WWF's Ioana Betieanu: Earth Hour is already a tradition in Romania



Posted on 16 March 2013  | 
Ioana Betieanu, Head of Communications at WWF Romania.
Ioana Betieanu, Head of Communications at WWF Romania.
© Doru OprisanEnlarge
Earth Hour is a simple idea that started in Sydney six years ago and quickly turned into a global phenomenon. Hundreds of millions of people around the world turn off their lights for one hour on the same night, to focus on the one thing that unites us all - our planet. With the expected support of over 400 cities across Central and Eastern Europe, Ioana Betieanu, Head of Communications at WWF Romania, talks to Olga Apostolova about the ins and outs of organizing Earth Hour in Romania.

Is this your first Earth Hour?
Actually, this is the fifth Earth Hour campaign that I am a part of. I have had the chance to see the Earth Hour movement grow in Romania since its very first edition in 2009. Today it has become a flagship environmental event for municipalities, schools, NGOs and also for us - WWF.

How big is Earth Hour in Romania? How many cities on average take part?
Our latest survey shows that six out of ten Romanians have heard about Earth Hour and four out of ten celebrate it. These are impressive numbers that we have achieved in four short years. Earth Hour is already a tradition in Romania. Since January people start asking us what we intend to do for Earth Hour, teachers begin to engage their classes, other NGO`s create events. In 2013 we expect that at least 40 cities and towns will participate. However, we don’t measure the impact by counting them, but by following their evolution, seeing them embrace new ideas and actions, engaging more and more their communities.

What would be the culmination of Earth Hour in Romania this year?
The main reason we organize Earth Hour in Romania is because it strengthens our community more and more every year. We like to think about Earth Hour as our community`s main celebration, similar to New Year`s Eve. WWF`s New Year`s Eve. On the night, we come together, we meet new friends, we make resolutions and we celebrate. So for this year our greatest wish is to see our community bigger and more connected.

How big is your Earth Hour team?
People may think that behind the huge Earth Hour “machine” in Romania is a big team with enormous budget. Not even close! This year we are a team of three, struggling to bring our ideas to life, and turn our dreams into action. Apart from myself, on the team are Mara Cazacu, Communications Officer at WWF Romania, and Madalina Petrica, a very enthusiastic intern. We are very lucky to have the support of all other teams at WWF Romania, especially the Education and Corporate Relations teams. And of course, all this under the watchful eye of our Country Manager Magor Csibi, whose contribution is invaluable.

Do you have volunteers helping you this year? What do they do?
Volunteers have played an essential role in every Earth Hour and in all other events we organize. They are not only enthusiastic and hardworking, but see things with fresh eyes and their input is incredibly valuable. Sometimes, because we are over-exposed to things and ideas, we need to rely on fresh eyes.

We have volunteers in the office who maintain contact with municipalities and institutions – like Madalina or Alexandru, another dedicated old friend of WWF. But there are also the volunteers who come to the events, take photos, distribute materials, talk to people, help us with the logistics. For them it is usually quite interesting to switch from being members of the audience to actually being part of the team of organizers. Actually, two members of WWF Romania’s communications team started as Earth Hour volunteers, passing through several stages of development.

Do you have celebrity "ambassadors" helping you this year?
WWF Romania has many friends, some of them quite famous. For Earth Hour we have the big support of Zoli Toth, a musician who accepted to be Earth Hour Ambassador in 2009 and has done it ever since. This year some of our friends will support us publicly by attending the press conferences and our events. Dalma Kovács, a very popular young pop and jazz singer, will sing at the Earth Hour big event and the actor Bogdan Dumitrache will celebrate with us in Timişoara, Romania’s Earth Hour Capital this year.

What is your most favorite part in organizing Earth Hour?
I have to admit that I love campaigning more than any other branch of communications, because it is about more than communicating, it stimulates action. Getting the public support and the public attention is a huge source of energy for an NGO, but also a test of legitimacy. If we manage to create a dialogue within society, it means that the change we want to generate is already on its way. Earth Hour is now also in my “personal file”, being my first campaign, the beginning of my dialogue with WWF supporters. Every year brings new, positive experiences, new friends join us. We can speak about a big Earth Hour family already. But the best thing by far is that Earth Hour has brought us two ambitious and smart colleagues in the team.

What is your least favorite part?
Every year, after Earth Hour, I regret very much that I have not been able to answer the hundreds of requests that come from all over the country. We struggle to offer everybody the basic guidelines for organizing Earth Hour-branded events. We created special guidelines for municipalities, schools, kindergartens and companies. We try to produce as many materials as we can, but we never manage to satisfy everybody. We are only an NGO, a big one, but with limited logistics capacity.

What did you dare the world this year?
I would invite the world or at least my friends to reflect more on what they buy every day. To try to guess or imagine where the things they buy come from, who made them, in what conditions, what kind of materials were used and where the product will end up. And if they don`t know the answer, to search for it. Sometimes we watch shocking documentaries or news about the long and not so transparent chain behind different products, we are deeply moved, we decide to become more aware and responsible, but then we go back to our old behavior. This is a normal reaction, but if we make an effort we can change this.

Where will you be at 8:30 on March 23rd?
I will be in Timişoara, our Earth Hour Capital this year, celebrating with our friends. We have prepared a beautiful event in Opera Square, including both plugged and unplugged moments. Dalma Kovács will sing for the Earth Hour audience. We have also prepared a percussion show, a short performance of kids playing bells, fire-juggling, star-gazing, and some very special huge candles done by a social NGO. Timişoara is a lovely city, with exemplary environmental practices, and people are very much looking forward to Earth Hour.
Ioana Betieanu, Head of Communications at WWF Romania.
Ioana Betieanu, Head of Communications at WWF Romania.
© Doru Oprisan Enlarge
Bistrita, Romania's Earth Hour Capital in 2012.
© WWF-Romania/Doru Oprisan Enlarge

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