24 October 2022

Good example

Simona Stiliyanova: From Small Steps in Recycling to a Zero Waste Community in Bulgaria


In 2018, Simona Stiliyanova created Zero Waste Sofia – a blog that is becoming a place to help the sustainable urban living. Thus, with friends and supporters, she is taking the first steps toward developing a Zero Waste community in Bulgaria. A small change in her personal life leads to a change for a better urban life for many others. Today Simona is a mother of one child and co-founder of Osnova – a Sustainable Business Advisor in Bulgaria


We, UNIQA Bulgaria, have supported ordinary people's ideas for a better life for 30 years. We believe that a good example inspires and finds its followers. In a series of stories, we will introduce several Bulgarians who have dedicated their lives to noble causes for the benefit of society.

We are meeting with Simona to tell us more about the cause she strongly believes in, which she started a few years ago. 


Simona, how does a young person decide to dedicate their time to a socially important cause such as reducing the negative impact we, humans, have on the environment?


It all started in a rather prosaic way, with a YouTube video in 2017. The video showed a girl collecting her trash from the last 4 years in a small jar. This made me think about how much unnecessary waste we are generating, how many resources we are wasting in vain, and what kind of footprint we leave on the environment. It motivated me to start reading more to learn more about the problem and look for solutions. I started with the little things in my daily life, and in a few years, it has now become my professional vocation.


Tell us more about the Fountains of Bulgaria map.


In 2018, I created the Fountains of Bulgaria map because we are full of free sources of good drinking water around us, yet we throw away 5 million plastic bottles daily. Not to mention how much money we spend on water. And in fact, 40% of bottled water is filtered tap water [Tapped documentary].


In 2019, the Fountains of Bulgaria initiative was one of 30 semi-finalists out of over 500 projects from across Europe fighting against single-use plastic.


There are over 1,600 fountains on the map, and many active volunteers are adding new ones daily. Anyone who wishes can join in by ticking a fountain. There are also over 40 establishments offering water from the tap, filling the reusable bottle for free.:)


How can we be more environmentally responsible in our daily lives?


The simplest way is to ask ourselves, "Do I really need this?" The foundation of Zero Waste is, first and foremost responsible and conscious shopping. By only buying what we need, replacing single-use products such as plastic bags, cups, cutlery, etc., with reusable ones, and spending a little time on the separate disposal of what is still left, we can reduce a large part of our waste and footprint. The 5 steps to waste reduction are “Refuse-Reduce-Reuse-Recycle-Rot.” In other words, you refuse what you don't need, reduce what you do need, reuse what you already have, and recycle or compost what would otherwise end up at the landfill. I myself am far from the coveted goal, but by following them, I have managed to reduce my waste by about 80%.


In recent years you have also created Osnova, aimed at companies in Bulgaria who are willing to develop their business sustainably. Tell us more about Osnova's activities.


For a couple of years, I have focused on individual contributions to reducing our negative environmental impact. I started to be approached by companies who wanted to make their business sustainable. So, I decided it was time for the next step to bring about more remarkable change. During the pandemic, I went through a specialization in sustainability and sustainable business at the University of Colorado. I connected with Bozhana Zagorcheva, who has an impressive background in process optimization, and with whom I share common green values. That's how we launched Osnova. 


Bozhana and I met in 2019 during my participation in the European Commission Social Innovation Competition, where she was my mentor and helped me immensely in transforming Fountains of Bulgaria into a complete platform.


At Osnova, we are committed to helping our clients identify their key areas of environmental impact, set relevant science-based targets to reduce it and work with them to achieve these goals. Through strong communication support and storytelling, we help them engage stakeholders to achieve real, sustainable change. We also organize positive and practical trainings and break down myths associated with green living. For almost two years, we have worked with various media, telecom, FMCG, and retail companies.


How has the cause you started years ago changed your life for the better?


The cause has literally become my profession. My passion for environmental conservation made me willing to learn more about the subject, be prepared and act on a larger scale. It has introduced me to a lot of great people, helped me live more consciously, and helped me spend more time on important things :)


What is your advice to companies, teams, and people who want to reduce their negative environmental footprints? 


You should focus on where you are starting from: which aspect of your business has the biggest impact on the environment? Set clear and specific goals and deadlines. Break them down into smaller ones and be motivated by your success. 


Simona Stylianova, business card

Professionally involved in corporate communications. She started writing the Zero Waste Sofia blog in 2018. Through this blog, she aims to show that fast-paced urban life can be sustainable without much effort. In the fight to reduce single-use plastics, she created the Fountains of Bulgaria map, which in 2019 became a semi-finalist in a European Commission Social Innovation Competition. Thanks to volunteers from all over the country, it will take you to more than 1,600 fountains.


In recent years, it has focused on individual contributions to reducing our negative impact on the environment. To make an even bigger difference, she went through a specialization in sustainability at the University of Colorado, and together with Bozhana Zagorcheva, they founded Osnova – a sustainable Business Advisor in Bulgaria.

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гр. София 1000,
бул. Тодор Александров 18

Working hours

Понеделник - Петък 8:30 - 17:30

© UNIQA Bulgaria