Green Cities Fit for Life

Image by Jean-Dominique Billaud

Pia Poljanšek, Student and Worker at ‘Kabiné Šerinjon’, first ever Slovenian clothing library

PiaDespite only living in Ljubljana for the past five years, Pia Poljanšek has fallen in love with the green city and even refers to herself as a “Ljubljančanka” (the name for a female resident in the city). Pia is a Master’s student at the Faculty for Health Sciences in Ljubljana, studying in the Sanitary Engineering Programme which specialises in Environmental Health and Occupational Hygiene. It is therefore no wonder that Pia has gotten involved in other environmental initiatives. In fact, Pia is part of a group of students who set up the first ever Slovenian clothing library, named ’Kabiné Šerinjon’, which is full of high quality, sustainable, eco-friendly, Fairtrade and second-hand clothing and accessories, which people can rent for one to two weeks free of charge.

Pia tells us more about how Kabiné started and how important she finds her professional role to be: “I find my profession to be a really important component in the creation of a better, healthier society and environment. I set up ’Kabiné Šerinjon’ together with a few students from different study programmes at the University of Ljubljana, alongside a public waste management company called Snaga Ljubljana. Our aim was to create more sustainable consumer options for younger generations, providing people with professional knowledge on what the problems are with contributing to ’fast fashion’ and, as a result, give others the courage to make their own sustainable choices and decisions.”

The project was co-financed by the Slovenian Government’s Public Scholarship, Development, Disability and Maintenance Fund and the European Social Fund and started to take its shape from February to July 2017. When this initial phase ended, the group of students then launched their own educational website (www.kabine-sherinjon.si) as well as an Android mobile App on which users could arrange to borrow clothing.

Pia explains to us how Kabiné Šerinjon is contributing sustainably to Ljubljana: “Kabiné Šerinjon is downsizing textile waste and reducing child labour in countries involved in massive fast fashion production, while at the same time supporting Ljubljana’s domestic clothing design industry, as well as teaching others about much needed concepts like ethical and moderate consumerism, collaborative consumption, sustainability and a sense of collective responsibility. These topical issues are the main reason we created Kabiné Šerinjon, with the hope of offering the entire city a better alternative by bringing sustainable but fashionable clothing into everyday life. More practically speaking, our clothing library allows citizens to rent a piece of clothing of their choice completely free for two weeks. This prevents hoarding which harms the environment and your healClothing Library mobile application_Klemen Razingerth.”

Why is sustainability important to you?

Pia tells us that, it was looking at the differences between her life and that of her grandparents that made her truly realise the importance of sustainability and the changes our actions can make: “Every time I visit my grandparents or talk to other people of their generation, I am left amazed at how dramatically our lifestyle and values have changed over the past 50 years alone! It made me question our current systems and how we live today. For me, sustainability means a lot more than just becoming ‘greener’. It is about reevaluating our own needs and learning to feel compassion for our ancestors and successors at the same time; it is a lifestyle and a mind-set. I live a sustainable way of life because I believe that it is the right thing to do and it makes me feel calmer inside and more humane.”

What does it mean to live in Ljubljana, 2016 European Green Capital?

Pia saClothing Library, project teamys that it’s when she travels abroad that she starts to really appreciate living in a European Green Capital: “Whenever I travel to other places, I feel a huge sense of pride for Ljubljana. When I visit these new places, sometimes I find myself feeling sorry for other citizens when I see that they are not even able to enjoy a sunset because of pollution, smog or dust. Experiencing other places, cultures and environments can be a way of truly realising how spoilt and lucky you are to live in a green city.”

This is why Pia also wants to remind fellow citizens that while their present living conditions in Ljubljana are excellent; they should not take them for granted. She explains, “While winning the title of the European Green Capital in 2016 gave us something to be proud of, we now need to learn to continue to take responsibility for our actions as a way to preserve and grow that sense of pride.”

According to Pia, receiving adequate education and information on a city’s environmental goals is the key to success in terms of both maintaining and improving the high standards of a green city: “I believe influential changes are made within a society when individuals are all equipped with different types of knowledge, while still agreeing on the same goal. Once this goal is clearly agreed and expressed to all of the individuals involved, there should not be any serious obstacles or threats in the way to reaching that goal. This sounds like basic common sense, but it doesn’t always happen. So at the very least, I believe that we as European Green Capital citizens should be aware of all the advantages that Ljubljana has to offer us and behave (live!) in a way that recognises that it is important to invest in this green paradise.”

Clothing Library_Klemen Razinger

Ljubljana’s citizens have a great relationship with their city’s council members and their Mayor. Pia explains to us how they are very lucky to have this relationship as it has allowed all citizens to have their say on Ljubljana’s green practices: “In my opinion, in Ljubljana every one of us has a chance to speak out and draw attention to what we believe to be important areas of focus for a greener future. Our Mayor, Mr Janković, always makes time to listen to all of Ljubljana’s citizens and I believe it is this well-maintained cooperation that led us to win the European Green Capital Award in 2016.”

What is different about living in a European Green Capital compared to other cities?

Pia praised Ljubljana for its culture of waste management and separation that is now carried out by everyone almost instinctively, among a number of other initiatives: “I do have to say that I have not seen city centres as green, tidy and as well-maintained as Ljubljana’s anywhere else. There are so many car-free zones, free electric car rides, tap water of enviable quality, modern and efficient waste management systems, bike routes, free public toilets, green areas and sports trails, and more. To me, Ljubljana is the perfect example of the benefits that the European Green Capital Award brings, and the evidence of these benefits can be seen in the city’s green, healthy and supportive environment.”