Blog post by Suzie Vanoosten*
Last month, I finally visited a place that intrigued me a lot ever since I began working at Focus. A project dedicated to reconnecting youth with nature, that is called Livada LAB. Located in the middle of Rudnik neighbourhood in Ljubljana, this project was launched in 2014 by the youth centre Zavod BOB, well-known for its numerous initiatives to empower the young people through diverse activities and projects.
Sustainable Livada Lab, photo by: Tanja
After almost ten years now, Livada LAB has become a place where different generations have been made aware of the environmental, social, economic, and health advantages of such an initiative by directly participating to the evolution of this greenspace or the events that had been organized. They created their “safe place” as they wanted it to be: a space where you can spend some time lying on wooden structures, or gardening, or running in the middle of nature. A lot of people even come to grab wild herbs or medicinal plants because they know that the place is not treated with chemicals. Thus, it is a space where you feel far from the city and its noisiness, surrounded by nature and reconnecting with it, but where you also learn things about environmental issues and sustainability imperatives.
But Livada LAB has mainly evolved through the years also thanks to the projects that have been imagined for the young people involved. For example, this past year’s project, “Sustainable Livada LAB”, shows how valuable the things done there are. So, let me present it to you.
Sustainable Livada Lab, photo by: Livada LAB
Livada LAB’s coordinators – four dedicated women highly interested in sustainable ways of life and gardening: Iva Špilak, Tina Spruk, Manneira Aja Solei, and Tanja Povšnar Vrečar – have launched the project in June 2022. Its primary goal is to support the youth interested in promoting sustainability in making their voices heard by those who have an influence in the environmental field – the decision makers. For that, the participants were first offered, through workshops and excursions, the possibility to develop their knowledge about sustainable ways of life and to get the confidence to build concrete claims on their vision of how should our future sustainable society work.
Many workshops were organized directly at Livada LAB on diverse themes: sustainable consumption, self-sufficiency, gardening lessons, sustainable nutrition… But the strength of that project is also its excursions through Slovenia, aiming at meeting inspiring people that do inspiring things in respect with the environment:
- They first went to Ljutomer to learn more about permaculture.
- Then, they did a 2-day excursion in the Prekmurje region. They stayed at the eco-social institute MakroBios Panonija that contributes to the development of progressive practices in the countryside. They discovered the intergenerational centre Mensana where previously abandoned pieces of furniture are restored. They also visited the eco-social farm Kocljevina, the Posestvo Mala Rosa where they serve breakfast with local and of seasonal products and also went visiting a family who lives in the forest without running water and electricity and grows herbs.
- For the third excursion, they travelled to Maribor, where they discovered different initiatives: an ancient “pekarna” (bakery) transformed in a cultural and multi-functional space, the project “Miyawaki forest” – an urban forest mimicking the local forest, they ate at the restaurant “3 Dame” (3 Ladies) where they serve local and of seasonal food that they grow, and went to the second-hand shop Ropotarnica that sustains itself – it covers the employee’s contributions.
- For the fourth excursion, they visited the house Mandrova, where they met with a young couple who decided to build a home in a traditional way with the wood from the nearby forest.
- Their last excursion was a visit of a greenhouse in Žalec where they have been introduced to the impacts of each type of farming on the environment and to permaculture.
- Their final excursion will take place on July the 15th with the visit of a eco-farm in Virstan.
During each excursion and workshop, all the participants used their hands and tried what they were being taught to. And through those discoveries, they came up with a list of 27 concrete claims on different topics such as sustainable buildings, mobility, waste, and food. They had the opportunity to present them directly on May 12th to the decision-makers, where other experts and environmental NGOs backed them.
Now that the project comes slowly to its end, Tanja – one of its coordinators – told me they were impressed by how many people they managed to reach: more than 150 young people – while they were only expecting 70 – and around 250 and 300 when counting adult participants as well! She admitted they were not expecting high numbers like this. With these good results and the good feedbacks from the participants, they are already thinking about future projects that would still highly involve and empower the youth.
Sustainable Livada Lab, photo by: Livada LAB
However, Tanja also confessed to me that getting media attention for those kinds of projects is very difficult. Unless you find a journalist personally interested in those topics, you hardly get media attention. The problem is that the value of these projects also lies largely in the fact that they can prove and demonstrate that other possibilities exist. But without media attention, these solutions and inspiring projects cannot reach the greatest number of people and cannot raise as much awareness as they should. Quick reminder that there needs to be a change in the subjects covered by the media. Otherwise, people will remain largely ignorant about the seriousness of climate change, and climate scepticism will continue to spread.
If you want to learn even more about Livada LAB or other youth initiatives for the environment that should be more put in the spotlight, check out my newly created blog, NoRulesForGreen, where my goal is to do the opposite of mainstream media and give youth an opportunity to show what they are capable of for the planet ;)
My latest blog article on Livada LAB: https://norulesforgreen.com/?p=159
Livada LAB’s social medias:
*Suzie is an intern at Focus from 13 February to 16 July 2023. She established a blog about inspired and engaged youth NoRulesForGreen