Thanks to our partners in eastern Sicily – Saja – we sent five of our sustainability enthusiasts to take part in a ten-day ERASMUS+ Youth Exchange this month, alongside two other environmental organisations from Portugal (Gaia) and Greece (Iliosporoi Network). Set at the foot of Mount Etna and surrounded by a sea of blood orange groves, the ‘Sustainable Lifestyle Course’ was the perfect setting to explore biodiversity and organic growing.
On the first day our participants delved into the permaculture principles of Earth Care, People Care, and Faith Share and later took a tour of Saja to see how they catch and store energy, manage their waste water and create their own composting. The next few days were spent observing the landscape and microclimates of the site, as well as better understanding the different methods of organic gardening – such as biointensive which keeps crops closely planted to avoid weed growth and bioactive which keeps soil healthy and nutrient-rich by adopting a ‘no dig’ technique. Later our participants explored social sustainability topics, discussing different models and processes for decision-making, such as Democracy versus Sociocracy and consent versus consensus. Finally, they looked at economic sustainability and agreed on the need to shift from a linear system wherein resources are extracted, transformed into products and then thrown away, to a more circular or spiral system that extracts, transforms and then reuses or recycles. It was great to discover a living example of financial sustainability in the Spirulina project being hosted at Saja.
Overall, our five participants came away feeling motivated to continue pursuing a sustainable lifestyle and with the knowledge and skills needed to make it a reality. It was fantastic to share not only the groups passion for low-impact living, but time, food (Spirulina pizza!) and company with people from all walks of life and with different histories of being on and caring for our planet. As one of the permaculture principles states, we truly learnt how to use and value diversity.