Greece is famous for its festivals, and the island of Paros is no exception, hosting a full calendar of community events every year. However, until recently, these events also created an abundance of single-use plastic waste – from cups and cutlery, to straws, plates and takeaway containers.
For Zana Kontomanoli, it’s heart-breaking that her homeland’s culture of hospitality and feasting threatens the health of Greece’s people, economy and precious seas. So she decided to do something about it.
“The sea has always been like an inner compass for me. Working on a project that protects our ocean for future generations, including my children, means so much."
Zana runs a project called Community Dishes, which provides a central store of reusable tableware that event organisers can borrow to avoid using single-use plastic cups, plates and cutlery.
“We provided all the tableware for the Kapetaneika festival, a three-day party that culminates in a big feast. The feedback we got was amazing. People said they enjoyed their food more because it was on a proper plate instead of a plastic one.”
At just this one event, Community Dishes helped avoid 8,000 pieces of single-use plastic.
Spreading change through the community.
Community Dishes is just one part of how Zana and the rest of her team are tackling plastic waste on the island of Paros - and beyond. Zana is Project Lead for Common Seas Greece, a not-for-profit organisation based in the UK with a mission to quickly and significantly reduce plastic waste.
Common Seas started working on Paros in 2019, creating a unique collaboration between Paros Municipality, the Cyclades Preservation Fund, WATT, WWF Greece and pioneering local Paros businesses.
Today, Zana and the rest of the team have designed and demonstrated 18 projects, including tote bag-making workshops, marine litter audits, educational resources and behaviour change campaigns to reduce cigarette butt littering and people’s dependence on plastic bottled water.
Supporting Greece to become a global leader in tackling plastic.
Having tested and demonstrated these projects, Common Seas Greece is now using what they’ve learned to create a suite of tools and resources for other coastal communities to use. These are all available via a pledging platform called Clean Blue Promise. And with the launch of PlasTICK, Common Seas will provide the country’s hospitality sector with an intuitive and accessible tool to report on and reduce its use of single-use plastic.
Zana is also meeting with lots of mayors from other municipalities across Greece.
“Again and again, I’m hearing that these local leaders recognise the threat of plastic pollution and want to do something about it. By sharing success stories from my island – like Community Dishes - we can really inspire them to commit to investing time and money into the right solutions for their community. It’s very exciting to think what we can achieve in the next three years.”