July 8, 2008
I'm back! We had a wonderful adventure to Europe. We are still trying to get used to our time zone, so forgive me for missing some posts. I have so many cool things to write about—but first things first.
I looked hard for green awesome-ness while we traveled, but only encountered the usual suspects; like local versions of curbside recycling.
Holland (and Amsterdam in particular) had interesting recycling containers. On the sidewalks, often right next to canals, there were recycling bins which looked like small public trash receptacles. However, the bins went below the sidewalk into huge containers which trucks would come and empty. Residents would bring (often biking right up to the bin) their recyclables and the city would pick them up. It is their version of curbside recycling.
And need I mention the mecca of urban bike riding and alternative transportation? We were so lucky to be able to rent bikes and join the masses in Amsterdam. It really was amazingly different than urban bike commuting in San Francisco. The bikes are comfortable, the roads are flat, there are dedicated lanes and cars are very conscious of the bikes. We rented one of the bakfiets for a true dutch-family experience. It was so incredibly fun and easy to bike through the bustling city. Biking was much faster and easier than trams or buses. Cars are just so inefficient within the city at all.
In Amsterdam they also seemed to have a charge to get a bag at the grocery store, which did encourage most people to bring their own bags. The only problem I saw was that if you did pay for a bag at the store it was a virgin-plastic sort of bag.
We also went to Paris. We stayed in an apartment that had curbside recycling, much like the one we have here in San Francisco. We stayed near an amazing outdoor market where people shopped for food each day rather than weekly bulk trips. Here most locals had shopping carts or baskets like we use at the farmer's market. It was a great cultural experience, but I didn't see much different in green efforts than those at home. But I think we are ruined for baguettes now. Ours at home just aren't the same!
In both cities I did note that disposable coffee cups just aren't really used. People sit for coffee. Sure there are some shops where you can get a cup to go, and there is even a Starbucks here and there, but for the most part the on-the-go disposable aspect was less. Not to mention the size of drinks in general was much smaller. This must help with litter and waste, I would think.
The only other green thing I noted was that perhaps in the places we went people may air dry their clothes more. I get the sense that full sized clothes dryers are not as common. In Paris the apartment we rented had a clothes washer/dryer in the kitchen . It was an all-in-one machine. You put half a load in and the machine would wash it, and then switch to drying it. The process took so long that it made sense to just hang loads of wash indoors.
As great as the adventure was, it was nice to come home. Stay tuned for more posts about going green.