Since Estonia regained its independence in 1991, illegal dumping of garbage in our forests had been a growing problem. The amount of garbage littering our nature had grown too big for our government to tackle alone. And the problem was not in the garbage itself, it was in the mindset of those people who didn’t respect our nature. So we knew that we had to do something drastic to shake things up, to make a real change in people’s thinking. So a group of active citizens with the support of Estonian Fund for Nature, came up with an outrageous plan - to clean up Estonia from illegally dumped or littered waste, in ONE day! For that we needed at least 40 000 volunteers all over the country.
Research work done during the campaign
One of the founders of Skype, Ahti Heinla, developed a special garbage mapping software based on Google Earth. Then we engaged volunteers all over the country to participate in the regional garbage mapping weekends. In co-operation with Nokia and EMT we presented the volunteers with easy to use mapping devices which consisted of GPS mobile phones with special positioning software, so that they could send all the necessary infomation about the garbage dumping site straight to the garbage map. This made the mapping interesting and fun social event for the participants. This resulted as a map of illegal garbage including more than 10 000 different illegal dumping sites all over Estonia.
Our communication was based on simple but powerful values - oneness, caring, respect towards the environment. We needed to engage everybody, so we based our communication on values which connected with large groups of society.
Media as a partner
We looked at media as our partner not just an observer - our goal was to get the journalists on the same boat with us. Therefore we practiced open and honest communication from the beginning. This was a public project and so we built up a large contact circle of journalists from all Estonian media channels, who we kept informed with the progress of the project. We also held regular open meetings where we expected media and other interested citizens to take part in. This approach helped us enormously at the most critical stages of the project - when some local municipalities were resistant to join us, the media channels raised the issue and demanded that the local governments would follow the public values and people’s interests. Also at the registration period there were more than 10 different leads from newspapers cheaf editors which urged people to register and join.
Raising the awareness
To bring the problem into the limelight, we created the ugliest map ever - the garbage map. Local mapping events carried out an important role in engaging the local media and community leaders to the campaign. Because we needed all the active people and municipalities to co-operate with us, we needed to bring the problem into the local context. This was done successfully by the mapping events all over Estonia during the period from October 2007 till april 2008.
Massive media campaign
Built on the general support and raised public awareness we could compose the biggest ad-campaign in Estonia ever - including TV, radio, outdoors, internet, print media etc. Famous estonians came with the campaign to voice their support and personal take on the issue. All the clips for the TV, print and radio were produced by our partners for free, also the media channels gave us a lot of free space, the amount of the public support was especially evident in the internet - people could download banners from our site, to put them up on their websites. During the campaign Let’s Do It! campaign banners were on more than 1600 different websites.
Results of the campaign and evaluation
More than 50 000 volunteers came out on the big clean-up day - 3rd of May 2008. During the campaign we attracted more than 500 different partners who supported us with all the means available to them. Campaign also received recognition from large audiences abroad - journalists from USA, Europe, and especially neighboring countries, Associated France Press, Reuters and Deutche Welle World were with us that day. BBC run a short newsclip on the big clean-up of Estonia. The news about the event reached as far as India and Singapore Times.
Our neighbors followed our idea - in Lithuania there were thousands of people cleaning up the nature on 3rd of May, Latvian activists also organized successfully a major clean-up day on 13th of September which engaged 40 000 people all over the country.
Estonian Ministry of Environment, The State Forests Center and The Environmental Investments Center supported us with 500 000 Euros. But if we look at all the actual work and non-monetary resources received from out partners and volunteers, the actual cost of the campaign would have been 22 500 000 Euros.
The short movie about the campaign in English
The movie about the campaign in Estonian
The movie about the campaign in Russian