The eco-awareness and sustainability event that we called Youngsters in Nature has come to an end and we can safely say it has been a success.
The event was held between the 1st and the 14th of August and consisted of a summer camp organised in the small traditional village Breb, in Maramureș, Romania. There, 20 young people between the ages of 12 and 21 coming from urban areas learned about why and how to live a more sustainable lifestyle and put the acquired knowledge about ecology and sustainability into practice.
Every morning started with an intense workout organised by our sporty supervisors Alexander and Teodor, and a filling but environmentally-friendly breakfast.
The participants would then split into four groups and attend crafts workshops. These included spinning, weaving, carpentry, sculpture, shoemaking, breadmaking, fence-making, house isolation, and natural materials architecture. By the end of the camp, every group tried out each craft at least once.
The point of this exercise was not so much for them to build practical skills in each craft – this would take years – but for them to be exposed to the variety of products one can obtain with just natural materials.
The afternoons were meant for developing a more theoretical understanding of the ecological crisis and sustainability. After lunch came the quiet hour, meant for reading books about sustainability and preparing presentations on various relevant topics.
Immediately after that, the participants would attend a 3-hour session – with breaks, of course – about various topics in ecology and sustainability, held by Prof. Dr. Carmen Postolache and Alexander Rotter. These classes presented complex topics in a way that can be understood by the age group of the participants.
While the material was sometimes still quite heavy, we were delighted to realise during an informal session at the beginning of the second week how much the young participants actually remembered from what they had been taught. The more active and informal brainstorming sessions seemed to work quite well in conjunction with the formal passive classes because they engaged the teenagers’ minds more. It made them think issues through more carefully in order to be able to explain them to the rest of the group.
The classes were followed by dinner, and either free time, team sports, or various activities in a more relaxed atmosphere, often by the campfire.
An early bedtime ensured that the participants kept up their energy levels required in order to keep up with the high pace and wide variety of the activities.
Ecological Footprint Testing to Measure the Impact of the Camp
At the end of the summer camp, the participants underwent a second ecological footprint testing based on their lifestyle in the camp. This will later serve as a comparison to the initial testing, which the same young people had done while living in the city.
By using ecological toilets and showers with water heated by the sun, both water and heating energy were saved. The limited use of electronic devices ensured a minimal use of electricity. Additionally, the participants were mainly walking around the village, or using means of public transport – sometimes when attending workshops for example -, which minimised fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.
On Wednesday during the second week, an almost 0-carbon lifestyle was attempted. On this day, in addition to all the other measures taken during the camp, all meals were vegan and self-cooked, and no electrical lights were used. Hence, the kids went to sleep quite early too!
Crafts Workshops for Increased Eco-Awareness
🧶 As part of the sustainability summer camp in Breb, we showed the kids traditional crafts in order to make them more conscious about the provenance of the products they are using and to show them that some useful things can be obtained without the help of a highly polluting industry.
🐑 We started by preparing the shearling and then spinning it to turn it into a thread that can then be used to weave clothes, blankets, bags, and other objects.
🧶 After spinning the wool to make the thread, the kids started weaving on a loom. Swipe left to see how they work on a full-size loom.
🪵 Continuing the workshops meant to heighten their awareness about how they use the things around them, the youngsters learned how to work with wood, starting by sculpting on the surface of flat pieces of wood using a chisel and hammer.
🏠 Have you ever wondered how houses made of round wood are isolated? The isolating material is made from earth, manure, and hay. The 20 youngsters in our camp learned this old isolation technique which uses materials found around the house.
🏠 Towards the end of the workshops, all the young people participated in a session organized by the architect and the builder of the house about the methods of building a house made of natural materials, such as the one in which they had lived for two weeks. They also found out why it is beneficial for the environment and the local community to build like this.
We are firmly convinced that young people have understood the significance of these crafts workshops: one can also live in communion with nature, not only against it. We can use what nature gives us to manually produce some of the things we need in our daily lives, instead of relying on a polluting industry that makes the Earth sick.
With small steps towards a bigger change.
Local Media Reported about Our Sustainability Project
Thanks to Măriuca Verdeș, our project was presented on local TV:
Local newspapers, such as Graiul Maramureșului, also picked up the topic and reported about our project, highlighting that the natural surroundings found of the village Breb facilitate the development of ecological awareness in the teenagers participating in the project.
Friends for Life and Friends with Nature
All in all, the camp was an exciting, thought-provoking, and unforgettable experience for us, the supervisors, as it was for the 20 young participants.
We are especially happy about the way the children behaved, always engaging in the activities and paying attention to the theoretical classes. And they surely had enough time to play as well.
When the summer camp ended, there was a lot of crying. While it is heartbreaking to see such good friends having to say goodbye to each other, we took this as a good sign. It means the youngsters will never forget what they experienced in the REFE sustainability summer camp in Breb, Maramureș in the summer of 2021.