Athens Sustainability Center

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Athens Sustainability Center: An educational center, a cozy hangout and a hub for sustainable community action

Athens, GreeceAthens, Greece
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Athens Sustainability Center will offer education on sustainability and systems thinking. It will also serve as a cozy café and a hub of action where people can hang out and exchange ideas, networking their way towards true wellbeing and sustainability.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if we didn’t view the environment as separate from ourselves but saw it instead as an integral part of human society and economies?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Lacking sustainability education, most Athenians don’t understand how the environment is connected to human society and the economy, even though they are impacted daily by environmental stresses. They are caught in a vicious cycle: they don’t recognize how their actions contribute to the degradation of Greece’s environment, and this in turn undermines community health and the country's long-term prosperity. This needs to change.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

The Athens Sustainability Center’s mission is to: 1) teach sustainability and systems thinking, and 2) create a hub for sustainability action. ASC provides a cozy place where people can come to learn about the major issues of our time and how to put sustainability ideas into action. The center offers participatory, non-formal education via courses, workshops, events, consultation and research. ASC inspires people to work together to make Athens a healthier place. Participants in the center’s programs gain: a deep understanding of the common roots of ecological, social and economic problems; tools for living, working and collaborating more sustainably; a network of similarly motivated people; empowerment and motivation.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Maria attended a ten-week course on sustainability at ASC. There she learned to see herself and the world around her more systemically. She learned that a plastic bag she throws away might end up in the belly of an albatross in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and that her discarded cell phone probably pollutes communities in Nigeria. She understood that sustainability is more than “ecology”; it’s about the wellbeing of human societies. She saw that her everyday actions matter and thus decreased her impact on the environment. Maria became empowered with new skills and a supportive network. Now she is working on a project that will make her neighborhood more sustainable. Maria also travels all over Greece, giving workshops on sustainability.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

Quantitative: 650 participants will learn about sustainable issues annually. If a mere 5% of attendees start a project in their communities, within 5 years there will be 160 new sustainability initiatives in Athens. Moreover 9000 café customers annually will consume affordable, ethical products, while 4000 more people will learn about sustainability through the annual festival and outreach work. Qualitative: Participants will acquire a new perception of the world, become more empowered citizens, and assume personal responsibility. An increasing number will assume environmentally-friendly behavior and become changemakers in their communities. The center will have a “multiplying effect” due to the participants’ influence on family members and friends. ASC will establish a network dedicated to mutual learning and developing healthier, more sustainable communities.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

Part of ASC’s role is to train participants to become sustainability educators themselves. Focus is placed on educating teachers and children, who have a strong “multiplier effect”. ASC will also work with schools and companies and will host festivals and events, to have a wider range of impact. Over the years, ASC aims to become the main hub for sustainability education and action in Greece, by networking with individuals and groups domestically and abroad. ASC is eager to help others develop similar initiatives; more sustainability education increases the marketplace and benefits society.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Apart from being socially and environmentally sustainable, ASC will be a financially self-sufficient not-for-profit enterprise. Its streams of revenue will include fees for courses, workshops, and sustainability consulting, as well as selling coffee, drinks and snacks. As a not-for-profit, it can also accept grants and donations, which it plans on pursuing in the start-up phase, without becoming charity-dependent in the long-run.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

The crisis has shown that the current system is failing people and a growing number are seeking alternatives. Hence many environmental and social initiatives are taking place in Athens, providing exciting opportunities for collaboration. But no one offers non-formal education on systems thinking and sustainability. Moreover, current initiatives are doing great work in practical terms, but are missing the big picture, which our team’s educational background offers. Our holistic understanding, grounded in sound theory coupled with action, will strengthen the work of other changemakers.

Founding Story

When she moved to Athens five years ago, Jen saw the need for a sustainability education center. It was after attending a workshop on sustainable economics in late 2013 that she decided to go for it. She was shocked when she saw the workshop leaders were flown in from the UK to share the same skills and knowledge that her local friends had, but could not find a way to use in their work in Athens. Plus her friends understood the Greek context, a vital aspect the UK leaders lacked. This was a waste of resources and human capital. A week later she decided it was time to ask colleagues to join her in making this center a reality. Connected by a passion for making the world better, the group has been working since to bring this project to life.


The team is currently made up of three sustainability scientists, with backgrounds in psychology, international affairs and physics, who studied together in Sweden, a biological anthropologist and a student of linguistics and sustainability. The group has substantial experience in working together. They have complementary skills, knowledge and interests. They all have a strong entrepreneurial spirit and a great capacity to think out-of-the-box.