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Young activists for circular economy in Turin and in Mbao

by Federica Benedetti and Giulia Mallo

Quartier Circolare – Giovani protagonisti del cambiamento (Circular Neighbourhood – Young protagonists of change), is a project born in Turin, Italy, where it covers the suburban area of District 5 (composed by Borgo Vittoria, Madonna di Campagna, Lucento, Vallette). This project is promoted by the Association LVIA, Legambiente Metropolitano Torino, and OffGrid Italia and is realized within the context of the Mindchangers Project and co-funded by the European Union and the Piedmont Region. Its objectives are the youngsters and environmental education, promoting the concept of circular economy, and giving the chance to young people to become active citizens for the safeguard of their territory.

There were many activities involving the young active eco-citizens: from the plogging (picking up trash while jogging) around the neighbourhood to the Future Parade – a parade dedicated to sustainable mobility – all these activities were preceded by seven formations where topics such as the 2030 Agenda and civic social networks were discussed. The Future Parade was indeed one of the most attended events of the project. It consisted of a large procession of single-skater cyclists and skaters gathered to raise awareness and promote sustainable mobility towards an increasingly green transaction: this was the beautiful Future Parade that took place in May 2022 in the streets of Borgo Vittoria, Falchera, and Barriera di Milano with the aim of creating a ‘mobile ideas’ workshop focused on environmental issues. The Future Parade, now in its second edition, aims to create a context of activism and inclusion, where issues such as combating the climate crisis, land consumption, and food waste are addressed, allowing participants to express themselves through a mobile creative workshop.

The young participants of the Quartier Circolare project, thanks to the coordination of Legambiente Metropolitano, also mobilized for the event: at the SCiA-131 green area, they organized and managed an anti-waste snack, all made of fruit by the Eco dalle città’s Sentinelle Salvacibo. In addition, the company SMAT Torino also supported the initiative by providing water in bottles, thus avoiding the immoderate use of plastic bottles. The coordinator of the “Quartier Circolare” and LVIA staff member, Ester Graziano, said that the Future Parade event would be the first of many events held within Circoscrizione 5 also proposed by Legambiente Metropolitano. She also stated that it was an excellent opportunity to meet and get to know the citizens in order to share ideas and projects towards an increasingly sustainable future.

The project “Quartier Circolare” does not work only on the Italian territory: it is part of a “twin project” tied to the municipality of Mbao, in the region of Dakar (Senegal), named “Quartier Circulaire” and it is promoted by the Association LVIA Senegal and the artist Leuz Diwane G with the Diwane G Management. In Mbao the project focused on the safeguard of the Marigot, a pond at high environmental risk, and the protection of the last forest of the region of Dakar. These represent two issues that the Diwane G Management and the young citizens of “Quartier Circulaire” were already taking care of.

In Senegal, the project was aimed at cleaning the beach and the riverside of the Marigot and the transformation of those areas used as abusive junkyards into creative spaces to attract the youngsters. For some activities, the project involved school children who crafted school items out of the collected rubbish. Furthermore, the plastic collected along the Marigot was also used to build “eco bancs” – benches created to improve the common areas – and coconut trees were planted along its riverside. The last stage of the projects was the third edition of the Festival Mbao Fëss, an initiative that was capable of putting together music and environmental issues in order to reach out to those youngsters whose involvement in this kind of dialogues is much harder.

The coexistence of these two projects was also the opportunity for exchanges: in June Leuz Diwane G participated in the AfroVision Festival in Turin, where he could also have a glimpse at all places involved in the project of District 5, whereas in August 2022, two participants of “Quartier Circolare” in Turin went to the Festival Mbao Fëss for two weeks. Finally, Youmaly Gueye, volunteer in Mbao, travelled to Turin to participate in Mindchangers Generation, where she met participants of “Quartier Circolare” and many other Mindchangers-funded projects.

It is always time to talk about important issues and young people are increasingly the protagonists. In this regard, one of the last steps was the Mindchangers Generation, a meeting focusing on youth engagement, migration, and climate change, which took place in Turin from 4 to 6 October. This international meeting was a great opportunity for young people to voice their experiences and ideas. The goals were to create awareness on topics such as sustainable development and how young people can be inspired to voice their perspectives to achieve the SDGs goals. It is time to know, to act, to change.

The model of Quartier Circolare is indeed something that can be replied in many other local contexts. In fact, reproposing a similar initiative not only in other districts of the city of Turin but also in other Italian and European cities would be a step towards becoming increasingly aware citizens and moving all together towards an ever-greener future.