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Clean Phangan is a team of Koh Phangan Eco Volunteers. Their goal is to clear the island of debris and rubbish with beach cleans every Tuesday. We speak to members Alexey Savkin, Natalia Shesterninova and Galina Obrazcova.
What is your Phangan story?
Alexey: Each of us has our own history of relationship with the island - this is where I started my journey around the world. In the very beginning, I already knew that I would return to Phangan. I have visited many islands and for me, Phangan is the best place on Earth.
Why did you fall in love with the island?
Natalia: My acquaintance with the island started in 2015. It shouldn't surprise you if I say that I came here to do yoga and meditate, but then I fell in love at first sight and started having annual trips to Phangan.
Galina: I have known Phangan for 6 years and during this time I managed to get familiar with its different sides quite well. I started with the parties and the southern part of the island. Then there was yoga and vegetarianism and my interests shifted to Sri Thanu. Now I feel like I am somewhere in the middle - I just like being on the island.
Phangan is a kind of utopia, a model of the desired world of the future embodied in a specific geographical point. I won’t say that our social structure is perfect and life is harmonious. However, it is obvious that the island is different from any other city. The main thing is that the people who live here are trying to answer the question: “What should we do to be happy now?” The majority of people in the world set a goal of becoming happy in the future.
Natalia: It is impossible to explain why, but every time with the beginning of winter approaching in Russia you start to think about the warmth and the tropics and you don't consider any other option except Phangan. It's magic!
Galina: I feel calm and good here. Every time the island opens up from a new side for me, there is a high concentration of interesting people.
When did you start Phangan clean and why?
Alexey: We were not going to create an eco-community. It's just that in the spring I began to be very concerned with the amount of garbage on my favorite Than Sadet beach. Every time I came back with a bag of plastic waste. However, the amount of garbage didn’t become less. Then I calculated that it would take me around 5-7 years to clean Than Sadet beach. So, I decided to ask my friends to join me in cleaning. At first, there were 10 people, in a week already 15, then 20, then 25, then 40. Now some people have left but around 15-20 people still come every time to clean up the beach. The first cleaning meeting took place on May 19th. A month later I realised that people come every week. So, they needed it and we decided to start an eco-movement. Natalia came up with a wonderful thing: before cleaning outside, we clean inside. That is half an hour of meditation, she will tell about it better herself.
Natalia: By chance, I found myself among the first participants, whom Alexey called for cleaning up the beach. After that, I just could not stop.
However, just cleaning up the garbage in a small company seemed to be an easy-to-do task and I wanted something more. So, a spontaneous idea was born - invite Ajan Hubert to guide morning meditations for the participants (by chance, he happened to be on the island and couldn't leave just like all of us).
Fortunately, he agreed immediately and we have been meditating with him before cleaning-up for several weeks now.
Then one of these meetings brought us together with Galya, and when the one who has built a successful business and is actively involved in ecology joins the team, the project starts to develop at a quite different pace. So, now we have Instagram, a rubric "Clean habits from Galya". And it was only the beginning...
Galina: When I lived in Phuket I cleaned the nearest beach on my own and thought of organizing something similar. Then I came to Phangan and a friend told me that the guys were going to collect the garbage - everything just worked out!
Alexey: Our goal is to clean the island from plastic waste, to increase the share of recyclable plastic waste, to introduce the principles of eco-friendly behavior. There is a lot of work to do and not enough hands.
Is it just for the Russian community?
Alexey: Most of the people who come for cleaning are Russians. But representatives of the English-speaking community also come to us - Americans, Englishmen, Italians, Germans, and even one Japanese. We are open to everyone! And everyone is welcome.
What is the concept?
Galina: The concept is to make the world around us a bit cleaner every day. It is always a great joy when you can gather like-minded people because together you can do much more!
How can people help?
Alexey: Any help is important to us. We need volunteers to clean up, who will come every Tuesday. We also need people who will take care of educational projects and help us with the promotion on social networks.
How can people connect with you?
Alexey: you can contact us via Facebook page: Phangan.love. Through Instagram: Phangan.love. Or via Telegram: lovePhangan.
Hopes for the future with the project?
Alexey: we really hope to "infect" people in different countries with our idea. If people on different continents start to clean up garbage, to collect waste separately, to switch to the principles of ecological and responsible consumption - the problem with pollution will be solved to a greater extent...
As for our movement on the island. We plan to hold an eco-exhibition, involve Thais in cleaning, and organize cooperation with the administration.
Natalia: When we started developing Instagram, we were glad to notice how many communities and people around the world exist who enthusiastically collect garbage and try to lead an ecological lifestyle. We plan to share these communities with our readers so that everyone can find a company anywhere in the world because together it is more fun and productive!
Galina: It would be great to have people who will actively engage in the educational part. Because it is very important to convey to local residents what can be used instead of plastic, why it is not worth throwing it into the sea, and much more.