While studying abroad in Austria last semester, my green eye caught many advanced initiatives in environmentalism and sustainability. The Austrians are much more environmentally conscious and aware than we are here in the U.S. We should take a look at what they are doing and if it can be implemented within our own community.
The trash system in Austria is simply amazing; every building has at least five different kinds of trash bins. There is a plastics bin that takes not only numbered plastics, but also anything and everything made of plastic. The paper bin takes all paper, even ones that have been stained by food. There are separate bins for clear and colored glass. Aluminum has its own bin. There is a “Bio” bin that takes all organic and food matter to become compost. Finally, there is the trashcan for everything else that does not fit into one of the previous categories, but there is very little actually being thrown out. We should take a cue from this and make a conscious effort to recycle all that we can.
The country also has an outstanding transportation system. There are trams, buses and trains everywhere. We should take advantage of the transportation we have here, such as the trains to New York City. Most Austrians ride bikes, which is made easier with the use of bike lanes. Every street has half of the sidewalk blocked off for bikes only. If we rode bikes instead of driving cars, think of all the gas that would be saved and the impact we could make.
The Austrian food industry is astonishing in its quality, price and environmental efforts. First, the food is more localized, with most of the grocery stores containing food grown or made within the country. There is also an abundance of farmer’s markets and most of the food is organic. The food tastes better because it is grown without pesticides. The price of healthier foods like fruits and vegetables is lower than here in the U.S. At Austrian grocery stores you need to bring your own bag or you have to buy either a large plastic or paper bag. There are seasons within the grocery stores and the restaurants. You will know what food is in season and being harvested by reading menus and seeing what is available to purchase.
There are accessible, easy and small changes that we can make in our everyday lives that can lead to big changes for our environment. We can commit to recycling, using better means of transportation and gaining a better recognition of food seasons.
– Ali Melcher