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People of ‘green’ ​action

story by: rutger mazel (rotary Nederland)

“Everyone can do something to improve our environment. It’s very easy; ​small steps help,” says Rebecca Siebinga, of the Rotary Club of Leefklimaat ​(Living Climate) in the Netherlands.

Marielouise Slettenhaar-Ket, of the Environmental Sustainability Rotary Action ​Group, adds that protecting the environment, Rotary’s newest area of focus, is of ​great importance and well aligned with Rotary’s other causes. “Climate action ​must also be done locally,” she says. “Rotary clubs play a facilitating role in this.”

The editor of the regional Rotary magazine for the Netherlands interviewed both ​women on a video call. This way no one needed to drive, avoiding carbon ​emissions. That’s a small contribution to a better environment. And there are ​many other small things you can do as individuals.

“I put a filter in my washing machine to filter out microplastics,” says Siebinga. ​“Saving water, bringing your own reusable bag when you are grocery shopping, ​installing an insect hotel in your garden, or riding your bike more often — all ​these actions help. The important thing is to get the message across in an ​enthusiastic way. Discuss it with friends and family and brainstorm how you can ​contribute.”

“Act and talk about it, but in a personal, not a dogmatic, way,” adds Siebinga, who ​two years ago had the idea for a new cause-based Rotary club.

That idea has grown into the leefklimaat e-club, which has 25 members. Why she ​founded this club is clear: As Rotary modernises and adapts, many members are ​paying more attention to the environment and climate.

“We need to take climate-friendly actions ​on an individual and a club level. We have ​to act together.”

“If this planet becomes uninhabitable, everything will end,” she says. “We have to ​make sure our children and grandchildren have a chance on our planet. It is ​necessary to think about that together and do something about it together.”

There are many wonderful green initiatives within Rotary. Check out what ​activities will suit your club. Just start; you don’t have to be an expert.

“At our club, we invite speakers to talk about different aspects of sustainability ​and climate,” Siebinga says. “And we roll up our sleeves. We clean up plastic at ​roadsides and in forests. On the island Texel we had a nature excursion and ​together we visited the company Save Plastics in the city of Arnhem where they ​produce new products from waste plastic.”

The Environmental Sustainability Rotary Action Group is a global organization ​within the Rotary family that advances and promotes environmental projects.

“We try to form alliances with others who also think protecting the environment ​is important. We share knowledge, conduct webinars, and help clubs apply for ​global grants,” says Slettenhaar-Ket, a member of ESRAG Europe’s management ​team.

“Going green together over and over again, that’s what it comes down to. We ​need to take climate-friendly actions on an individual and a club level. We have to ​act together. Let education, culture, and sustainability come together.”

Rebecca Siebinga kneeling in mobile plastic recyle lab

Rebecca Siebinga founded the Rotary Club of Leefklimaat (Living Climate) to address increased​ concerns about the environment​

Rotary is ideally suited for this, Slettenhaar-Ket believes. “With the Rotary Club of ​Voorburg-Vliet, we supported a revegetation project called Molenwei, a nature ​and recreation farm. It is close by and well-known locally, and works with several ​partners apart from Rotary. Together with school children we planted a tiny ​forest there.”

Rotary members play a facilitating role. With their enthusiasm, they inspire the ​people in their communities to get involved. “Our 1.4 million members make us a ​reliable and credible partner,” Slettenhaar-Ket says. “People see that Rotary helps ​even with protecting the environment.”

Four of the seven Dutch districts have an environment/sustainability committee ​where they share knowledge, ideas, and tips. At the international level, Rotary’s ​newest area of focus is also gaining traction.

The Dutch initiative End Plastic Soup has grown from Rotary members in ​Amsterdam into a network of clubs around the world. Rotary International was ​represented for the first time last year at the United Nations Climate Summit in ​Dubai, United Arab Emirates. And this August, RI Director Hans-Hermann ​Kasten’s Rotary Institute/European Summit in Bonn, Germany, will be devoted ​largely to protecting the environment.

For more information and to get involved, visit:

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