An Altrenate Experience

img_0314By Asha Brogan

While in class and reading “Communicating with Nature” we predominantly discussed the American perspective, and many of us in the US only observe that culture. I recently was given the chance to spend a few months in Berlin, Germany studying. During my time there I not only took a class in environmental science taught by a native EU citizen, but I experienced the EUs attempts to prevent a linear consumer cycle toward a more circular one, as discussed in “Communicating With Nature”. The times this seemed most prominent were in the complex recycling system and grocery shopping experience.

While Americans can save a few pennies by using their own bag at some grocery stores the generic plastic bag is still a staple of Kroger’s nationwide. At our local “Rewe” (Its not Ree Wee Asha, its Rei Vae) If you went to the store and forgot to bring your own bag it would cost you several Euros, and as a college student thats a fair sum. The only bags the store provided where a fairly heavy weight plastic or cloth bag each costing 3 Euro. One quickly formed a habit of keeping a grocery bag or two tucked in a purse and this is a habit thats carried over into my American life.

The recycling system is nearly a mind game. But cleverly devised by the EU Environmental commission. There is the cardboards and papers, the plastic. and the glass bins. Then the glass bins are divided up by color: green, clear, and brown. I will not lie that I groaned knowing it was time to haul out the large bag of wine bottles I had accumulated and sort them into the various bins located on the sidewalk down from my apartment, yet all my neighbors did it, and the bins would fill me with guilt if I didn’t use them. Not to mention the trash cans were too small to contain all of our waste.

Small baby steps don’t seem like a difficult step, although they apparently are since I don’t see many of the changes that Europe has, and the US still is rated as one of the largest consumers in the US. I do hope we can come to a point where this changes though.

http://ec.europa.eu/environment/waste/

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4 thoughts on “An Altrenate Experience

  1. Asha, I agree that this system is very different than ours! I think that charging an excessive amount for a bag to put your groceries in sounds kind of selfish. If one were to forget their bag by accident, and was scraping by with money trying to buy groceries, this system is not a very good way to go about a lifestyle such as that. Plastic bags are easily made and should be provided to the public!

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  2. I believe part of their system has come about because all of those countries have been around longer than the US, but also because there is a certain maturity I feel that Europeans have, that I don’t see often in the US. I’m not sure why this is. Maybe because they grow up around so much culture and history? I don’t mean to idolize europeans, but the reality of our countries directly correlates with the people living in it. What are your thoughts on this?

    Halle Van De Hey

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  3. I can relate, before moving here I lived in Austin, Tx. The recycling bins were 3 times the size of the regular trash, which by force made you have to recycle of by the end of the week you would have no room for additional waste. It’s something that pushes you to form a new habit yes, but after time you realize how simple it is. Additionally, 2 years before I moved the county issues a “bag ban” on plastic bags in all stores. It was always the worst feeling getting to the checkout line and noticing that I had left all my already purchased bags at home. Again, another restriction in place for me to establish a new habit. After a few irritating trips to the store and multiple bags later, I had my system down. I continue to still use my bags, because quite frankly I’ve paid for them and truly don’t think twice about it.

    -Allison Johnson

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