What a journey for a small NGO!
It all started with Chemically Clever Åland – a local project that wasn’t even intended to be a project but a low budget study circle. ”Kemikaliekoll Åland” is a good example of the power of community and commitment, and how one baby step can lead to the next.
2014-2015 Study circle ”Everyday chemicals”
Nowadays, when people live with constant stress and information overload, NGO:s often have a hard time finding active members. The local environmental NGO Ålands Natur & Miljö wanted to offer different ways to engage in the organisation. One method was facilitating study circles on topics requested by members of the organisation. The study circle ”Everyday chemicals” consisted mostly of parents, worrying about how the cocktail of chemicals in the world would affect their small children. The main focus was to learn more about chemicals. Inspired by the Swedish environmental NGO Naturskyddsföreningen and their Operation Non-toxic pre-school, the study circle initiated a similar project in Åland.
2015-2017 Operation Non-toxic Day-nursery
Ålands Natur & Miljö applied for money to pay a project leader, who made chemical inventories in day-nurseries using questionnaires about anything from toys and furniture to cleaning and eating. The inventory visits themselves turned out to be an important part of the awareness raising for the personnel. The results of the inventories were gathered in a report. The report was launched at a seminar for the day-nursery staff. The staff asked for easy-to-find information about chemicals in products as well as chemically clever choices, which resulted in a Data Bank at Ålands Natur & Miljö’s website and an Action Plan aimed not merely to the staff, but also to politicians and officials in charge of the money.
2018 Chemically Clever Åland at Home
When Operation Non-toxic Nursery came to an end, we wanted to reach more people with what we had learned. It was not until now we realized that we were already in the middle of a project, wanting to raise awareness about chemicals in all of Åland. One challenges was to portion loads of quite heavy facts into gentle morsels, possible both to communicate and grasp? The solution was to present the information in 8 parts: 8 rooms in 8 months. The typical materials and things in these rooms cover most of what people do and consume in everyday life.
2019 Chemically Clever Åland – the house
The last year of the chemical project we focused on buildings. Most people spend 90 percent of their time indoors. Often the air indoors is more contaminated than outdoors, mostly due to foreign substances emitting from the building materials, from chipboard and insulation to sealants, paints, glues and vinyl flooring. This year we visited inspiring pioneers trying to minimize hazardous chemicals in their houses. We also arranged a seminar on sustainable and chemically clever building construction for professionals.
Chemicals is a paradoxical topic: it is complex and difficult to understand. But at the same time it is very hands-on, and with some basic knowledge it is quite easy to make chemically clever choices. Telling hard facts are not enough to create the change, though. People need to get inspired and energized to engage. When it comes to inspiration: Nothing beats meeting and talking IRL. Throughout the whole project, activities and events have been important venues for people to meet, learn and get inspired from each other. Both “novices” and enthusiasts need to talk to like-minded people. Together we can make a difference!