The „Sustainable Habits for Sustainable Development“ project seeks to increase knowledge and understanding of environmental, social and economic sustainability issues among youth in the Balkan region and beyond. Organized by two Serbian activists, this initiative provides disruptive information and ideas from around the world, and encourages long-term behavioral change through „learning by doing“ activities such as the No Impact Week, organized in 2011 and 2013.

All of us leave ecological footprints on the planet, but many are not even aware of it, or if they are, they may not know how they can lower their impact. Through the “Sustainable Habits for Sustainable Development” project, we aim to raise awareness of sustainable development and issues related to the environment, economic development and social equality both globally and locally (in Serbia).

By organizing the first ever No Impact Week in Serbia from April 18-24, 2011 we brought together a group of over 100 young people who were challenged to change their habits to act according to the principles of sustainable development by attempting to live “No Impact” or rather with no ecological footprint. The campaign was conducted using social media and networks like Facebook and Twitter and this website, where we regularly posted research, information and links, with the idea of informing people about sustainable development and environmental protection, and encouraging participants to adopt more sustainable habits.

Each day of the campaign brought with it a new challenge, and we asked participants to change their behaviors and learn more about Waste, Food, Water, Energy, Transportation, Consumption and Nature. We actively monitored their activities through daily eco-journals (online surveys) and regularly posted their impressions, experiences and comments online. After facing this seven day challenge, we asked them to identify at least one new sustainable habit that they will continue to implement in the future.

The results of this activity showed that the sustainable habit that was easiest to adopt was turning off lights in rooms that aren’t being used, while the most difficult was switching to a vegetarian diet, or at least decreasing the consumption of beef. Halfway through the week, participants started walking and cycling rather than driving or using public transportation, and they also avoided using plastic bags and buying bottled water. The feedback we received from this activity was incredibly positive, and we got a lot of people excited about the possibility of implementing a similar campaign in their local communities. We also found that the internet is an effective way to conduct this project. As of August 2013, our website has been viewed more than 30,000 times since it went live on March 26, 2011, and our Facebook page has had more than 100,000 post views during that same time period.

The author of this project is Ana Pantelic, a doctoral candidate at the Faculty of Political Sciences of the University of Belgrade, and associated researcher at the Center for Environmental Policy and Sustainable Development (CEPOR). In early 2012, Ana moved to Bogotá, Colombia, where she has been working with Fundación Capital as a Project Coordinator, designing and testing scalable ICT-based tools for building financial capabilities at the Base of the Pyramid. She was joined in this activity by Aleksandra Sokolovic, a TV journalist for the Serbian Broadcasting Corporation (RTS), a Master’s student at the Faculty of Political Sciences in Belgrade, and an associate of CEPOR, with whom she participated in the National Democratic Institute’s „Young Leaders of Serbia“ training in 2011.

For more information about this project, please feel free to contact Ana or Aleksandra at: odrzivirazvoj.rs@gmail.com

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