Ukrainian student inspires change with recycle revolution

For Stefania Parubets, recycling is not just a ‘good idea’. It is a way of life.

UNICEF
image
UNICEF
10 January 2020

For Stefania Parubets, recycling is not just a ‘good idea’. It is a way of life.

Over the past year, this 21-year-old Ukrainian student has not only been busy saving the planet – she has also been inspiring others to do the same.

Her eco-journey began in November 2019 when she and two friends at the Kyiv National Economic University noticed how much paper the students were throwing away. Together, they helped to introduce recycling bins around the campus.

But the group wanted to go further. “There was no environmental culture among our fellow students,” Stefania explains. “We had to change that.”

Then, last year, Stefania and her friends applied to UNICEF’s UPSHIFT programme fostering youth-led innovative solutions.

image
UNICEF

The team was one of ten selected in Kyiv to participate in the programme. The team consisted of students of different ages, but they all were passionate about addressing poor recycling infrastructure in Ukraine and tones of paper waste produced in the universities. Their team spirit instantly got the attention of the Selection Committee and the team was invited to participate in UPSHIFT bootcamp.

UPSHIFT is aimed at training, mentoring and funding the ideas of young people around the world. With the support of ING Bank and mentoring provided by professionals from a wide range of companies, the five groups spent a year implementing their ideas to improve accessibility, the environment, youth employment and sustainability.

Now, Stefania and her team are spreading awareness of recycling and changing behaviours using a  Telegram account.

image
UNICEF

The tools offer practical and inspirational tips designed to encourage debate, as well as fun competitions to determine who is using the new recycling bins the most.

“Rome wasn’t built in a day,” says Stefania. “But even with small steps towards a greater goal, even if they seem insignificant, in the long run you understand they have made people think.”

Stefania says that the mentoring that she and her team received over three days from a specialist in corporate responsibility from an energy company allowed them to take the first tentative steps towards their goal.  The mentor helped the group to stay focused by “starting with the core problem we wanted to tackle and looking at what was doable.”

image
UNICEF

The team now have their sights set on rolling out the project to other universities and further afield. They hope to recruit new team members and write a handbook to share their experiences, so that others can avoid the pitfalls.

Stefania hopes to use her new skills in project design, management and implementation in the non-governmental sector, where her mother already works.

“I still haven’t figured everything out, but after this experience, I’ve a good idea of how to make it happen,” she says, with a smile.

The future, for Stefania, is anything but ordinary.

“I always wanted to be remembered for doing something great,” she says. “Now I know I can.”

image
UNICEF