Green is the new black
“Green is the new Black” is the first project by the Hamburg-based Future of Ghana Germany (FoGG) organisation to focus on environmental and social sustainability. It brought FoGG together with its partner organisation DUNK (Develop Unity Nurturing Knowledge) from Jamestown, Accra, in an exchange programme entitled “Sustainability and resource awareness - Reducing (our) plastic consumption”. Two groups of ten young people (aged between 18 and 26) from both of the countries met up in Hamburg first and later in the Ghanaian capital, Accra.
The participants explored the causes and consequences of the increase in marine pollution, and worked together on strategies to reduce waste and be more aware of their own plastic use. The aim was to enable the partners to share knowledge as equals and to develop a long-term transcontinental partnership.
The idea for the project came about back in 2019, when Tanja Scheffler and Lyn Birago (project coordinators at FoGG) went to Ghana on holiday and found huge piles of plastic on the beach there. It made them wonder where all the rubbish had actually come from. After doing some research, they decided they wanted to explore the matter further in collaboration with NGOs (including our partner organisation DUNK Grassroots).
This led to the exchange that then took place, funded by various organisations, including Engagement Global (financed by Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development), the North German Foundation for Environment and Development (NUE) and Wildling.
January 2021 saw more than 70 young people apply to take part in the project, with 20 of them being selected. From a variety of backgrounds and fields, some were students of environmental management, business or marketing, some had an arts background and some were FOGG e.V. and DUNK team members. There were also school students, including students close to leaving school. For them, the trip was an opportunity to think about what areas they might like to work in. The one thing they all had in common was their interest in engaging with other people and cultures and waste issues.
At the beginning of July 2021, the ten participants from Ghana came to Hamburg for 17 days. They attended a range of very hands-on workshops, focusing on the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals and the environmental impact of their personal plastic consumption. There were also meetings with various NGOs, inspiring presentations, including a Greenpeace exhibition, a visit to a Fridays for Future camp, a beach clean-up and lots of input about upcycling and recycling from very different perspectives.
The programme continued at the end of August 2021, when the participants from Hamburg headed off for Accra. This part of the exchange also included workshops and beach clean-ups as well as a visit to the world-famous electronic waste dump in Agbogbloshie - where a large part of the hazardous waste is imported illegally from Europe.
The exchange visits weren’t just about the environment and waste though. The participants had lots of fun learning about each other’s cultures and getting a flavour of the other country by visiting the sights and trying the local cuisine.
At the end of their exchange, the participants drew up an action plan, detailing how they would share their new knowledge with their families, friends and communities.
In the six months following the exchange visits, we held monthly online meetings, where we shared our experiences and reflected on our own plastic consumption. Some of the participants started small initiatives (e.g. recycled art projects and beach clean-ups) to raise awareness of plastic waste and pollution; some of them began volunteering with other civil society organisations too. They all stay in touch via a Whatsapp group and social media. The partner organisations are in close contact too, keeping each other updated with developments and giving each other advice. A number of friendships developed after the exchanges and most of the participants are still in contact with their tandem partners.