There is a silver lining to the pandemic period for Greece – the country has finally placed itself on the world’s investment map. Savvy experts have picked up that reforms and the rise of startups created by talented and energetic young people are leading to a New Greece – they also know that adapting to the future entails changing mindsets among individuals and companies, so initiatives promoting such transformations are also on investor’s radars.
Organization Earth is a civil society initiative founded in 2010 which is committed to promoting more sustainable living in Greece. Alex Galinos, the Executive Director, told The National Herald that, “the idea was to create a better quality of life in Greece by helping people reconnect with nature through community-based activities and initiatives. Since then, that goal, of fostering more sustainable lifestyles, has shifted from being a ‘nice thing to have’ to an urgent issue of survival. We are now in the midst of a climate ‘crisis’, not just ‘climate change’.”
So, a future that attracts investors must be a sustainable future, and Organization Earth is a promising engine for change in Greece, along with companies that are committed to Corporate Social Responsibility – which investors are also on the lookout for. The two movements are related, because today’s children are tomorrow’s corporate leaders.
Galinos knows that mindsets in the country must change – everybody in Greece claims to know that – but even more importantly, he actually grasps how hard they are to change, and that energy and imagination are needed.
“We definitely need to change for us and our kids to survive. That is now in our interest, that is why we do what we do at Organization Earth. We are focusing on the consumer side of the equation. We’re trying to help people change and our work focuses more on children because that is the next generation and it is the segment of the population that is very open to these issues.” And of course, they are developing their habits now – as opposed to the older generations whose habits are harder to change.
Regarding the children, Galinos says, “this is the time to interact with them,” while they are in school and can be taught new approaches and perspectives. The point is also to connect people with Nature and the Earth – especially the new generation of kids born into the sprawling urban environment of Attiki. “You see kids who are surprised to learn that tomatoes come from plants!” he noted.
But Galinos adds that, “the second most important target group is the kids’ parents – because parents, especially those with young kids, do a lot of things together. It is possible to approach the parents and initiate the parents because they want to raise their children with the right values – it’s a great opportunity to work with them also.”
Their programs are popular and people look forward to them. “Often on Sunday, in the Spring and Fall,” he told TNH, “we extend an open invitation for people to come to our farm in the Athens suburb of Ilion. We spend a day together and the kids participate in a number of workshops or activities, depending on the season. They might pull weeds, or pick lettuce, potatoes, and tomatoes. There are also arts and crafts activities. The adults attend lectures on subjects like sustainable food habits or take a free yoga session. And then they will either all cook together or enjoy a nice meal cooked by a chef we invite.”
Organization Earth also works with schools. “We either have classes when the children visit the farm for daily workshops, or we go to the schools for seminars there.”
CULTIVATE YOUR OWN GARDENS
A more sustainable future entails ‘do’s’ in addition to ‘don’ts’. “We like to encourage all people to have their own gardens and we teach them how, Galinos said. He believes there is great potential for change and benefits from home farming, but that the technology is not yet there. He also notes that, “it is important to consume ‘in season’ and to produce and consume locally, as opposed to say, Greece obtaining onions from Argentina. We also work with municipalities to create local vegetable gardens.”
Organization Earth also works with local and global companies in Greece as Corporate Responsibility has become a priority of the corporate sector around the world, inspired partly by the UN’s Environmental Social Government (ESG) framework. ESG prompts companies to assess to what extent they are not just not harming Nature but actually helping the environment by promoting economic activity that is sustainable; that they are being socially fair and inclusive; and to examine t what extent that is reflected in the governance model of the firms. Galinos notes that “capital investment at this juncture takes into consideration and actually evaluates companies who take ESG seriously. If they don’t, according to the investors’ perspective, this company may not survive in the future – because there are new risks and opportunities and the companies that do not see that are the companies that will not survive.”
One example of Organization Earth’s collaboration with companies is the ‘Pocket Parks’ it develops with Proctor & Gamble to put more ‘green’ in the concrete jungles of Attiki.
An indicator of Organization Earth’s success is its being a recipient of The Hellenic Initiative’s Venture Impact Awards (VIA), which rewards both for-profits and not-for- profits that make a positive impact in society.