What do Pampers; Coca-Cola; Obolon, Lvivski and Tuborg beer; Marlboro cigarettes; and Nemiroff Vodka have in common?  They're all brands whose packaging (or in some cases, products) a team of volunteers from the British Council and British Embassy in Kyiv find scattered in the woods during a clean-up to mark Earth Day

Kyiv has several terrific parks right in the centre of the city.  One of the best is Trukhaniv Island, across a pedestrian footbridge from the Podol district of the city and home to several fabulous beaches.  It's a long, rambling island dense with trees, punctuated by innumerable cosy inlets and clearings where people love to gather to have picnics, fish, or swim in the river.  Unfortunately, many visitors leave behind rubbish.  So the Council, led by Anya Sorokina, organise an outing on Saturday to gather as much litter as possible into big plastic bags for collection.  Impressively, despite the changeable weather, around 15 people turn up, most on bikes and the rest on foot.

Like many forms of activity where you feel you're doing some good, gathering the rubbish from the woods is quite fun.  People fan out amongst the trees, dragging their collection bags.  Birds sing, the sun shines, rain falls.  There's an astonishing amount to collect: it sometimes feels as if you can walk 20m in any direction and find a stash of bottles, cigarette packets and barbecue left-overs someone's dumped.  In the course of a couple of hours, we fill several dozen big bags.  My proudest finds include several old pots and pans, some car parts; two odd shoes (how did that happen?); a mass of wire from a burned car tyre; and innumerable broken bottles.  A team from Channel 5 News comes and shoots a short piece, interviewing Anya and me.  At the end of the session we return to our bikes and head off for an excellent picnic, scaling the escarpment above the river on our way.  

All in all it's a good day out, even if the heavens do open just as we're about to tuck into our shashlik.  But it would be even better if it wasn't necessary.  It's not easy to dissuade people from the idea that the easiest thing to do with your rubbish at the end of a picnic is to dump it behind the nearest tree.  My best guess is, though, that once you get into the habit of taking your packaging and odds and ends home, the warm glow of satisfaction from knowing you've done your bit to make places like Trukhaniv Island more beautiful helps you enjoy the day more.  Plus, next time you come, you won't find your favourite shaded glade blighted by a mound of someone else's rubbish.

Some photos (still with my dodgy phone camera, apologies for quality) here:

Leigh Turner
British Ambassador to Ukraine

NOTE:  You can read all of Ambassador Turner's blogs by visiting:

Ukrayinska Dumka


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