Racing to Zero and the film’s director, Christopher Beaver, completed a three-city tour of the Russian Federation from February 24 through March 2: Moscow, Saratov, and St Petersburg. Here’s his report:
Yes, Racing to Zero really did go to Russia. Here’s a view of St Basil’s Cathedral in Red Square, Moscow on Christopher’s first night in Russia.
Among many successful screenings, an important meeting took place in Moscow with Alexey Kiselev, zero waste specialist for Greenpeace Russia. Based on early announcements about Racing to Zero in Russia, Alexey said he had already received requests for screenings across the Federation from as far away as Murmansk. We are currently making arrangements with Bullfrog films to make the film available at little or no cost throughout Russia.
Alexey Kiselev, zero waste specialist with Greenpeace Russia in the office kitchen next to written instructions on how to recycle.
Anastasia Laukkanen, Director of the EcoCup Environmental Film Festival in Moscow supervised the beautiful Cyrillic subtitled version of the film. Laukkanen also pursued contacts at the American Embassy in Moscow who arranged expenses and support for my visit.
Christopher and Anastasia Laukkanen, executive director of the EcoCup Environmental Film Festival, at an informal gathering of filmmakers and activists. On the right side of the picture, Brad Allgood, director of Landfill Harmonic can be glimpsed in the background.
The film was met everywhere with enthusiasm and appreciation. Even though Russian environmental activists have worked for years toward a zero waste policy, they characterized the Russian zero waste movement as in its beginning stages. I was told for example that glass and newspapers could be recycled in Moscow at only one location on one afternoon per month.
The second city I visited was Saratov south of Moscow on the Volga River. The Volga is an immense body of water, reminiscent in history, culture, and commerce of our Mississippi River.
My host in Saratov was Sergey Ulyanov a Russian entrepreneur with a deep concern for the environment as a reflection of Russian culture and best business practices. Sergey drove me to see an amazing private enterprise facility in Saratov that has begun recycling. Although there is little separation of materials in Saratov, the company perseveres by collecting waste otherwise destined for landfill, then separates and recycles this material.
Christopher and Sergey standing on the frozen Volga River. Beyond the line of trees behind us and some distance away is Saratov’s first recycling plant.
From the visit I carried away many thoughts but two stand out in terms of the zero waste effort.
First, the grassroots of Russia is becoming increasingly active in terms of pursuing zero waste. However, the movement is far from new. In an atmosphere that is not always encouraging.
Second, Racing to Zero, can serve as an important model for some of the forms a zero waste effort can take. We have the opportunity to have a true nationwide impact in the Russian Federation. Our film can help in a major, major manner. We have the ability to set more zero wheels in motion.
And actually there would be a third impression. The US and Russia have been engaged in various forms of a Cold War during my entire lifetime. As I commented when I screened the film at the American embassy in St Petersburg: first there was an arms race and wasn’t that a lot of fun—and then there was a race to the moon— and now hopefully we could join forces in a race to achieve zero waste.
I experienced first-hand that a global environmental movement keeps the lines of person-to-person contact alive and builds bridges between our two nations rather than walls.
Christopher is introduced to the opening night audience at EcoCup.