I think my husband and I wanted to be "green" folks back in Texas, but didn't know what that looked like except for taking our plastic bags back to HEB and requesting the recycling bins from the city to have recyclable items picked up next to the trash. We were definitely into repurposing old things into "new" things, but didn't know that counted back then or how it is called "upcycling" these days.
The way it changed:
- Our unknown education in greenness began upon arrival in Germany with the introduction to the trash organization system here: biodegradable, containers, paper, glass that can be turned in for money, glass that doesn't get you any money back, and other--like dirty diapers (that's one place I didn't go green!). It's a shocker to go back home and see everything go in one trash can! This is work if the system is not set up for you I know.
- Next, we had to take drivers' education AGAIN! Studying for the tests got facts forever in my brain like: 1 drop of oil contaminates 600 liters of water (I think that's right) OR your gas efficiency decreases with the more stuff you carry in your car OR don't push your gas to hard since your gas efficiency decreases with RPM's (?) above 3... You don't want to forget that real SUV's are only seen with an American license plate here. Our little diesel VW gets amazing gas mileage--thank you God!
- A few other internal motivators to cut back on water and energy usage: seeing that our next oil bill needed to be much less (our house and water is heated with oil) and knowing some American friends that got a very large bill for how much more electricity they used than the city had expected them to use! Our heating is scheduled to go off at night. We don't run the water when you don't need it (ie: walk away from a running faucet). We have a system of scrubbing all the dishes of food under water, then soaping them up with the water off, then rinsing with a medium stream of water (I know it's crazy how full power water gets to me!--what have I become?). Of course, there's no lights on if you're not using that room, computers off when not in use, etc.
- For the most part, there are few things packaged in multiples, like snack packs for lunches or something. All the kids in school use reusable containers for their lunches, and we do too now. Seldom does a ziploc make it in our fridge or lunch! And we reuse the ones we do use if we can.
- This could fit with point 4, but having no free plastic bags at the grocery store deserves it's own point! This was quite a culture shock. I learned to put everything back in my grocery cart after the cashier scans each item. Then I go to my car and put everything in a collapsable box or big fabric bags. I think most Germans don't buy groceries for a week like us so they just put their few items in a fabric bag and go. I saw that you are given plastic bags at the grocery store in Portugal. Will I be able to continue (but as a nonconformist)?
We are by no means really that green (especially when you read about the people in the blog post above). We didn't have much choice in the matter really. I am encouraged at the things we see on the internet or during trips home that show America is on it's way to becoming more green. If only everyone could have a quick internship in doing it like a German...