Tuesday, November 6, 2007

They Ain't Messing Around Here

Posted on Tue, Nov 6, 2007 at 5:09 PM

by Sam Winston

I know I'm not the first one to say how pathetic it is that New Orleans can't get its basic recycling program together. However, living in one of the world's leading recycling countries in Germany, New Orleans looks especially sad. And wasteful.

Yet New Orleans city officials already know what I'm talking about! They were here to see first hand what it means to take recycling seriously. In Germany, companies (see video) and governments lead by example, with the people following. New Orleans seems to be the opposite.

Says Councilwoman Shelly Midura in a recent Times Picayune article,

"If (recycling) isn't funded by the budget request that the mayor put forth, then it isn't important to the administration," Midura said. "When is it going to become important to the administration?"

Right back atchya Shelly. When will it become important enough to the council and the citizens to make it important enough to the administration? My beginner's German language textbook had an entire chapter devoted to vocabulary about recycling and responsible energy use. They were only 10 chapters in the book.

Preachy as it may sound, it's more practical than anything. They've already done the preaching here, I needed to be familiar with the vocabulary and the procedures here just to get along. For example, they don't give out shopping bags at the grocery stores here unless you pay for it (only 20 euro cents for one large bag). Instead, everyone brings their own bags (and bags their own groceries too). It took me a few clumsy trips sans shopping bag of trying to balance pasta sauce, paper towels, and carton of eggs in my arms on the walk home before I wised up.

The escalators in the subways, the lights in the hallways and the public bathrooms, and many things here are motion sensitive so they are not constantly running. Sure they are personally responsible things like an insane amount of bikes and a German can sort his or her garbage into five or six piles every week and have it easily recycled. But it's the infrastructure of a bike path for every city street, recycling cans at every major intersection, and an insistence written into law that each company meet strict standards that really makes a difference.

Just thought I'd share some of the tidbits of "green" life here so the next time a city leader says it's too difficult or idealistic you can ask them about Germany. You can even tell them they've been here and they know better.

- The New Orleanian Abroad

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