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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Not so Green Lyon

When I was living in Portland I always considered Europe to be this magical place- I was told by an exchange student that lived with us when I was 16 that Public Transportation was abundant, recycling not simply a concept but a way of life.

I had a fabulous presentation in my Master's program late Friday afternoon from a renowed Quebecian nature lover and guest teacher.  Fabien Durif flew in from his corner of Canada, his slightly twanging Quebecois accent and a slew of ideas my fellow collegues had never heard.

Movement Vert
Green Washing
Consommation Responsable

After saying 'Vert' about 20 times someone in the class finally raised his hand and inquired, "Messieur, qu'est-ce que c'est cette chose verte que vous parlez?" The teacher stopped short, and explained briefly.  Of course this movement doesn't EXIST in France, it's simply a way of life... or is it?

Portland was always sort of top when it came to the Green Movement of the early 2000's, we had electric busses, a sort of recycling system that was foreward-moving.  I was taught how to maintain a compost in my apartment when I moved off by myself at 19, a lovely plastic box that magically transformed my waste into useable plant dirt.

Bri made me throw this away when he moved in with me May of 2009, he said it was disturbing to sleep in the apartment knowing there were worms in a vox- well to each his own.

You can imagine my shock when I moved to Lyon and was struck by a city that knew little of recycling or even how to lighten the carbon footprint.

Now, Europe, specifically Lyon, has their own methods and styles of what they call 'green', or in French éco.  I am constantly being pointed out that the Americans leave the water running during showers, or our wasteful use of electricity when we leave the house.

So in what ways does Lyon recycle and in what ways really need to be improved?

What They Do Well:

Organic Produce

Tuesday through Sunday are the market days, vendors, farmers and local producers haul out their natural and edible goods for us to purchase at a normal price.  The positive is that many of these producers are naturally organic or bio and leave us with a fabulous, non-treated product.

An automatic response when I see someone throwing away a carboard box or can is, That is recyclable! My mother had ingrained it into my head, she would fish out any paper I would throw away and I was disgusted... of course now 7 years later I do the same.  In Lyon we have a recycling system in our apartment building, nice because you can toss all recyclables together into a giant container... the issue?

Showering in France
Water is truly seen as a resource in the eyes of a European so much so that when showering we have a five step process:
  1. Turn water on, get water all over
  2. Turn water off
  3. Lather up with soap while water is off
  4. Turn water on
  5. Rinse
Usually the water only remains on for a total of 7 minutes, unlike our 20-30 minute showers in the United States.  This is the argument from most French people when I mention the 'green'ness of Americans, they can't see how we are green if we are so wasteful with a resource.  They are right.

The next is the consumption of electricity,

Lights Out
Bri was appalled at our waste of electricity in the US, and I see why.  In France we shut everything off in the evening, when we leave the house, when we are not in a room.  Electricity is very expensive so wasting it tends to not even be an option.  It's almost an anal-rententive reaction, every time you leave a room switch it off.  Eventually, it becomes ingrained into your mentality and you feel strange if a light is on in a room and no one is in it.

Velo'v System
Probably one of the greastest innovations in Europe, the Velo'v system, which originated in Lyon, has revolutionized public transportation by facilitating a bike-share system that is affordable and convenient for users.  For a fee of 15€ a year, a user has 30 minutes each trajet and the possibility to return at any depot.  Still waiting for an effective system like this in Portland.

Public Transportation
Europe is truly the master of public transport, never have I had an issue with a bus or a tramway or even an underground subway.  Fabulous system, mediocre priced... again much more adept to the green movement than in US.

To Be Improved:

These containers are non-existant around the city.  When you drink a disposable coffee cup you have no choice but to toss in a normal trash can on the street.  There are more and more "dual trash cans" with the choice between yellow and green (yellow recyclable, green waste) but many people don't use this system effectively.

Organic Produce
Like in America, there has been this movement for Bio and Green Washing; this movement has left many store brands to stick a green label on the product without really even having proof... this label guarantees an augmentation of price between 10-25% above market price and... well needless to say it's not truly the concept of the green movement.

There is a non-existent system of composting in France that is left to be improved, while in San Francisco there are canisters of composting buckets that accepts any organic material to be composted, in Lyon I have found no way to get rid of material of this sort.

Over-all Lyon is ahead, but not the best in Europe... in fact I see piles of plastic cups sitting around in canisters and no composting... but I think the Green Fever is going to catch on and it won't be just a fad. 

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