Green Cities Fit for Life

Image by Ursula Bach

Alenka Kreč Bricelj, Project Manager at Smetumet, a Design and Upcycling Organisation in Ljubljana

We speak to Alenka Kreč Bricelj who has lived in the 2016 European Green Capital, Ljubljana, her whole life, where she works as a Project Manager at Smetumet. Smetumet is an organisation which turns ‘one person’s trash into another person’s treasure.’

Alenka Smetumet

What is the purpose of Smetumet?

The design and upcycling organisation, Smetumet, is about producing products which are all created out of rubbish and as a result of rubbish. As part of this, Smetumet also organises workshops and social activities around how to better handle or make use of our rubbish. Smetumet ensures that each piece of rubbish is recycled and uniquely designed to transform it into an entirely new product and give it a new life.

Alenka explained how her job at Smetumet is an important part of her role as a citizen of a European Green Capital city: “Both as an individual and as part of my job at Smetumet, I try to be a part of the solution to environmental problems by creating beautiful, useful things made entirely from rubbish. Ljubljana has always been a green city, and it brings me so much joy to contribute to the city’s beautiful story and community.”

She continues, “Everything, no matter how dear to us, eventually becomes rubbish. Rubbish dumps are a growing burden on the environment for both present and future generations. We need to consider our rubbish before we dispose of it. We need to think about how we can reduce the amount of waste, how we can re-use things, fix them, upgrade them and extend their life –  that’s the purpose of Smetumet.”

Smetumet dragon eggHow did she first get involved?

Alenka had an interest in both design and the environment from a young age: “When I was nine, I had lamps made out of old cans in my room. They didn’t look very cool, but it was definitely a cool concept at the time! But now I’m making stuff from rubbish myself. I love my job because it allows me to combine my interest in design with my interest in making a positive social and environmental impact.”

Alenka elaborates on how her job at Smetumet allows her to play her part in contributing to the protection of the environment in Ljubljana: “A fair society and a clean environment are values that mean a lot to me. This is why I am trying to find practical solutions in all areas of my life, which are as consistent with my values as possible.”

What is it like to live in a city that previously held the title of European Green Capital?

Alenka has lived in Ljubljana her entire life and finds it a very relaxing place to call home. She believes in the city’s promise to provide a better, healthier future for its citizens.

She explains, “I think it is very encouraging that the city authorities are making concrete contributions to good practices which will have positive environmental effects. I think education has contributed to a better awareness, and as a result, the wishes, expectations and demands of citizens are therefore more articulate and more ambitious.”

Making small changes can make the biggest differences. Alenka truly believes this and expresses how important it is that all citizens play their part in protecting Ljubljana’s environment: “It is essential that everyone does everything that they can, even the smallest of things, immediately, to contribute to Ljubljana’s environment. With small steps it is difficult to fail, and this will motivate citizens to make bigger and more focused steps in the future.”

What do you like about Ljubljana?

Alenka praises Ljubljana for its diversity and sense of community: “Ljubljana is a lovely city and the people are friendly. I like that you get a combination of nature and urban areas here. I can choose to go for a walk in the woods or a visit to the city cinema. I am always discovering more about the city’s diverse historical and cultural influences. Above all, this place is my home, full of my family and my friends.”