Jacek Schindler

Ashoka Fellow
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This description of Jacek Schindler's work was prepared when Jacek Schindler was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1995 .

Introduction

Jacek Schindler is working to make consumer packaging in Poland more environmentally friendly and is trying to increase the number of Polish recycling programs through a comprehensive public education and outreach campaign.

The New Idea

Jacek's goal is to educate people about the need for more ecologically sound packaging of consumer products and the need for increased recycling. Ninety percent of his work is public education, but this groundwork has increasingly led to seeking concrete policy and economic changes. To achieve his goal, Jacek has created a mobile exhibit that he takes all over Poland. It shows the public various packaging options in an entertaining way and uses a creative combination of packaging materials to present a colorful presentation on the history of consumer packaging and its impact on the environment. People are attracted to the exhibit because of its entertainment value. However, while being entertained, they become aware of the need for an improvement in product packaging and for greater recycling. In addition, they learn the power they have as consumers to change these practices.The mobility of the exhibit allows Jacek to travel to the smaller towns and isolated rural villages of Poland and educate the people on the need for recycling and other environmental issues. This is very important because villages are often ignored by organizations attempting to raise environmental awareness. Jacek recognizes that the rural consumer accounts for 40 percent of the Polish consumer market and believes that meaningful change in consumer behavior can not occur until rural consumers begin to demand recycling programs and increased use of environmentally friendly materials.Jacek also organizes special programs and contests for school-age children. These contests and programs educate young people about the environment, while also being fun and enjoyable. As part of this work, he has written a childrens book on the environment, which has already sold over one million copies. Jacek has begun to organize a consumer action group, which is lobbying for stricter environmental legislation and government oversight of manufacturers. Polish manufacturers frequently misrepresent their products. He hopes that this citizens' group will grow with the help of his consumer awareness campaign and will be able to pressure the government and manufacturers to change their policies and behavior.

The Problem

The advent of consumer culture in Poland has led to an explosion of goods available on the market. However, this has also led to an increase in the use of styrofoam, bottles, cans, and other packaging materials. Indeed, the volume of consumer waste found in municipal landfills has more than doubled in less than ten years. At the current rate, all of Poland's landfills will reach maximum capacity by the year 2005.

Sadly, the Polish consumer remains relatively unaware of the need to use biodegradable materials. Existing education programs have been concentrated in the large urban areas, such as Warsaw, and have completely ignored the smaller cities and villages. This has led to an unbalanced growth in consumer awareness and recycling programs. The imbalance has made it easier for Polish manufacturers to resist consumer pressure, since the uninformed rural Polish consumer accounts for approximately 40 percent of the total market.

The Strategy

The first stage of Jacek's program is to create consumer awareness of the need for environmentally friendly packaging and increased recycling. He has created an eye-catching and extremely entertaining mobile exhibit that he takes to shopping centers and stores during busy periods. This helps maximize his outreach efforts. In general, shop owners are cooperative because the extra attention and activity attracts more consumers.

Jacek is currently working with several journalists to develop a comprehensive multi-media campaign that will educate the public through the use of television, print media, radio and art. He hopes that his multifaceted campaign will create a national dialogue on the issue of recycling and environmentally friendly packaging.

Jacek believes that once consumer awareness has grown to sufficient level, consumer pressure will force manufacturers and the government to institute more environmentally friendly policies and procedures.

Jacek makes a special effort to reach out to children and has developed special programs for them. He visits schools and organizes activities and contest for children. Some examples of these programs are a national contest for the artistic use of consumer packaging (e.g. bottles, aluminum cans, etc.) and a national poster contest. Several of the posters and sculptures are now on permanent display in Jacek's exhibit.

The Person

Jacek came of age during the 1960s when the "counterculture movement," which advocated a peaceful coexistence with nature, was quite popular in Poland. As a young man, he traveled throughout Poland as a member of an experimental theater group and frequently spent long periods of time in Poland's forests. Activities of this nature were considered subversive by the government and as result the police persecuted Jacek.

In his mid-twenties, Jacek decided to return to school and pursued an education degree at Wroclaw University. Because of his "subversive" past, he suffered almost continuous harassment from university officials. Despite the persecution, Jacek successfully completed his education and became a teacher.

Jacek has used his experience as a teacher to develop his technique of educating the public about the environment. He has taught at Wroclaw University and has worked with several other environmental organizations. In addition to his work with the environment, he is the father of two children and enjoys swimming and hiking.