Meet Istanbul treehugger and journalist Gökçe Uygun

Gökçe Uygun for Green Prophet

One thing I have noticed over the years while working as a sustainability reporter and editor: we are rarely interviewed by other media despite being experts in our field. It might have something to do with competition in the media, but I’d rather think that we just tend to forget the obvious. We were happy to meet Gökçe Uygun on a social media forum concerned about making Istanbul “eco” and what’s a better way to know Istanbul’s sustainability scene than through a curious reporter. 

Gökçe Uygun, 42, and based in the Kadıköy neighborhood of Istanbul is a journalist working for the Gazete Kadıköy (a local newspaper of the Kadıköy Municipality) for the last 13 years. We have some questions for her and here is what she says:

1. Tell us about the environment movement in Turkey? What’s happening? What should we care about?

There are many organizations in Turkey, locally and globally (such as Greenpeace, Turkey).

Uncontrolled mining activities, hydropower plants, reduction of green areas in cities during urban transformation processes, air pollution (especially in metropolitan cities), pollution of the Marmara Sea, the government’s Canal Istanbul Project.  Environmentalist organizations and local people are fighting against these kinds of issues.

2. What are your three favorite projects or ideas that are happening? Can you tell us a little more about them?

First; there is a ‘Repair Club’. It’s an Istanbul based social enterprise. They have great projects.

Second  Meatless Monday.

Third, Plastbanta (a plastic detox & diet in Swedish)

3. What are the 3 biggest environmental problems in Turkey?

The destruction of forests and water resources, a decrease in green areas, people’s bad habits… some people throw their trash to the streets, still. Can you believe that?!

Gökçe Uygun

4. How are people dealing with these issues, the government?

First of all I would like to say that it’s very difficult to be an environmentalist in Turkey. Remember the Gezi Park protest…  a few people were killed and many injured; some people are still in prison just because they defended trees. So environmentalists are fighting with demonstrations in the field and on the legal side. 

Related: Turkish couple murdered for trying to save the land they loved

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Turkish couple murdered for trying to save the land they loved

5. What are the best ways for tourists to experience an eco-friendly day out in Istanbul? Any activities?

If you’re a tourist and take a eco-friendly day out in Istanbul I suggest you visit Kadıköy. Because Kadıköy’s people are very aware about these issues and also the Kadıköy Municipality offers many options. You can start your day with a vegan breakfast. Then shopping Kadıköy Municipality’s zero waste shop. Also you can visit Kadıköy Municipality’s Ecological Life Centre where you can take part some activities. Besides, you can shop at the flea market.

6. If you had a 1 billion Euros to invest in Istanbul what would you do?

I would spent it on public transport. Because there are too many private cars. This investment would reduce that. Also I would give a bicycle to everyone : )

7 . Nature is such a big part of Turkey. Is there any nature tourism around Istanbul

Gökçe Uygun, treehugger

Treehugger Gökçe Uygun

Yes I guess so. There are some groups/travel companies making trekking tours to Istanbul’s ponds, forests

8. Where do sustainability people hang out and what do they do?

They’re mostly vegan people at the same time. So they have their community. For example ı know a vegan group who organise a vegan picnic once a month in Kadıköy. They try to lead a sustainable life; buy second hand clothes, furniture, or swap them, separate their garbage, don’t use plastic bags.. etc.

9. What inspired you to become an environmental reporter? 

Actually we can’t say I am just an environmental reporter. I cover stories about any issue. But of course I really care about environmental correspondence and I focus on it from time to time.

10. Did you study? 

I graduated from Marmara University in Journalism

11. Tell us about yourself growing up…were you a city kid or a country kid?

Oh, unfortunately I was totally a city kid. I was born and grew up in Istanbul — such a metropolis. My mum didn’t used to let me play at outside. I didn’t have much of a relationship with nature, until I became an adult. Now I realize the value of nature and I am in love with it.

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