Reduce, Reuse and Ramallah

Hey everyone, I’m back home! Technically, I’m still on vacation and will soon be off again in rural Oregon, a.k.a. the Land of No Internet (it’s a scary place). But during this week I’ll be here on my trusty computer, visiting my fellow bloggers to see what they’ve been up to and going back through all my posts to read everyone’s comments. I apologize if some of the entries were getting shorter recently, but hey, it’s not easy to keep up the pace when you’re on the move every few days, hopping from one country to the next without a laptop or WiFi zone in sight.

Now, before writing about today’s change, I thought I’d share a photo of Yours Truly, recycling some plastic water bottles in West Jerusalem last week. It was taken by my friend Jacob, who’s currently living in Ramallah and who tried to explain the challenges of being green in this part of the world. Basically, as you might guess, people in the West Bank have bigger problems right now than separating their paper from their plastic, so the only option for environmentally minded folks like him is to cross the wall and take everything to one of these nondescript wire cages, most of which are just sitting on random residential streets with no signs or directions.

west bank

It’s an effort most people here aren’t willing to make, and it’s a shame because it not only leads to more garbage in landfills but more garbage on the streets. Of course, I hardly expect anyone in the Middle East to switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs and start composting, but I do find it a bit ironic that so many people are willing to kill for this land, yet have no qualms about littering on it.

You may notice that, in the photo above, I’m recycling a plastic water bottle. Here’s a big confession: I broke my rule about only drinking tap water. With all apologies to Mother Earth, I just didn’t want to take a chance when travelling; there’s nothing worse than being sick on a trans-Atlantic flight or getting major stomach cramps in 40-degree heat. I did bring my reusable water bottle with me for the trip and it came in handy for the day trips in Europe, but there were times when it ran empty and I had to cave in to the plastic.

Some other green things I noticed on vacation were the biofuel buses in Madrid (here’s a photo of one):


And I also saw a lot more animals out in the fields (a herd of Spanish cows are in the photo below). Everywhere I went in the UK and Spain, I would see sprawling pastures filled with contented pigs in their pens, outdoor chicken coops, sheep roaming about and cows eating a proper diet of grass. The hotel I stayed at in the Cotswolds had its own fruit and vegetable garden out back, and even the McDonalds and Burger King in London had nutritional pamphlets detailing which farms their meat came from, stressing that all their ingredients were traceable and free of hormones and additives. Until now, I always assumed that North America was leading the green trend, but it seems that in some respects — especially when it comes to food and agriculture — we could learn a lot from the Europeans.

spain cows

Anyway, it’s time to make my official green change of the day, but I’ll write another vacation update in a couple weeks. Thanks for putting up with my scattered ramblings!

9 Responses to Reduce, Reuse and Ramallah

  1. Aimee says:

    Sounds like you had a lot of fun! I hope Oregon is just as good!

    I think that when it comes to most things green, we are far behind a lot of European nations – and probably even more so down here in the US. Sad…

  2. besweet says:

    Yeah, in the interviews I’ve been doing for work lately, it’s become extra clear that we’re behind the European curve. Local foods are one particular area where we’re lacking, even with Canada’s lovely farmer’s markets.

    Don’t beat yourself up about the bottled water. When it comes to your health, sometimes we have to make choices we wouldn’t during the course of our regular days. That’s what bottled water *should* be for, not just to tote around day-in-day-out in the name of convenience.

    I hope you enjoy the rest of your vacation!

  3. emily says:

    I have always had the impression that we in the U.S are WAY behind Europe–Northern Europe, at least; I’ve spent less time in the south. It strikes me in everything from public transport, to the fact that most Europeans would never build a flimsy, poorly-insulated wood house, to the size of an average fridge, to the fact that plastic bags in grocery stores cost money… we have a long way to go.

    My husband, who is European, was shocked to realize that we hardly even have to pay for our water in the U.S. I don’t know how it is in Canada, but the bulk of our bill is made up the cost of service. The units of water are so cheap that we could double our consumption and not feel it that badly (it caught our attention in the first place because we were away from home for 8 weeks and saw no virtually difference in our bill afterwards). It’s things like that that always make me think we need to restructure so much of our ‘system,’ and not just small daily habits, in order to become green at all.

    Which is not to say that changing our daily habits makes no difference! It does, it does, and I love reading your blog and thinking about the different ideas people come up with. But forcing people to, say, pay more money is a good incentive, and one we don’t have yet.

  4. Chile says:

    Emily, even in the SW desert water prices are dirt cheap. It’s ridiculous and does not give people much incentive to cut back on their use.

    Enjoy Oregon, Vanessa!

  5. Alina says:

    Yeah, what Emily said!

    Its great to have you back! That’s some serious dedication you got there, recycling in Ramallah. In Porto, we had both natural gas and hydrogen buses. ‘Cause Portugal is so much better than Spain, you know 😉 Don’t let our inferiority complex fool you, Portugal ROCKS!

  6. Lori V. says:

    Oh, yeah, I think we are miles behind here. I LOVE the photo of the Spanish cows… I know I’m in the minority, but I think they are quite noble beasts.

  7. Lori V. says:

    Also, Vanessa, I will email you about a fantastic place in Oregon you MUST eat… locally sourced veggies, fruits, & cheeses… I linked to it in one of my posts, and a more detailed one is coming… my mouth is watering just thinking about it! 🙂

  8. Louise says:

    I’m Australian, and when it comes to finding out what a “green” (a.k.a. environmentally sustainable) way of life looks like, I look to Europe first. As one of the regions of the world where people have retained their links to food production (like the veggie garden out the back that you noticed), they are of special interest to me, but they have also been refining medium and high density living for centuries. I like to see alternatives to the suburban sprawl that is choking the Australian countryside and contributing to some of the highest individual carbon footprints in the world.

  9. Clark Cook says:

    It truly is great to see someone as dedicated as yourself save up your plastic until you find a proper recycling option. I am an avid recycler myself, and recycle everything that I can, but I don’t know if I would have made it to the extent described above.

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