Last week after an International Round Table, the senior Global Studies majors who recently returned from our experiences abroad were discussing what role sustainable energy and the environment played in discourse in our respective countries. I was excited to share because I am simply enamored with how invested Germany is in protecting the environment! I shared with my classmates that I actually don’t remember having many conversations with Germans about the environment, their amazing solar and wind energy programs, crazy detailed recycling practices or other efforts of sustainability. Although other international students took note, it is as if it’s so developed that it need not be a topic of conversation or debate to the German population—simply a way of life.
The speaker last week that prompted this discussion among my global studies comrades and myself had mentioned that as he travels and presents in other countries they tend to laugh as they reflect on the debates that circulate in the United States around the topic of the environment. While we argue whether global warming is, in fact, immanent other countries (like Germany) are already years beyond debate. They accept the fact that actions to become more sustainable are necessary and are working to take progress in those areas.
Germany takes lots of environmental actions on a national and international level. . but what I find most interesting are the normal, everyday things they do which I think are a big deal but that German’s don’t find at all out of the ordinary. Living in Germany, countless reminders of their commitment to the environment present themselves to me regularly. . .
- In buildings and at homes all of the appliances are smaller—toilets use less water (there is actually a light flush button and regular flush button on almost every toilet) and most refrigerators are about half the size of ours.
- There is rarely air-conditioning in most buildings or homes.
- Most Germans take public transportation and many rely upon it solely. It is easy to get anywhere you need to go via bus or train.
- Gas is also really expensive which I think encourages people to use other modes of transportation. As I write this gas is about $7.15 a gallon (1.35€/liter) in Frankfurt, Germany and, in my experience, I hear Americans complain about gas prices way more than Germans!
- At the grocery store you have to pay for bags so most people bring their own and bottles are returned to the store for .15€ -.25€.
- Oh, and we can’t forget the 4 or 5 different garbage cans you have to choose from when throwing something away in Germany! [Paper, glass (brown, green, white), recyclable plastics (almost every kind of container), compost, bin for bottles, and then, if it doesn’t work in any of those, the actually garbage.]
Here are two of my video blogs that touch on recycling/garbage sorting and returning bottles for money.