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Environmental Differences, Perspective Differences

Chloe Kang

    Transitioning into my new life with my host family for three weeks after flying abroad as an exchange student was a nerve wracking experience filled with changes. Changes in language, culture, and schooling taught me to stay patient and observe my surroundings and conversations, but the most surprising change regarding their preservation of the environment taught me that becoming “environmentally-friendly” means incorporating Earth into our daily lives unconsciously.

   As the bus rolled across the uneven cobblestones and into the small parking space behind

the school, I could see from the right-side windows the dense crowd of families waiting to

receive their exchange The hustle and bustle once getting off of the bus was quick,

and my mother and sister dragged my suitcase to their – small – car.

 Back home, my dad drives a fairly large company car, and my mother drives a big, red

minivan despite our four member count. With my German family, I was the fourth member of the house, and still their car was smaller than the average “small” car in America.  I defended the use

of our red minivan because both my sister and I play sports, but as I observed the car comfortably fitting my suitcase and carry-on, I realized that German cars have a lot more trunk space while squeezing the space between the first and second row of seats. Although this model

may not mesh with some lifestyles, I believe that the majority of families can find this useful. It’s

a more compact car that still fits lots of room in its trunk while reducing the amount of gas –

hypothetically – it will have to use.

   Transportation in Germany definitely highlights the negative sides of urban living in America. In Germany, I would walk with my sister down to the train station ( a 15 minute walk) and take the train to the station in Kulmbach, where our school is located. From there, we would

typically walk another 15 minutes to get to our school. Kulmbach is villages surrounding it, allowing for an easy train route across the area. Although trains can be similar to school buses, the key difference between these two modes is that trains run year round, not only for students, but for adults who work in different areas of Germany. Furthermore, these routes span Germany, allowing for a seamless transition to the final destination; school buses are districted and limited.

   Other than cars, Germany has a big biking culture. Bike lanes are strictly painted on sidewalks (or the cobblestones are a different color), and walkers abide by the rule that those lanes are not meant to be trespassed. Sidewalks in Germany are also wider for this reason; it gives walkers and bikers more space and comfort. It’s common to see teachers and students in

the inner city bike to the school regularly. Sidewalks line the highways – or at least biking lanes

– to allow for bikers to safely pass through traffic.

   The relationship Germans have with their waste is more inclined to the environment.

Although America has the option of recycling, many homes do not have a recycling bin and

many bins in the classrooms are unused. However, recycling in Germany is important – and a

way to earn money! The most commonly known recycling is “Pfand,” a German word for

“deposit,” which is used for plastic bottles. Germany’s go-to choice is typically a plastic water

bottle, especially for students. These bottles, once finished, can be returned to a depositing place

(typically a shopping mall or grocery store), and the person will receive compensation. These

bottles can add up enough money to buy something from the cafe, like a marzipan croissant!

Still, the recycling system does not end there. Germans separate their waste into different bins.

Glass, food, plastic, paper, and other wastes are separated into different cans. These cans are also color-coordinated for ease. 

   Lastly, kitchens typically add a bin for compost. Many German families who have gardens (like mine) will use a composting bin in the kitchen to eliminate food waste and help their garden grow stronger. In a small village like ours, it’s easier to grow some foods than to travel to a grocery store to buy goods. Fruits like peaches, plums, and strawberries grow next to the house, and the composting bin is always put into use at least twice a week.

"The relationship Germans have with their waste is more inclined to the environment."

   Germany has grown to be an environmentally-conscious country by finding ways to

incorporate eco-friendly habits into their daily lives. This, I believe, is key to preserving the

world. By allowing ourselves to develop habits and building our lives around such practices, we

help set an example for others and create a healthier environment around us. Although America

has a distinct lifestyle separate from Germany, many of these habits can still be incorporated into making America a greener country.

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