Who we are
ZMAG (Green network of activist groups) is a non-gevernmental organisation formed in 2002., located in the village Vukomerić near Zagreb in Croatia. Our work focuses on practice and advocacy of sustainable solutions, education and design, promotion and development of just and fair social and economic systems and appropriate technologies. We are one of the eight Centres of knowledge for society development in Croatia – area sustainable living and permaculture development.
Our most important project is our educational center – the Recycled Estate in Vukomerić, 25 km south of Zagreb, Croatian capital where we hosted numerous workshops and courses. Our estate is designed by permaculture principles implementing reused and natural construction materials, hence the name. The infrastructure itself is used as a teaching model, using renewable energy, efficient buildings, sustainable water management and food production in situ. It is the central place of our organization – our workplace that serves as a practical and experimental site for promotion and dissemination of environmental knowledge and skills based on permaculture ethics and design. It is also our office with library in the house where you can find everything related to sustainable food production and sustainable living. Most of our members bought the surrounding land and build private houses. At this moment ZMAG has five employees and several people on occasionally contracts. We have been financed through projects, but more and more through services that we provide (organization of events and conferences, workshops and courses, permaculture design and selling book that we published). In ZMAG we cherish horisontal structure and decisionmaking by consensus.
We host and teach a wide array of courses and workshops, like natural building (energy efficient architecture using natural materials, biotecture - green roofs and vertical gardens etc.), apropriate technology (DIY solar hot water systems, DIY biodiesel, effecient wood burning stoves etc.), natural cosmetics, food fermentation and everything about sustainable gardening and farming. We organize permaculture design courses and we initated the permaculture academy which is a learning model which combines theory and practice for avanced permacultre designers.
We also held numerous lectures at city libraries, various institutions and schools, even a music festival.
In our organization’s DNA it is weaved to implement and encourage better protection of the global environment, sustainable development, organic farming, ethical, just and solidary economic models, sustainable way of living and in general, a holistic approach to solving today’s challenges of the modern society.
Our seed bank is managed by our own staff with the help of volunteers. It mostly consists of over 250 varieties of seed packets from Croatian organic gardeners who have been keeping their seeds for generations. Twice a year we organize seed exchange as a public event, to bring together the organic seed collector community.
Our main future goals are to create a Community Seed bank (CSB) owned by its members through Community Seed networking and knowledge sharing. The Community Seed bank will be open to the public, notably food producers, small-scale farmers and consumers. Its main activities will be to preserve and cultivate local seeds, which will be saved, shared and reproduced and passed on to future generations.
Whenever we have the opportunity, we publish books and brochures that cover topics we are involved in. It all started with a book "Zeleni alati za održivu revoluciju" (Green tools for a sustainable revolution) and led to a series of manuals covering topics like: soil care, solar and biomass energy, natural cosmetics, straw bale building, good economy and education for sustainability in schools.
We have also published an exhaustive manual on permaculture design as a book that is used for teaching our permaculture courses. There are also numerous small brochures covering topics of sustainable shopping, community supported agriculture, seed saving etc.
All our publications are in Croatian because there is already lots of information in English out there.
Good Economy is ZMAG's programme for promotion, advocacy and practice of solidarity and sustainable economy models that have tranformative potentials and are based on permaculture ethics and principles. This work is organised through three different but complementary layers: ZMAG as a central point and initiator of the whole concept and process with main focus on education and advocacy work through daily work but also through main yearly activity – Conference on Good Economy, our Cooperative for Good Economy as a practical tool for implementation of good economy, and Platform for Good Economy where 14 members are working on national level to promote and support good economy in Croatia. Platform for Good Economy is a member of RIPESS – Solidarity Economy Europe network where we have representative in Coordination Committee – CoCo.
Natural and sustainable building includes the use of local, natural and recycled materials whose production has a justified ecological footprint and does not require a high proportion of industrial material processing. Natural building is a topic we are actively exploring and promoting since the very beginnings of the ZMAG. The construction of traditional and low-processed natural materials significantly reduces the impact on the environment and offers a range of innovative and aesthetically superior solutions for healthy living.
We educate people to build houses made of straw bales, stone, wood, sheep's wool, hemp, cellulose and offer specific solutions such as green roofs, vertical gardens, raised garden beds, compost toilets and etc. We provide counseling services, supervision of construction and buildings as well as education of contractors.
Public manifestations of natural building we conduct:
The Natural Building Convention – a two-day festival featuring demonstration workshops, project presentation, lectures, promotion of product, tools and machines, fair, panel discussion and party. The natural building convention is designed as regional polygon for learning, connecting and networking contractors, architectural enthusiasts, manufacturers and investors.
The Natural Building Academy – a year-long education of building from designing to building foundations, walls, roof to interior design.
The Natural building Academy consist of 18 theoretical lectures and 25 days of practical workshops that last thought the year – from April to October, and consist of a wide variety of theoretical and practical education, total of 200 hours of teaching. Educators are experienced architects, builders and engineers working in the field of natural engineering.
Areas and topics we cover at the Natural Building Academy:
biotecture, houses of straw, building with rammed earth, building with hemp, wood construction (traditional shapes and modern forms), stone building, building with a bricks, hobbit constructions, earthship, use of cellulose and cane, green roofs and roof gardens, passive solar architecture, straw roofs and roofs of wooden shingles, presentations and practical uses of manual, electric and motor tools and machinery, responsible use of construction machinery, designing and reading the draft, use of literature, construction in the wild with a simple tool.