Islands seeking sustainability badge of honor

Cosmetics from seaweed and, of course, recycling are just some of the projects being carried out on Aegean islands that have joined the Aegean Islands’ Sustainability Network (DAFNI) in order to qualify for a Sustainability Badge from the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA). So far the island of Kea has qualified, and Andros, Ios, Lemnos, Myconos, Milos and Samothrace are expected to be approved within the year. The network is part of a program in which islands must carry out environmentally friendly and cultural activities. These are then evaluated by a group of researchers from the NTUA. The network is coordinated by and receives expert support from the Interdisciplinary Institute of Environmental Research (DIPE). «The islands only have a future if they follow a sustainable path,» said Mayor of Ios Giorgos Poussaios, one of the founders of the idea for the network. He said that maintaining the island’s character was necessary, both for tourism development and the permanent residents’ quality of life. On Ios, the program includes a hybrid energy park and collaboration with Athens University’s biology department for the cultivation and exploitation of seaweed to make paper pulp and cosmetics. The Ios municipal authority also aims to support primary production on the island in every way. The question is whether two or three environmentally friendly activities are enough for an island to qualify as environmentally friendly when elsewhere on the island crimes are possibly being committed against the environment. «The purpose of the network is to encourage efforts toward sustainability. We also take into consideration the general situation prevailing on the island,» said Professor Kimon Hatzibiros, head of the evaluation group at the NTUA. «Joining the network has encouraged the local government and residents to see development in a different light,» said DIPE President Ilias Evthymiopoulos. Already 29 islands and 35 municipalities have joined DAFNI as it is being implemented at local government level. Local officials are asked to draft programs and carry out activities that benefit the environment and protect cultural heritage and society. These are then evaluated by a group of 22 researchers. Kea – the first island evaluated, receiving a score of 75 percent, with 60 percent being considered the base mark – recycles electrical appliances, paper and glass. It has closed two illegal garbage dumps and mapped out nine hiking trails totaling 35 kilometers. Within the next few months, a new waste treatment plant is to open.