Observing the slow pace of environmental action, starting any kind of climate-focused initiative can feel futile. Don’t let the cynics win. The fact is, our individual and collective efforts can make a significant difference.
A wonderful reminder of this is Turkey’s Zero-Waste Project, which launched in 2017. The project was established by the country’s first lady Emine Erodgan, and was initiated by the Environment, Urbanization, and Climate Change Ministry. Its main goal is to monitor waste under sustainable development principles to ultimately reduce pollution.
The many successes of Turkey’s Zero-Waste project
According to ministry data, since its start the project has been highly successful, including curbing an impressive 3.9 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions. In terms of energy, more than 530 million kilowatt-hours of energy (for perspective, this is about a full year of energy use from nearly 200,000 families) have been saved, along with 572 million cubic meters of water (the equivalent of 2 million households’ water use for one year). This doesn’t just help the environment, it also saved the country’s economy billions of dollars.
The program has kept 347 million trees from being felled. It has kept 87 million barrels of oil from being burned, and 650 million tons of raw materials from being consumed. The Zero-Waste project has also redirected 33.8 million tons of waste (including 20.4 million tons of paper, 5.4 million tons of plastic, 2.3 million tons of glass, 0.5 million tons of plastic, and 5.2 million tons of organic waste) away from landfills and into a recycling program.
To date, all of this recycled waste brought the equivalent of $3.48 billion dollars into the Turkish economy.
To top it all off, in addition to the focus on preserving the environment and boosting the economy, the project also focused its efforts on raising awareness about the climate crisis among the country’s population. So far, 16 million citizens have received education on the benefits of zero-waste practices.
The project’s multi-faceted success has garnered international attention. Last year, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the UN-Habitat program bestowed awards on the project and was recognized as a promising project in an Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) country report in 2019. Most recently, Turkey’s first lady was awarded the Climate and Development Leadership award for the project by the World Bank.
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” – Lao Tzu