Across the street from our office is a park, which will simultaneously bear witness to prostitutes, young professionals walking (quickly) to lunch, parents pushing their kids on swings, teams of boys playing football, and little old ladies carting prams behind them. It’s quite the microcosm of diversity. One end is a man-made pond (using that definition loosely), and at the other is a playground. But in the middle… well, I’ll let you guess. Ready, set, go.
During my lunch break today, another intern and I went for a walk to the big Carrefour supermarket nearby. She needed supplies to bake cookies for tomorrow’s work picnic and I went along for moral support. I only brought my wallet, which was smart because I ended up picking up some cherry tomatoes, mozzarella (CHEAPY), and a basil plant for these little dudes. Trying to pick out a wine that would satisfy a diverse group of Europeans was a daunting idea, so I went for something simple. Turns out we “found enough bottles in the office kitchen” to obviate the need to buy some anyway – LOVE you Europe.
Now one of the things I expected about Belgium, along with the rest of this continent, is the heightened sustainability and environmental awareness. They keep their food waste to a minimum at home, have much better public transportation, and live in smaller spaces. Belgium was one of the first countries to implement marine spatial planning (my favorite, of course), and its neighbor to the north, Holland, can claim the title of “the original cool” partly because of their old-school use of windmills. I love that video, by the way, they totally won me over and I’m coming over to say hi.
Belgium’s recycling system is elaborate – different color bins/bags for different materials, they don’t couple outdoor trash bins with recycling ones, and have these Dugtrio looking things placed around the city to collect glass – but different colors go in different bins. Take me back to single stream!!
One of the sustainability features I simultaneously admire and get annoyed as heck about is that there are NO FREE PLASTIC BAGS. I mean it. They’ll charge you 5 or 10 cents, even when you realize after you paid that you forgot your reusable bag. The cashier will ring you up through the register again, no matter how long the line is. Not that I know from experience or anything, of course… anyway. So today, I didn’t even bring my purse to carry things home in, and I refused to pay for a stupid bag. I carried everything back to the office in my arms and ended up feeding cherry tomatoes to happy pigeons by accident. Guuuuh. I heard someone holler “TRISTE!” as they rolled everywhere, and I’m like yeah I get it, it IS sad, thanks for staring. I may also have been eating lunch and walking and talking at the same time. AKA I deserved it.
I tried to make myself feel like less of a tourist by dropping my bags when I got home, turning around and walking to the market a few doors down for a baguette and a bottle of red wine. It worked… and I didn’t drop a thing. I’m okay with happy pigeons, but not intoxicated ones. I think they’d be really sloppy drunks.
If you think reading about Europe & sustainability is cool (if you’re not my mother, I assume that why you’re here, haha), you should LOVE reading about Guatemala & sustainability! One of my friends and former interns is blogging about his summer in Central America putting his environmental engineering degree to good use. Read it here: http://skysetsail.tumblr.com/