The Clean World Conference in Estonia
February 12, 2013
By Agent Sylvetron

Everything starts from a seed. Last year when I introduced the MOOPsquad to a friend, he told me about a project I really should know about. Johann Urb, is from Estonia and he is an ambassador for Let’s Do it World (LDIW).

I didn't that less than a year later I would be sitting among the global ranks of those making our clean world a reality…I am steeping in the aftermath…

 The Clean World Conference In Tallinn, Estonia had some incredible momentum after Let's Do it World's 96th country joined the movement. Let's Do It is a fairly new organization, and the first "clean up" happened in 2008 in Estonia. Following the incredible success, several other countries organized clean ups in quick succession. As of now, more than 7,000,000 people have participated, and the movement is considered to be the fastest growing movement in history. The conference was designed to explore the root causes and develop long term solutions.  Incredibly, these inspiring conference participants came from near and far to share ideas and represent more than 50 countries! 


I was travelling through Europe in November and in my routine, checking up on LDIW when I found out that this conference was coming up in Tallinn in February. I knew that I had to be there. The expectation, the questions, the strange and beautiful visions of a really amazing group of visionaries really creating our collective dream--


Arriving In Tallin, with its snow swept beauty was breathtaking…I walked to the hotel, noticing as I always do, the types of MOOP I see. A cigarette here, a cigarette there….the snow is melting, and the surprises come out…


A warm welcome at the hotel, where our welcome gift includes a beautiful token of human creation, the Furoshiki. This fabric that is so simple, yet so profound. This simple square of cloth is handmade by women in Bangledesh from pieces left over in clothing production. It is a “classic” Japanese bag that shape shifts according to need, the perfect alternative to plastic. Me, a lucky American girl who found herself in Tallin, Estonia on a cold February day is given a gift that makes everything fall into place.


I am welcomed by a community that is truly global, as I instantly run into delegates from Italy. As I only know how to say  “goodbye” in Italian, I practice as I run up to my room.


We made it! The idea of being in this collective space with a goal to really execute a clean world is running through my being. I am so proud of myself at this moment. I am so proud of those who journeyed however far just to be here this weekend. We are creating our reality. We are showing our desire. We are doing it.


The conference begins with a meet and greet on Thursday night…welcomed by smoothies and a room full of strangers, my partner and I begin to break those walls of separation. I spoke to many people that night, ranging from Josef the charismatic  creator of the “TrashOut” app about how his app is going to help spot millions of illegal dump sites, to Team Kosovo revealing the their challenges of organized recycling, to some smart and beautiful women from Russia, whom I bonded with instantly.


I noticed the straws in the smoothies, and was terribly disappointed, but realized this is that small moment that can make a difference. In my world, everything matters. So I asked a waiter if he could set them aside, and we could make something out of them for the conference.


Late that night, I am preparing the MOOPsquad booth for the fair, analyzing my streamlined and lightweight supplies. A coat was more important than anything else…I call the restaurant, and confirm that the straws exist! Waiting by the dishwasher! I run down and am so disappointed that the straws have been replaced by a bag of brand new straws. I am so touched by the attempt, but have to turn them down-

Suddenly the used straws reappear! I run upstairs to work on the photo frames for our MOOPsquad display for the next morning. 


And then we are ready!


The conference really began with a great start.


The updates on the LDIW movement form the different participating countries really… It was amazing to hear the huge numbers of volunteers coming out to support the movement.


I am so inspired and impressed at the scale of the LDIW actions. Imagine one single day where your entire population is invited to participate in cleaning up the entire country.  The sheer number of participants in each country was staggering...more than 200,000 in several of them! With the exception of Russia, these are small countries with populations much less then our 314,000,000 in the United States, and this definitely got me thinking...


Why hasn't the US gotten involved in Let Do this World on a comparable level? Slovenia reigns with getting 13% of its population involved…


How could we implement these tried and true methods that Let Do It World organization developed to get the US to participate in a country wide clean up? (And of course, more importantly, how do we keep it that way?) One of the ideas that came up was to implement a 50-day plan, starting on the East Coast and the smaller more manageable states and fan into the West, building civic pride and momentum along the way...


One of the major points of this Conference was to develop long-term strategies and permanent solutions to eliminate the needs for large scale clean ups. 


Although our MOOPsquad MOOPmethods largely focuses on micro MOOP, or the small pieces of trash, and work to develop behavioral change in people when they see it. I admit, there was a brief moment where I underestimated what the MOOPsquad does, because it seemed insignificant in comparison…but just for a moment--We all share a vision for a clean world. Where we are reminding people that "everything matters", these groups are collecting all of those miniMOOPs that got overlooked once upon a time and really show what a big deal it is! Approaching the problem from both ends is what makes this a perfect synergy on this planet!


I am a believer that if someone doesn't do it himself or herself, they may not appreciate it. The MOOPsquad encourages participation on purpose. We are not the clean up crew, although we do our share of MOOPing. What really makes us effective is our insistence that people do it themselves. We let them use our tools, play our games, and play along with us, all in the hopes that they wont drop something on purpose, and be more aware next time they see a piece of litter on the ground. By making something fun, they are more likely to enjoy themselves, and more likely to continue the behavior.


Of course the litter problems and illegal dumpsites are far more severe in some parts of the world that don't have organized waste management and recycling systems. In Kosovo,  their lack of recycling facilities was a political mess. Russia had some facilities, especially in the larger cities, but they were far out of the way and in manufacturing areas that weren’t served by public transportation. Very difficult for a normal household…


I attended a workshop that was exploring some ideas that could be implemented into for a marketing campaign for long-term strategies. Some of my favorites were “Shop Naked,” Fishing for Plastic, and our MOOPsquad offering, “Make Yourself Proud”


We all know how excessive packaging on products contributes to a variety of ecological and social problems. Our limited resources on the planet are being used for superfluous packaging in the form of paper and plastic. The plastic often ends up in the ocean and landfills, and chemicals used in the processing of these items degrade our health. Our social inequalities are exacerbated by brand worship, and our self worth valued by quantity, not quality. Although there are several new and exciting package-free stores popping up, our group collectively settled on “Shop Naked” as the preferred choice for the high quality, high value, highly marketable store providing consumer goods. I want to “Shop Naked” too!


One of the other great ideas presented was inspired by the dwindling supply of fish and the increase in swimming plastic.  Fishermen who rely on their catch to make ends meet are facing a series of problems from commercial overfishing, toxins in the ocean, and limitations on what they can catch.  The idea to pay for units of plastic removed in the absence of fish seemed like such a great idea to all of us! Funny enough, there is an initiative forming right now in Hong Kong that plans to do exactly this---put reference here. Of course we realize this won’t replace the fishing culture, but this is a great way to keep “afloat” when fish are sparse!


 I presented our long term MOOPsquad idea of “Make Yourself Proud.”  This is a long-term scale-able system to encourage and support reuse and sustainability. The idea is to focus on 4 elements:  Food, clothing, shelter, and technology. The workshops would provide discarded, salvaged items through collection and donations to members to repurpose into new practical items.  Specialists in a given field are invited to share their techniques and knowledge across a range of subjects, gardening, sewing, building, and engineering.


I am really interested to see what other ideas and concepts other people have been thinking about. Of course the Clean World Conference is over for now, but the ideas that have been planted are definitely beginning to blossom. And just like the Furoshiki, the answer lies in the collection of these little pieces that each of us bring to the larger fabric.