Green teams unite
As the need for greening policies become ubiquitous, there will come a time when greening initiatives will naturally fall into operations strategies.
New Horizons - Until then however, embassies in Turkey have decided to come together to introduce and share environmentally friendly practices that they themselves have been using in their day-to-day operations in a meeting organized by the UNDP’s Environment and Sustainable Development Team.
The common practices in greening used at various embassies including the US, the UK, Italy and European Comission Representation fall under the general headings of recycling, energy conservation, using renewable energy sources and raising awarness among embassy employees.
Among the general measures taken to contribute to the environment are increasing the number of recycling bins throughout embassies and placing them in convinient locations around embassy buildings, sticking reminders to switch off lights when they are not in use, recycling cooking oil, heating water with solar panels, and using composts for plants.
Another widespread method implemented by embassies is environmental procurement which involves the purchasing eco-friendly products at the embassy such as energy-efficient light bulbs, degradable bags and environmentally-safe cleaning materials. The British Embassy has even calculated their carbon footprint by determining their energy consumption from utility bills. The newly established green team at the embassy aims to reduce the embassy’s carbon footprint by 5%. The European Commision has adopted the Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) which is a management tool for companies and other organisations to evaluate, report and improve their environmental performance. The EC has already taken measures to prevent pollution and ensure the efficient use of office resources such as energy, water and paper and is trying to reduce overall CO2 emissions in the office building as well as in transportation. By stimulating sustainable behavior throughout the office staff with trainings and encouraging greening projects, the EC aims to raise environmental awareness.
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At an informal discussion held after the meeting, representatives from various embassies agreed to call themselves the United Green League – Turkey (UGL-T) and organize field trips to Mamak Solid Waste Management Center and the Ankara river to follow environmental changes in the areas in August. Other outcomes included the embassies calculating their carbon footprint and publishing them on their official websites, introducing the ULG-T initiative to the Turkish Grand National Assembly, municipalities and NGOs.
The ULG-T Initiative aims to encourage networking among embassies on and was started by the UNDP in July 2009. The next meeting will be held at the end of September 2009.
What about the city we live in?
In an interview with EC Environment and Sustainable Development Administrator Gürdoğar Sarıgül, we spoke about the environmental precautions that can be taken in Ankara. Sarıgül intonated the importance of the Ankara river.
Speaking for Ankara, the basic services have to be provided. Fundemental environment issues such as the quality of air, water and earth are not taken into account and generally disregarded completely.
Even though Ankara is the capital, there is no storage system that can live up to European standards, for instance. There isn’t the slightest attempt at waste management or recycling. Furthermore, air pollution has increased alarmingly in the past few years which is a result of using natural gas. According to a study conducted by Middle East Technical University (METU), air pollution rates have equalled levels in the 90s.
Aside from the above, the Ankara river which is a resource that could be put to good use and potentially become the symbol of Ankara is used like an open sewage. This presents serious health risks for the community.
What do you think can be done?
Environmental issues must be prioritized. All municipalities must place such issues at the top of the agenda. Often, action against environmental problems are taken only when they are unsolvable but municipalities and citizens should act jointly against these problems and their actions should be supported by the whole community.
Restoring the Ankara river back to a free flowing river will be an important symbol of prestige for Ankara. These are simple measures which can be done with a little investment on infrastructure. Municipalites have sufficient funds to afford such measures.
Preserving the natural environment with its naturally occuring characteristics instead of creating recreational parks is another environmental measure that may be taken.
Lastly, we must shy away from the mentality of building concrete jungles.
How much has the EC designated to annual environmental funds to be used in Turkey?
The budget for the environment is around €100 million.
For what types of projects are such funds used?
Around €70 – 80 is used in infrastructure projects. The rest is generally used for technical assistance, education and awareness campaigns.
Finally, what are your thoughts about the initiative? How else can UNDP contribute?
There is no end to environment projects that can be launched in Ankara. By leading this initiative, the UNDP can reinforce embassies to adopt stronger attitudes towards the Ankara administration to do more about the environment.