NGO with close followers. Association applies with several projects to different programms, but faces mostly incomprehension.

All of a sudden, this year Irena hears about Green Sofia program 2013, which aims to ennoble the green areas in the capital. The project, that is currently called Food for the Earth is approved, and at the same time, the initiative participates in the competition of the European Commission - World you like, with a climate you like. There our people also perform well and become national winners. Both lines at certain moment intersect. Where? In Knyazhevo - the residential area, right on the corner of the street where family Sabew lives.

People in the neighborhood are surprised to find in their mailboxes explanatory materials, which Irena`s children distribute by themselves. After that, to everybody‘s astonishment, they observe how  some three acres of Knyazhevska forest, which before were used mostly to discard rubish there, transform in plain sight of everybody into a lovely small garden with flowers and benches. And - most important for Irena - with a small enclosed space that appears to be the first neighborhood compost area. 

How long did it take to make the garden?
We were gathering four consecutive Sundays. First time for four hours, next timefor six, after that people didn‘t want to go until really late. The last  Sunday, there was a young boy who finally said, "Well, aren`t these people already tired?"

Who were "these people"?
Only volunteers, a dozen of people.

Did the composters start functioning in Knyajevo?
Yes, I installed it a few weeks ago. Shortly thereafter, a man came and pulled out two huge sacks. And I wonder whether to react or not. At the same time the mounting of benches is going on. I thought to myself: “O`kay, I will not mess with him.” The garbage bins were full. After the man left, I nipped over to see. I opened the sacks to look at the inside – and…what a pleasure. Green and brown. Freshly cut grass and brown leaves. The perfect balance.

Do you expect the composter to be used?
I, frankly speaking, put the first composter as a test to see whether it will be stolen. But someone had immediately put inside peelings from the kitchen, carefully wrapped in some paper, it was extremely nice.

What is actually compost?
It is a natural process of converting the organic waste into a humus like mixture, soil. It has exclusively feeding qualities, helping the soil recovery, fertility.

And what should we do with these organic wastes?
Just collect them, yet in the sink and take them to such a place. We should not throw them away in a container.

How long should they stay there?
The process depends on external conditions. In this particular case we use a closed type of composter, where the process happens with a lot of oxygen and a lot of moisture. This is not a thermo-composter, so in the winter the process may continue three months, three and a half, depending on how cold it will be. Anyway, the temperature in the middle of the pile remains high enough and the process continues, but in the summer it accelerates.

Then how do we use this compost?
It directly fertilizes the flower garden that we arranged near by.  Practically we are closing the cycle, zero footprints. We want, as much as it is possible, not to lose anything that is green and that can be a resource.

You've done a lot of work.
We have done the easiest - the provision of the facility. Now the longer and more difficult stage of the process is coming - to explain that we should not throw to the waste containers grass or leaves, or potato peels. The containers, by the way, are just next to the compost area, so that everyone can see that the process of separate collection is efficient.

Is there any hope all this to happen in other districts?
Fortunately, after the jury of the contest at the European Commission announced on our project for national winner we received an invitation from Mrs. Fandakova. Forthcoming are more conversations, but it became clear that the municipality has the desire and will to continue the project in other areas. Pending the details to be discussed, but our goal is the landfill of organic waste to stop. We are open to help with what we know. We believe that it is not difficult and we are sure that it is not expensive.

Can one make a compost in their apartment?
There is an option to put a composter on the balcony, one of the type with worms – vermicomposter. As long as one has the willingness and determination... And It repays properly, worms work and suddenly you see the brown soil beneath, and It`s great.

What kinds of people surround you?
Mostly friends with children, which is very nice and cohesive. When you share the same principles in the upbringing, it makes you feel supported. There are also other people, but children are at the moment the dominant factor in our family development. Otherwise I deal with analytical psychotherapy, where I have a professional life with colleagues.

What do they think of you?
It's difficult for me to say this. Knowing my current lifestyle - three children who at the moment I am looking after, alone, people are wondering how the projects happen at all. They consider it to be an extraordinery achievement. Indeed, at times it is very exhausting. Sometimes I get blocked by exhaustion.

Do you make mistakes?
The mistakes are opportunities which carry the solutions in themselves. They are experience. Recently my attitude is to accept them as a challenge, not as a guilt.  The guilt is not constructive, it destroys.

You're fairly positive person?
I am trying ... I am trying.

What the success is?
It is one stop of the life journey. One of the stops.

What you don`t have enough time for?
For the details. To stop at some point and to refine down certain element. For example - some benches were delivered to us, and the deliverers left them disassembled - two concrete legs of 50 kilograms each. Men ecplained It was very difficult to put them together, and they wanted extra money for doing it. I told them to leave the benches for us to assemble them with my children. But these people had to come back because four of the boards didn`t fit. They took a hammer and started pounding and curving the bolt. I told them, "No, stop. Make it so that in ten years it would still remain. Because if you curve the bolt now, later the board will burst. What's the point of doing things this way? " Well, such moments when I want to refine the detail, I miss and I don‘t give to myself very often. We all are in a hurry very much, we do not spend time to finish something and to leave it well done.

What a soul are you?
The soul this is striving of this life. The mind, the intellect are the internal structure of the psyche, while the soul is the striving and every step towards it brings these reflections of positivity, care, compassion, patience and love. I think this is the essence of each of us. With heart, mind and intellect we try to get to this essence. In my understanding the soul is pure and is something we all try to get closer to.

Your last inspiration?
Volunteers. This is a strong will, courage to do something for the good and nothing else. To do something and do not care who will use it, this is a supreme act of humaneness. There is no deal, but just pure, warm people, hoes, pickaxes, concrete. If more people open their heart to go and do something without self-interest, the world will get much better.

Do you have a favorite quote?
"The generosity of the earth cultivates in our compost beauty. Let's try to be more like the Earth" by Jalal al-Din Rumi

Text: Veselin Trandov / Photography: Vasil Tanev

 Channel BTV

Look at the Tv reportage from channel BTV here