Agents of change: for 25 years Sunce is preserving nature, the environment and sustainable development

25 godina Sunca, zaposlenici

A special moment in Sunce’s history was June 21st, 1998, when the first assembly of our association for nature, environment, and sustainable development was held. This important date marks the beginning of efforts to preserve nature and the environment and promote a sustainable way of life. Over the past 25 years, we have joined forces with numerous individuals, organizations, and institutions to achieve our goals. Our fight to protect nature and biodiversity has been constant.

In this article, we will highlight Sunce’s key moments and successes. This includes initiatives for establishing protected areas, promoting sustainable tourism, protecting the seas and land, and educating people about the importance of environmental conservation.

Cardboard boxes for paper collection – Sunce member’s success story

While the generations currently working or volunteering in Sunce were still children, the late Tomislav Lerotić, our dear member, eco-activist, and professor, initiated the cardboard boxes for paper collection idea. With the support of Sunce’s staff and volunteers, he placed the first boxes in Split, and they soon became a part of almost every household and residential building in the city. Cardboard boxes for paper collection not only became a trend but also opened a new market area.

Lastovo archipelago becomes a nature park

Thanks to dedication, persistence, and systematic work on projects and programs, Sunce, in collaboration with other stakeholders, achieved a great success 16 years ago: the proclamation of Lastovo archipelago as a nature park. We received the prestigious award for merits in nature conservation from the WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature) organization for our contribution to the declaration of this protected area in 2008.

Over 350 km2 of marine habitats are mapped

Over the past 25 years, we have successfully mapped over 350 km2 of beautiful marine habitats, and this number continues to increase. The mapping process is a prerequisite for future monitoring of conditions and the implementation of management measures for habitat types and species (such as the seagrass meadows of Posidonia oceanica), as well as the protection of endangered species.

Sustainable future education: 660 workshops, 14,000 participants and unique programs

Since 1998, we have had the honor of conducting over 660 workshops for more than 14,000 participants. That is over 14,000 individuals who have been educated about the importance of environmental conservation and sustainable development. Our educational programs are the heart of our educational work because they allow us to engage with participants effectively over a longer period of time and delve into the core issues. Starting June 1, 2023, our educational programs also carry the #SKOCKANO quality mark.

Dalmatia Green sustainable accommodation

15 years ago, we launched a program for certifying the environmentally responsible operations of small tourist accommodation establishments called EkoPartner. The program was later renamed to Dalmatia Green. In 2021, the Dalmatia Green certificate was listed on the DestiNet portal for sustainable and responsible tourism within the United Nations Partnership for Sustainable Development. This marked an important step towards enhancing the sustainability of accommodation establishments in Dalmatia. Our Dalmatia Green members are featured on the international Tourism2030 website, meaning that all our sustainable accommodation facilities are recognized on the global map of “green” accommodations.

For the past two years, we have been conducting theoretical and practical courses for young professionals in sustainable tourism with a focus on the Dalmatia Green Certificate.

Service-Learning for the environment and sustainable development introduced to our universities

Service-learning (SL) develops a democratic way of thinking and acting by combining theory with the practical work of students for the common good. Sunce introduced the SL program to the Science and Technical School in 2011, and in 2015, we expanded boundaries and began a successful collaboration with faculties in Split. Through joint efforts we created synergy between the academic community and the civil sector, resulting in an even greater positive impact on the local community and the environment! We organized the first SL conference at the University of Split in 2018. In the same year, we received recognition from the University of Split for our successful collaboration. This recognition represents an acknowledgement of our efforts and contributions to promoting sustainable development through education.

Guardians of Posidonia

Over the past 25 years, we have strived to raise public awareness about the importance of certain species in our Adriatic Sea that are crucial for preserving its beauty. One such species is Posidonia oceanica. One of the biggest threats to Posidonia is the growth of nautical tourism, specifically anchoring in its meadows. For over 20 years, Sunce has been advocating for the installation of eco-friendly moorings in bays all over the Adriatic.  Therefore, in 2019, eco-friendly moorings were installed in the Lastovo Archipelago Nature Park, and in 2022, in the Kornati National Park. The establishment of eco-friendly moorings is the result of long-term financial and administrative efforts. Additionally, in 2012, we established monitoring of Posidonia meadows in five marine parks: Mljet National Park, Lastovo Archipelago Nature Park, Kornati National Park, Telašćica Nature Park, and Brijuni National Park. Posidonia meadows, with their abundance of plant and animal life, have become our passion and dedication!

We tend to public’s right to participate in important decision-making

Over ten years ago, we noticed shortcomings in involving and informing the public in the processes of waste management plan development in several cities and municipalities in Split-Dalmatia County. However, the Ministry did not include Sunce’s objections in the national report, and the environmental protection inspection took no action. Therefore, we contacted the Secretariat of the Aarhus Convention, a convention that ensures transparency of information, the opportunity for participation, and access to information on environmental matters for all of us. In July 2013, the Council accepted our arguments and instructed the Ministry to regulate public participation in the development of waste management plans. The new act enabled public participation at the local level. With this success in the fight for the right to participate, we have proven that nobody has a monopoly on knowledge.

Volunteers’ contribution

Since 2016, Sunce has been a hosting organization for international volunteers in the European Voluntary Service program. From 2008 to 2022, our volunteers have devoted an incredible 33,604 volunteer hours! Their passion, dedication, and tireless work have enriched every aspect of our work. To further strengthen volunteering for nature and the environment, as early as 2015, we established an intensive volunteering system in 19 national parks and nature parks in Croatia. With our volunteers, we work on nature conservation and strive to create a better future for all of us.

