We at SOGH strive to integrate environmental sustainability into our work and to minimise our ecological footprint by making all our projects and activities as environmentally friendly as possible. In our Environmental Sustainability Policy you find more details about how we intend to reduce our impact. Below you find the most urgent and prominent steps we take to reach that goal within the work of our permanent projects, including waste reduction, waste management and transportation issues.
While we try to work as environmentally sustainable as possible, we do face some obstacles and must compromise along the way. For instance, some of our partners might not be as involved in environmental sustainability as we would like, due to systemic challenges. One example is the challenge of appropriate garbage management in Uganda, which is an important issue to address in the future, but which we cannot tackle for the time being.
We are constantly reflecting on the more hidden and underlying aspects and we do our best to detect and correct our ways of working. Be that as it may, we simultaneously must assure that the focal aim of our work and projects – health equality and the right to health – does not suffer under these changes. Another example where we tried to be more environmentally friendly but had to choose a less sustainable option was when choosing our bank. We recently compared the bank we are using as an organization to other banks, in terms of its social and environmental impacts, and found that there it was not doing so well. However, we decided not to change to a smaller, more sustainable, and fair bank, due to practical and financial reasons. Read more about our reflections and the decision-making process here.
Since SOGH is a rather small organization, we believe in the collaboration and engagement with several partners and networks, where members can learn from each other. Also, collective effort is often more powerful and sustainable. SOGH is collaborating with a number of partners and is part of some global networks, like the Planetary Health Alliance and the Wellbeing Economy Alliance to actively engage in a global network. This way SOGH remains active in current discussions around health, environmental sustainability as well as other related topics. SOGH joined the Planetary Health Alliance in 2019 to collaborate with organizations and institutions. This was also one of the motivations to join the Wellbeing Economy Alliance a year later. For the latter the idea was also to bring the perspective of a small not-for-profit organization that has health at its core to the global negotiation table, for a more holistic approach – also from our end. The active engagement of some SOGH members in the creation of the WEAll’s Policy Design Guide is one inspiring example for the fruitfulness of collaborative efforts. Another interesting network SOGH is part of is the SDSN Youth network of the nordic countries, which circles around the SDGs and their implications. The SDGs are considered extremely important for sustainable global health. This is just to mention a few of the networks. If you want to learn more about SOGH’s partners and supporters, visit their websites and check them out! You can find the full list here.
The Mama and Family project
One of the aspects of the project is the yearly evaluation of the project, which requires SOGH volunteers to fly over to Uganda in order to interview the on-site workers. Due to the high carbon footprint of air travel, the possibility of conducting the interviews virtually has been considered. In fact, the COVID crisis has made flying impossible, so in 2020 SOGH was given the opportunity to try out virtual interviews. Unfortunately, challenges were presented: the internet connection over in the villages is inconsistent and the volunteers were only able to interview one of the coordinators and got a narrow view of the project. One of the purposes of the project is to establish a relationship based on trust with the local villagers and on-site workers, which can hardly be achieved by virtual communication. However, it has been proposed that the SOGH volunteers who travel to Uganda should only be a few, long-time members of SOGH as opposed to summer interns. This would ensure that the relationship built over the trip is long-lasting and that the positive outcomes of the trip outweigh the negatives.
Locally, the volunteers use bikes, which are a climate responsible way to travel. Fancy, the nurse responsible for visiting the pregnant women and young mothers, takes local taxis. This is necessary as she has to travel between distant villages and also has to arrive in a timely manner.
Additionally, SOGH provides the expectant mothers with Mama Kits required for the birth. These consist of sterile gloves, plastic sheets, cord ligature, razor blades, tetracycline, cotton, soap and sanitary pads. The products are bought from a company in Uganda, for a shorter way of transport and to support the country’s economy rather than importing the resources from abroad. While some of the components of the kits are plastic based, they are necessary as maintaining a sterile and safe environment during the birth is a key goal of the project.
The Ekibadha project
The question of flying is presented once again: similarly to the Mama and Family project, it has been decided that flying is justifiable but only by people who are involved on a long-term basis with SOGH and will help build a relationship with our Ugandan partners.
The choice of menstrual products that will be provided depends on the local conditions. In an attempt to be environmentally responsible, as well as help the community become self-sufficient, SOGH wants to provide the villages with reusable menstrual products. This includes menstrual cups and reusable pads. While running water is not a reliable resource, there is a communal tap in most villages, which means that the menstrual cups and pads can be boiled after use, making them a viable option. The project consists of educational campaigns as well. Similarly to the choice of menstrual products, the purpose of the project is to help the communities become self-sufficient. Educational materials should be durable eg. flyers should be laminated, demonstration materials should be high-quality.
The Tanden Frisk project
Due to Covid-19 this project has been paused in its original form. Once the project can take place in person again, the workshops will be held by local volunteers in order to avoid unnecessary travels. Within the city, the involved people will be relying on public transportation and bicycles for their commute.
Due to the pandemic situation and the project being on hold, the managers are currently considering the possibility of having online events instead. Furthermore, they have been working on a blog series around oral hygiene. Since this targets a very different audience, the plan is to continue with the original project once the infection risk has dramatically decreased and it is responsible again to visit the students in their classrooms. When the project will be taken up again, the plan is to find an agreement with a company producing more sustainable toothbrushes and perhaps changing the routine somewhat so that the children can take the toothbrushes home with them, instead of using them one time only in the classroom. However, the Tanden Frisk project still holds onto a large donation of plastic toothbrushes which will be used first.