BY KATIE - MYGREENPOD, 31 May '19

Benita Matofska looks at the everyday activists who are saving the planet

This article first appeared in our spring ’19 issue of MyGreenPod Magazine, The Organic Revolution, distributed with the Guardian on 31 May 2019. Click here to subscribe to our digital edition and get each issue delivered straight to your inbox

‘My name is Greta Thunberg. I am 16 years old. I come from Sweden. And I speak on behalf of future generations. I know many of you don’t want to listen to us – you say we are just children. But we’re only repeating the message of the united climate science. Many of you appear concerned that we are wasting valuable lesson time, but I assure you we will go back to school the moment you start listening to science and give us a future. Is that really too much to ask?’

When 29-year-old Daan Wedderpohl’s house burned down in 2009, he lost his home, his belongings and his job. It was the catalyst for creating goods-sharing platform Peerby – because, he says, ‘the stuff we consume is the biggest contributor to our environmental footprint.’

Dan, like Greta Thunberg, is a changemaker – a new breed of everyday activist who believes we all need to radically change the way we live in order to have a future. Dan is part of what’s known as the sharing economy, which has garnered lots of media attention since its birth a decade ago. Little attention, however, has been paid to the social and environmental impact of the sharing economy and the changemakers who, through everyday activism, are saving the planet.

Everyday activism

With climate change firmly on the agenda, people like Ruth Anslow (main image), founder of rebel supermarket HISBE (How It Should Be), show we can all do our bit through our everyday choices, from the clothes we buy to the food we eat.
‘We’ve built an alternative supermarket model through collaboration and caring’, Ruth says. ‘We’re about keeping profits in communities and in the hands of the producers.’

This everyday activism, driven by an understanding of the need to share precious resources, is not confined to the west. 29-year-old Aarti Naik grew up in Mulund, one of Mumbai’s biggest slums, where resource sharing was necessary for survival; a hot meal made from food shared by the slum community was provided every day. Aarti set up Sakhi School for Girls’ Education to empower slum-based girls and mothers.

‘Since I started the Sakhi School in 2008, no girl here has dropped out’, she says. ‘Every girl goes to school confidently and passes her exams. It’s created a big impact: you offer support, share your experiences and your life and you change others.’

It’s ‘not about charity’

This drive to make a difference through resource sharing led Dr Olga Kesidou, a 52-year-old ear, nose and throat specialist from Greece, to set up the Solidarity Clinic of Peristeri in Athens. The clinic treats patients who cannot afford to see a doctor, using surplus medicines that would otherwise go to landfill.

‘The solidarity movement is not about charity’, Olga explains. ‘It is about the belief that tomorrow, you could be in the same position as the person you are treating today. My dream is for a better society. I don’t want to be paid by my patients, I want to live in dignity and share my skills to help others in need.’

With idle resources worth over £3.5 trillion and enough surplus food to feed 10 billion people, the true power of the sharing economy is emerging. Changemakers like Dr Olga Kesidou, Aarti Naik and Dan Wedderpohl are demonstrating how everyday, positive activism can make a difference. With time not on our side, we need to unleash the activist in all of us.

Global Sharing Week

Generation Share, the largest collection of inspiring changemaker stories, is a collaboration between international speaker, changemaker and global sharing economy expert Benita Matofska and photographer with purpose Sophie Sheinwald. Printed sustainably from waste materials, each copy of Generation Share sold will help to educate a slum-based girl in India and plant a tree.

The book will be published by Policy Press on 17 June 2019 for Global Sharing Week (16-22 June). The Big Share, the UK’s grand finale to Global Sharing Week, will take place on Hove Lawns, Brighton and Hove Seafront on Saturday 22 June, 16.30-20.30. Tickets are free; sign up via Eventbrite (search ‘The Big Share’).

Find and register sharing events near you at globalsharingweek.org. More information about Benita is at benitamatofska.com and @benitamatofska.