FI is a superpower our community has to take advantage of

drinking my cappuccino at a lake in my hometown afer a camping night

It’s been a while since my last blogpost, sorry for that. Thanks for all of you who asked for updates about the rubbish issues in my hometown (see my last post).

Since I’m sitting in a train with a drained phone and a fully charged (but unfortunatelly offline) laptop, I thought this might be a good time to write something. Not just anything…if you know me you know that I don’t write for the sake of writing or to become a famous writer/blogger. I only write If I have something to tell.

First, let’s see what’s the current status of my rubbish gig.
So since about 2 years, it’s no overstatement If I say about myself that I became an environmental activist. Yes…this is my new profession. Is that a profession? I’m not sure it is, but it’s by far the thing that I spend most of my brainpower with.

So if you want to hear from me that being FI means more happiness, I have to dissapoint you. Not sure about happiness…although it’s worth having a long discussion about this topic. Anyway, the point is:

I’m an AEA: An angry environmental activist.

There are hundreds of details and little stories (some of which are pretty incredible and revolting) regarding my activist activity about which I’m not going to write in detail since what matters is the output: can I change an entire town? Can I make them recycle more? Can I convince the authorities not to dump rubish in a lake? Can I significantly reduce the rubbish dumped on roadsides and around the town?

Let’s take one topic after another and see my progress on them.

1. Recycling Rate
Over the last half a year ther’s been a significant increase in the volume of packaging the citizens collected in the “yellow bag”. Some friends and I have been active on facebook motivating people to separate rubbish, I designed several infographics that had very high reach so I’m pleased to say that this did have an effect and the quantities are consistently high now. Up to May 2019 we have about 80% increase (compared with the same months last year).
What did change in june is that we have a new company that collects the rubbish and they collect the packaging (yellow bag) twice a month. Before it was only once a month. What also changed is the fact that the old company removed their big yellow bins from the blocks of flats which meands, since over 2 months those people dump everything in the landfill bin, including ofcourse the packaging. This is quite shit so I’m quite busy at the moment to convince the company and authorities to replace them. The first yellow container arrived, so that’s a good sign.

Let’s have a little break here. In a normal country, it’s obviouse, that every block of flats should have bins or at least some place where you can throw your yellow bags with packaging. Well, not in this town. Believe me, nobody thinks about that. I don’t know anybody who lives in a block of flats and stores his packaging in the flat until, weeks later somebody collects it. In this town you need to convince authorities and the rubbish company to do stuff like that. Welcome to Romania…

I don’t have official numbers yet but I heard rumours that in June they collected about 3 times more recyclables than a year ago. I hope that’s true! I expect a serious increase because they collect twice as often (every 2 weeks) so people don’t have to store the bags in their homes and therefore are more likely to use the yellow bag.

This latest jump in recycling rate has nothing to do with my involvement but it’s great to see.

What we do know is that in 2018 the citizens collected a lot more recyclable materials then a year before and because of that the town paid 50% less fine to the EU (recycling rate went up a lot). So what I’m doing has that sort of implications too.

Hope to get back soon with more details.

2. Can I convince the authorities not to dump rubbish in a lake?
So the townhall collects a lot of rubbish (not from the bins but everything else) from the citizens and they transport it to a lake where they just dump everything in: mostly buldint materials, earch but also a fuckloads of styrophoam, plastic, bottles, car parts, tyres and fuck knows what else. Which is not cool but this is the reality and this is what I want to change.
I had many discussions with the people in charge, I am publishing pictures and raising awareness on social media but all in all it had zero concrete effects. Many lies, many empty promises so far but this shit is still going on. I’m on it though and slowly changing my game. I’m optimistic.

3. Can I significantly reduce the rubbish dumped on roadsides and around the town?
The basic issue is that far too many people don’t have a contract with the rubbish company because they want to save some money. They don’t have a bin and therefore all their rubbish lands on roadsides and in our famous lake.
The solution would be simple: see who doesn’t have a contract and fine them until they will have a contract and a bin. The theory is simple but the authorities simply don’t do it.
There is a glimmer of hope though: I did try to use the momentum and remind people about the obligation to have a contract. It seems like the new company did end up having more contracts than the one before so this alone should reduce the rubbish on roadsides.
Of course I need to lobby and annoy them until they actually enforce the law and make everybody sign a contract (which the are obliged to).

Well, in a nutshell that’s the status quo.

I will tell you a little story though that’ related to all this.

The other day some friends and us decided to camp at the lakes. There are several lakes, all beside eachother in my town. The last one is the rubish dump. Where we camped is a nice, big lake, with lots of wildlife, trees at the shore and all that. Past FIWE participants know what I’m talking about since many have been there.

At about 7:00 in the moring somebody shouts beside out thent and wakes us up. Luckily he didn’t wake up the kids. Turns out, it’s a lake guard that not-very-politely told me off for camping there and told us to leave asap otherwise we pay over 1000€ of fine. I asked for his name and told him we’d leave as soone as the kids wake up.

Holy shit! Ignorant, uninformed me… How did I not know that I can’t camp at those lakes? The first thing I did after I went back to my thent is that I went to the towns website and checked the local rules. I remember reading them recently and reading something about how it’s ok to camp for one night. Turns out that it’s Ok to camp for a night without permission but one has to pay a 1€ fee in advance.

Hmm…fair enough. I learned something new but our nice guard had a different story.

And by the fucking way: the lake shore is full of rubbish, there are dozens of carts and traktors transporting all sorts of rubbish to the last lake without any control and this guy wants to fine me because I’ve put a tent on? What the fuck?! That doesn’t sound right does it?

I was a bit happy though that 1. I learned that there is a guard there, which I didn’t know 2. he’s not doing his job taking care of the lakes by letting all the tractors pass!

So, after about an hour, I went to see him in his little house to pay my fee, say sorry and ask him some questions. He had a different tone fore some reason and didn’t want any money from me. I asked what’s the story with all that rubbish that’s transported there every day but he couldn’t tell me more that he can’t do anything about it and he think it’s shit as well. Now I have a new “friend” 🙂

The life of an environmental activist is not easy but it is interesting!

Let’s see how things evolve but I’m very passionate about this topic. I see that this town can change in better so quickly if some simple decisions are made. It’s simply mindblowing why people in charge simply don’t do what has to be done and ignore the law…

I’m telling you all this for a reason. The reason is that I have expectations form the FI community. I think people on the road to FI and especiall people that are very close or already there have this FI superpower: the luxury that they have their financials under control and can use their life energy to do good. They have the time to make a change and make this world a better and more sustainable place.

You might want to check out Sebastien’s blog and read more about this idea and the potential we as a community have to make a change.

It’s nice that many peple want to get richt. It’s nice that people blog about their latest divident income or talk about how to invest better. Yeas, we did learn a lot from the community too. But I feel that we can do much much more than this. The keyword is: “FI for impact“. You should not wait to think about these things after you reached FI.

I invite you to join the FI for Impact Facebook community and let’s brainstorm, let’s join forces, form small gorups and let’s find projects we could work on together.