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Actions in 2018

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Meet the #EWWRAwards Finalists: Daniela Malanchini on friendly coffee breaks

The EWWR Awards finalists have been announced! In each category, the Jury has selected their top 3 finalists . The winners will be revealed on 15 May in Brussels during the EWWR Awards Ceremony. In the days and weeks to come, we will introduce you the nominees one by one. Today, we would like you to present you the action organised by Daniela Malanchini and Denise Castro, who live in the Azores Islands in Portugal. The initiative, called “Coffee Break”, was nominated for an award in the Citizen category.


Daniela Malanchini and Denise Castro next to the Coffee Break display
Daniela Malanchini and Denise Castro next to the Coffee Break display

What did your action consist of?

We all know what a coffee break is. It is a recess in the middle of a meeting, a conference or a presentation to give the participants the opportunity to have a chat, to relax and to recharge while sipping on a good cup of coffee or tea or drinking a soft drink accompanied by a snack. While it may sound very nice and innocent, in reality these recesses are extremely sad and bad! Most coffee breaks feature coffee made by machines that use plastic capsules, which is served in plastic cups and sweetened with sugar that comes in plastic sachets, which is then stirred with plastic spoons or spatulas. The biscuits come packaged in plastic and are tasteless; even the soft drinks are usually industrially produced, contain dubious ingredients and come in plastic bottles or packs. That is to say nothing of the paper napkins. In short: coffee breaks are the source of mountains of garbage. At my house, I would never offer my guests such things.

My friend and I decided that it was time to put a stop to all this in our town. We involved the municipality, which immediately approved the project by making available the municipal library, which is the place where our small island community of 5,000 meets and holds conferences. There, we set up two tables: one with the products commonly used during coffee break, which we called “past coffee breaks “ because our town hall assured us that they will no longer organise such breaks; and the other with the products used in the coffee break “of the future”.

We thought of also involving the older generation in this activity. Everybody always says that the future is in the hands of the new generations, but, for us, our future is also in our past. Elderly community members were asked to decorate a table in the classical way, how it was done before the advent of plastic. Thus, the women embroidered doilies with the names of traditional biscuits that were home made on the express order of the town hall. The men carved spoons in bamboo and made twisted baskets from recycled paper straws. The water was served in recycled bottles and came from the tap. Hot drinks were served in thermoses and the tea had come from the Azores (which is the only European region that produces tea). The food was produced locally and all the accessories — cups, plates, napkins and others — were washable and reusable. The impact was great and positive and we are happy because this small and simple action is now undoubtedly part of everyday life for us. By the two tables we added panels written on recycled paper, with an explanation of the EWWR thematic focus for 2018: hazardous waste prevention. Our simple motto is: Small gestures, great changes!

How did you come up with the idea?

In general, I am a proactive person who seeks to remedy wrongs when I notice them. This is what I am like when it comes to projects as well. My projects are born noticing room for improvement around me. In this particular case, I participate in many events and have observed that the coffee break is always the meeting point, the break where we gather with the other participants in a given event to chat. I consider the world to be my home and I know that, at home, I would never invite a friend to drink coffee in a plastic cup or offer commercial cakes or biscuits. The usual “sad” coffee break disturbed me and I knew exactly how I would have liked it to be: I wanted it to be friendly. Friendly to all: not only to the people, but also to nature, to the environment, to our beautiful planet. I wanted a break during which one could really recharge the mind and the heart, be amazed like children are at simple things, happy to be together and where participants could copy ideas and bring them into their daily lives. But, in order to change coffee breaks, I needed to organise one myself coffee break. The town hall of Santa Maria — the island where I live — is always very cooperative and immediately accepted to support my idea, promising that future events would feature the type of coffee break that I envisioned.

But I also needed people who could help me turn my vision into reality, because I have a lot of ideas, but I’m not good at putting them into practice! My friend Denise, who had already helped me a lot the previous year with the implementation of the project ‘’An entire island for the nature’, immediately expressed her interest and availability. Not only that, but she involved the greatest contribution to our project, who were the group of elderly citizens that are accustomed to working with their hands.

Ultimately, the action consisted of all these simple very simple actions that have zero impact and which were made easy thanks to the collaboration of institutions and the participation of community members. Together we are very strong!

Why is waste reduction important for you?

Waste reduction is important to me because, nowadays, we produce almost more waste than food and it is disastrous for the environment! In a short time, the world and the oceans will be so invaded by indestructible refuse, that life will disappear. I am also an animal lover and spend much time near the sea, so it is terribly painful to me to know that animals, sea mammals and fish are dying because of our negligence.

While I am just a citizen, I have always counted on the community of the small island I call home. Last year, the action I helped organised (which was also an EWWR finalist), was carried in collaboration with 63 different stakeholders, ranging from schools to sports clubs, merchants, the police, NGOs and citizens.

Talking to people, to old friends and to future friends, is how I share my ideas, my visions, my dreams and my projects. I believe in a better world and I am convinced that, together, we can really make a difference. Perhaps my enthusiasm, my simplicity and my ingenuity are contagious, because the people to whom I propose environmental projects are usually eager to participate. People should agree that it is time to roll up our sleeves and become actors in a new revolution. A revolution aiming to change mentalities and behaviour, to reduce the production of garbage, which is important for everyone and especially for those of us who live on small islands.

My project is to contribute to this revolution through very simple every day gestures that all institutions and citizens worldwide can put into practice.

Where can you be reached?

Nowadays, everyone is connected via social media. However, I am an email person. So if you write to me at my email address malanchini.daniela [AT] gmail.com, I would be happy to answer any questions.