One of the big challenges in front of local communities all over the world is the environmental, social and economic sustainability in the era of globalization. In Romania, local traditional products risk becoming obsolete as they are replaced by mass-produced and pre-packaged imports. This shift in consumer culture threatens environmental sustainability and does little to promote fair and ethical trade between consumers and local producers. A positive change at the personal and community level or global level can be achieved primarily by remodeling the way people eat, act and behave in everyday life.
In Romania, Mai Bine Association is striving to overcome today’s problems by focusing on ecology, environment and society. One of the main objectives of Mai Bine Association is to contribute to the preservation of the environmental in the city of Iaşi by accelerating responsible behavior adapted to the concept of sustainable development of society and the local community.
Mai Bine is a non-profit organization, registered in February 2009 in Iași, Romania by a group of young people who wanted to contribute to the change of the local community in accordance with the principles of sustainable development.
In 2009, a group of young people in Iasi, looked at their city and realized that they had the strength to promote more environmental-oriented community. They were inspired by the ideas of sustainable development. They had studied abroad and had fresh and innovative ideas how to make their city and local community more caring for the environment, local economy and to live healthier. From the very beginning of the organization, the team managed to involve many volunteers – young people who share the same values and ideas.
One of their first initiatives was Colectary Baterii. The aim of the project was to contribute to the environmental protection of Iasi. The team developed a participatory and educational platform to raise public awareness about the importance of selective collection of waste portable batteries and accumulators. The team received a support of the EEA Grant Mechanism, financed through the Governments of Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, and the ENVIRON Association. The successful initiative motivated the team to continue implementing projects aimed at sustainable development and making people more responsible for the environment.
The organization has a two-level governing structure – Governing board and Managing body. The Governing board is consists of five persons – president, two vice-presidents and two counselors. The managing body of the organization includes ecologist, executive director, economic and IT manager, project manager, director of graphics and design, PR and communication director and project assistant. The organization works also with more than 25 volunteers who are actively engaged with the organizations’ initiatives and projects.
Mai Bine Association works very well with local and national authorities, public and private organizations throughout Romania. The organization has received funding for its initiatives through various instruments, including European Commission funding programs, Norway grants and national funding programs. In its projects, the team is working with partner organizations from different countries. They are open for future collaborations with organizations, which working in the area of sustainable development.
The vision of the Mai BineAssociation is represented by a world governed by strong ethical principles, ecologically sustainable and socially just.
The mission of the organization is to contribute to sustainable development of the local community by implementing projects under a holistic approach across all three dimensions of durable development: environmental, social and economic. The organization fulfills its mission by focusing on four areas of action: ecology and environmental protection, social economy, education and development, civic responsibility.
The following directions of intervention determine the scope of action of Mai Bine Association:
The organization is involved in many projects and initiatives of different scope, which cover social, environmental and economic well-being of local community. Some of their main projects are: CUIB, ReDu, Apă fără plastic, Cultivate the City, Battery Recycling, Make Fruit Fair, Bazar Solidar, Harta Eco.
Mai Bine Association’s social enterprise CUIB (Urban Center for Good Initiatives), founded in 2013, sells fair-trade and eco-friendly products from local producers who have limited access to markets. CUIB emerged from the need of physical and palpable manifestation of the association’s best principles. CUIB supports local producers, considers water as a right and not a product, and provides a framework for practicing fair trade and an economy centered on the human, not a material entity. The social enterprise also organizes community events to raise awareness on sustainability issues.
Apă fără plastic (Water without Plastic) initiative was launched in July 2014 to inform community about the negative effects of the use of water packaged in plastic and to help people abandon this harmful habit. Bottled water not only consumes resources in the bottling and distribution processes but also produces too much degradable waste in hundreds of years that poison the environment and, ultimately, consumers. Through this initiative, the Mai Bine Association’s team in partnership with other companies and NGOs strives to implement cost-effective and non-harmful alternatives for consumers and the environment and find solutions to keep water in environment-friendly packaging and accessible to the whole community.
Cultivate the City initiative started in 2014. It aims to involve the Iasi community in the development of two communal urban gardens, thus illustrating that townspeople can also practice agricultural and gardening activities. The initiative is supplemented by cultural and educational events.
Another initiative of Mai Bine Association is called ‘Reused, Recycled and Upcycled Clothes and Accessories’ (REDU), which implementation started in 2014 with the support of Norwegian Financial Mechanism within the framework of the Green Innovation Fund. The aim of the project is to develop a circular economy model at the local level. The initiative includes the collection of textile waste, its revaluation in a workshop, and the marketing of value-added products, in order to ensure financial viability and multiply the positive impact. The project is in the form of a social enterprise through which the team of Mai Bine Association have chosen to change the way fashion is viewed, from an impulsive choice to a conscious choice. The team offers practical solutions for improving textiles – product creation and customization services using recovered materials donated by the local community or assembled from factories or durable materials purchased from local suppliers to limit the negative impact of textile industry on the environment.
The main target group of Mai Bine Association is the local community of Iași. The organization engages many young people as volunteers and through its educational programs aims to raise up the awareness that everyone can contribute for the positive change of their city.
Challenges encountered and Impact
The team of Mai Bine Association has encountered many challenges throughout the years. However, the devotion of people, working in the organization, has helped them overcome most of the problems.
At the beginning, the organization’s financial income was formed mainly by grants, donations and sponsors. The economic activity was only about 8% of their revenues. Gradually, the team managed to change these proportions and today almost 50% of their revenues comes from economic activities, especially through CUIB – their eco-friendly social enterprise. The team is continue working in the direction to be entirely self-funding organization, and, at the same time, to continue developing its activities and implementing new projects and innovative ideas.
Mai Bine Association has a strong impact on the local community of Iasi. Throughout the years, the team managed to change the attitudes of people to ecology, social and economic issues, which currently persist in their city. The team shares that in the beginning it was difficult to explain that water is not a product, but a right, and everyone must have equal access to drinking water. Today, the results of their work is tangible in the city.
Mai Bine Association proves that the change in the perception of people is possible if young people unite their strengths and show commitment to the problems, which exist in our cities. The sustainable development is a major concern in many cities in Europe and the consistent work in that direction can achieve remarkable results. Mai Bine Association started with small projects and initiatives promoting ecology-friendly causes as separate collection of waste batteries and offering water without plastic. In the years, they managed to open a social enterprise, which aim to support local economy relying on fair trade principles.
Mai Bine Association is working in close collaboration with other like-minded people and organizations in Romania. The team’s holistic approach in overcoming current ecological, social and economic problems of local community in Iasi can be transferred in other towns and cities in Romania.
The model of Mai Bine Association is applicable in other regions and countries not only in Europe, but also in the whole world, because the problems as waste, pollution and poverty are global issues. For overcoming them, more innovative ideas and initiatives have to be implemented on global scale.
1. Website of the Mai Bine Association: https://www.maibine.eu
2. Raport de Activitate 2014-2016: www.maibine.eu/Media/Default/Resurse/Mai%20bine_Raport%20activitate_2014-2016.pdf
3. Raportul Annual al Asociatiei Mai Bine 2010: www.maibine.eu/Media/Default/Resurse/Raport%20Asociatia%20Mai%20Bine%202010.pdf