U.S. Embassy Kyiv Celebrates Earth Day with the U.S. Forest Service and Local Youth

By Misha Martorana, Environment, Science, Technology, and Health Officer 

Читати українською

Ambassador Tefft plants trees with NULES rector Dmytro Melnychuk
Ambassador Tefft plants trees with NULES rector Dmytro Melnychuk

Embassy Kyiv had a full Earth Day schedule, honoring the occasion with Ambassador Tefft planting trees, as well as with lectures, educational campaigns, and outreach events throughout the week.  This year, we also had the great fortune to host former Chief of the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) Dale Bosworth and a team from the USFS International Programs Office, who participated with the Embassy on not one but two Earth Day tree plantings (one with Ambassador Tefft, one without).

The first Earth Day was celebrated April 22, 1970, and was conceived as a “teach-in” event to be held at universities across the country.  Its initiator, Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin, felt a call to action after what he saw at the sight of the 1969 Santa Barbara, California oil spill.  By 1990, Earth Day had gone international and, by 2012, was celebrated by over 1.5 billion people across 190 countries.  Embassy Kyiv’s own Earth Day activism in 2013 engaged more than 450 Ukrainians and generated extensive news coverage.

Deputy Economic Counselor Elizabeth Horst kicked off our

Youth Council members paint their new “eco-bags.”
Youth Council members paint their new “eco-bags.”

Earth Day outreach April 18 with a lecture on the U.S. government’s environmental diplomacy efforts.  Horst spoke to around 35 young professionals and university students as part of the Embassy’s Youth Development Initiative, a program that targets young Ukrainians to educate them about the United States’ role in a variety of international and domestic issues such as food security, NATO, and international relations.  Horst spoke about the State Department’s and other U.S. government agencies’ work in promoting sound environmental policy and stewardship throughout the world in our efforts to mitigate climate change and environmental disasters.

On Sunday, April 21, the U.S. Embassy’s Youth Council held an exciting, interactive Earth Day campaign giving away hundreds of free, environmentally friendly, reusable bags to shoppers willing to hand over their disposable plastic bags.  Polyethylene bags, used commonly at grocery stores and markets in the United States and Ukraine, take between 400-1,000 years to fully decompose.  Reusable bags can be used hundreds of times and decompose significantly faster than regular plastic bags.  The all-day event included a bag decorating workshop, giant eco-puzzle for kids, live band, face painting and henna stations, and a banner on which people could write messages to the Earth.  The campaign was well-received by the public and covered widely by local media.

Girl Scouts stand by bags of trash they collected at Andrivsky Uzviz.

Even Embassy children did their part.  About 30 children and their family members from the Embassy’s Girl Scout troop, which includes girls aged 7-11 from multiple countries, joined volunteers to clean up two parks surrounding Andrivsky Uzviz.  The historical neighborhood and surrounding parks are a popular tourist destination centered around the more than 250 year old St. Andrew’s Church.

  Embassy personnel plant pine trees with students at a SAFRU nursery.
Embassy personnel plant pine trees with students at a SAFRU nursery.

The many days of events closed with two tree plantings on Earth Day, April 22.  In the morning, Ambassador Tefft and former USFS Chief Dale Bosworth, along with other USFS and Embassy personnel, planted trees and met with officials at the National University of Life and Environmental Sciences of Ukraine (NULES).  Ambassador Tefft and Chief Bosworth paired with NULES Rector Dmytro Melnychuk and Chairman of the State Agency for Forest Resources of Ukraine (SAFRU) Victor Sivits to plant trees on university grounds, joined by students and media.  The event was followed by a roundtable and Q&A session where about 100 students and faculty learned about the USFS’ approach to sustainable forest management.  Learn more about NULES’ programs and curriculum at their website here.

Valdis E. Mezainis, Director of the USFS International Programs Offices plants pine trees with students.
Valdis E. Mezainis, Director of the USFS International Programs Offices plants pine trees with students.

After lunch, the USFS delegation and Embassy personnel from the Foreign Agricultural Service, Economic Section, Department of Energy, and Public Affairs Office got their hands dirty helping Deputy Director of SAFRU Yaroslav Makarchuk, his officers, and students plant hundreds of pine trees at a nursery outside of Kyiv.  The ceremony organized by SAFRU capped off their annual the “Future of the Forest [is] in Your Hands” campaign, established in 2006.  The forest agency uses roundtables, tree plantings, press conferences, classroom lectures, and concerts to emphasize the importance of forest conservation and environmental sustainability.  Embassy and USFS staff helped SAFRU staff and students dig holes and plant each sapling with a mineral pack, one tree at a time.  More information about SAFRU’s forest campaign can be found at their website here.

More photos from the Embassy’s Earth Day activities can be found on our Flickr page.

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