Waste incineration at CEMEX successfully prevented

Eight years ago, a final judgment from the Administrative Court in Split brought great news. The decision that allowed CEMEX to incinerate municipal waste at the St. Juraj and St. Kajo factories was revoked. Sunce and the City of Kaštela jointly opposed this practice, which could have seriously jeopardized the environment and the health of the local population. Thanks to our efforts, waste incineration, with all its harmful consequences, did not occur. The final judgment emphasized the importance of the right to a healthy environment, confirming that civil society organizations play a crucial role in protecting our environment.

How did we reduce the use of thousands of plastic cups daily?

In 2012, 84% of kindergartens used disposable plastic cups, resulting in an average of 8,000 to 9,000 plastic cups becoming waste each day. Parents of children in Split kindergartens were spending 240,000.00 HRK annually on plastic cups. We decided to advocate for change and began lobbying with kindergartens, city authorities, and ministries. The changes were slow and challenging, but they finally arrived. One kindergarten discontinued this practice in 2017, and others followed with the adoption of a city ordinance banning the use of disposable plastic cups in kindergartens in Split!

Green phone – citizen engagement tool

Established in 1992, the Green Phone aims to encourage Croatia’s citizens to actively participate in environmental protection. To date, we have received over 4,886 cases, and we continue our mission without relenting. Your support and active participation are crucial for creating a healthier environment for all of us.

zeleni-telefon-udruga-sunce

If you notice an environmental issue, you can report it by calling 072 123 456 or by contacting us via email: [email protected]

Closure of the Split zoo

For years, alongside numerous organizations and individuals, we advocated for an end to the inhumane treatment of animals at the zoo on Marjan Hill. Our dedication and persistence eventually paid off! The closure of the zoo in 2014 freed many animals from dark cages and unnatural conditions.

Declaration of the Natura 2000 network

In 2014, Sunce participated in a crucial step for the declaration of the Croatian Natura 2000 network – the ecological network of protected areas within the European Union! The European Union was considering whether Croatia had proposed adequate areas for inclusion in the Natura 2000 network. Our role was to verify the sufficiency of the data that Croatia was submitting to the European Commission. In other words, if they had overlooked something, we were there to alert them. The majority of the most important proposals from NGOs were accepted. We received a decision for additional research on Posidonia, offshore marine reefs, and marine bird areas. Areas of important Croatian rivers were added, and new target species and habitats were added to several existing areas. We are particularly proud that, according to the European Commission, this was one of the best-prepared biogeographic seminars of a member state!

First Assessment of the Marjan Forest Park ecosystem service in the Marjan Forest Park

Marjan Hill plays an important role for the city of Split and its residents. It is rich in flora and fauna, as well as in monuments that testify to Split’s rich cultural heritage. In order to contribute to the preservation of Split’s green lungs, in 2015, we conducted the first assessment of the Marjan Forest Park ecosystem service in the Marjan Forest Park. This assessment was another step towards raising awareness of the importance of preserving one of the most precious natural treasures in our community.

The first plastic-smart cities in Croatia

In battling plastic pollution, Sunce teamed up with WWF Mediterranean in the Plastic Smart Cities project in 2020! By signing a cooperation agreement, Dubrovnik became the first plastic-smart city in Croatia, and in July 2020, the city of Trogir joined the project as well! Dubrovnik and Trogir have adopted the Action Plan for Reducing Plastic Pollution from 2021 to 2026 and have committed, by decree, to take measures to reduce the amount of plastic waste in the city by 55% by 2025!

With the complementary project For Plastic-Free Croatian Islands, the Action Plan and verdicts on limiting the use of single-use plastics in the city and institutions and companies in the (co)ownership of the city were adopted by Stari Grad on Hvar and the Municipality of Sali on Dugi Otok. Additionally, in 2023, we conducted a similar service for the Vransko Lake Nature Park and the Public Institution “More i Krš”.

Over 6.5 tons of waste collected from the sea

Over the past 25 years, we have organized more than 33 cleanup actions, bringing together a community of nature and environmental enthusiasts. We proudly highlight that during these actions, we have collected over 6.5 tons of waste. To ensure systematic waste monitoring, in 2020, we developed a protocol for the implementation of projects for cleaning marine environment and coastal areas from marine litter in the Republic of Croatia. This protocol provides guidelines for the effective implementation of cleanups.

Sunce is growing and evolving

Throughout all these years, our Sunce community has grown. From 1998 until today, Sunce has had 50 employees, exceptional individuals who have contributed to our collective success, and 382 Sunce members, 30 of whom are actively involved in our work. In over 25 years, we have implemented a total of 270 projects and services, ranging from local to international scales. Our revenue from economic activities has also grown over the years, and our financial stability is the result of careful resource management.

However, our job is not done. We still face challenges in environmental conservation and the creation of a sustainable future. We want to thank you for your support and engagement over the past 25 years. Your support has inspired and motivated us to continue working towards our vision. Our vision is a world where nature thrives, biodiversity is protected, and people live in harmony with nature. In the following years, together we will focus on strengthening the protection of protected areas, promoting sustainable development in local communities, and raising awareness about the importance of environmental conservation.

Thank you for being a part of our story. Without you, our work would not be possible. Let’s continue building a world that leaves a legacy for future generations. Become a member, volunteer, or donate.

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