ISTANBUL - Turkish Daily News

The city of Istanbul might seem rather empty this August, and its residents may be enjoying the last rays of sun by the beach somewhere south of the Marmara, but some of the city's expatriate women are thinking of how to make the city just a little greener this fall.
In an effort to help promote environmental stewardship, the Professional American Women of Istanbul, or PAWI, are cooking up a plan, pooling their creative and professional talents to help Turk and expat alike kick the habit of plastic -- that is plastic shopping bags.
PAWI was established less than a year ago as an organization geared toward U.S. and Canadian women and their spouses living in Istanbul who want to network professionally. But its coordinators say that with its ever-growing membership they don't want to be part of an expatriate community that sits on the sidelines and fringes of Turkish society but active participants making a difference.
Through the newest committee of the expatriate group, the civic involvement committee, the organization's women say they want to do more than just enjoy Turkey, and actually pull up their sleeves to make a visible impact. The newest committee aims to provide opportunities for members to use their assets to make a positive contribution to the community they live in through ongoing involvement. With this in mind, the bag project is starting to take shape and PAWI members say if all goes well their signature shopping bags will be available by the end of the year.
�We wanted a project that was more than just a one-day �community service� project,� said Tara Ağaçayak, chairwoman of the committee. �We wanted to show that PAWI is an active member of its community; so we wanted a project that would promote our place in the Turkish community and create a foundation for ongoing activism.�
Sure, there are other anti-plastic bag campaigns gaining momentum in Turkey these days, but PAWI's members say this project will only contribute to creating awareness about the need to take it easy on the environmental hazards. PAWI's Web site coordinator, Lisa Johnson, said that plastic bags were the only garbage item that cannot be recycled, emphasizing that it was important to get the word out that plastic bags do more harm than good. �We want to help reduce the amount of waste that comes from the excessive use of plastic shopping bags,� said Johnson. Proceeds from the forthcoming totes will be donated to local women's organizations. �We hope to connect with other local women's organizations by raising funds through the sale of the bags which we can then donate to those organizations,� said Ağaçayak.
Collaboration in the works
PAWI said that soon it will also be collaborating with a new subgroup of the International Women of Istanbul called International Professional Women's Istanbul Network, or IPWIN, in an effort to provide more networking opportunities for its members. �By collaborating with IPWIN, professional women will have more outlets to find support in their community. It will also open up more opportunities to build the capacity and leadership of our members,� said Christina Fidan, co-founder and co-coordinator for PAWI. Fidan explained that as PAWI encompassed such a narrow group of women, it made sense to reach out to other women's groups with similar goals looking to provide more professional networking opportunities to its members. �PAWI believes in supporting women from all backgrounds in their professional and personal development,� said Fidan. �When we learned about IWI's new initiative to support international professional women we immediately thought it would be a win-win opportunity to collaborate with them.