My First Sustainability Experience and How it Changed Me

Updated: Apr 28, 2019


The story begins when i was young, filled with abundant inquisitiveness, and always asking the question, 'but why?' My family is from Germany and I'm first generation born in the U.S. so i was raised reading, writing, and speaking english and german. Asking 'why' became a daily occurrence as I was growing up learning both the American and German ways of doing things. Every summer I hopped on a flight, headed for Germany and experienced family, language, shopping, music, and culture.


The arrival day is completely forfeit as I try to make small talk with Omi (aka grandma) for as long as possible but eventually lose the battle to jetlag and fall asleep around 5pm. After a restless evening of waking up at 2am 3am and 4am, I get up and start my vacation.


The Beginning


I come down for breakfast which consists of fresh rolls from the baker next door, and luxurious cheese from Denmark. Meal complete, rogue crumbs collected and sprinkled into the garbage, Omi is excited to have me all to herself for a full month. She asks if I'm ready to head to the store, so I slide into my sandals and and start compiling a mental grocery list.


Omi grabs her purse, a few cloth shopping bags, and we head down the stairs and out the door. As I turned the corner toward the garage Omi says, "we're not taking the car, we'll walk. Why would we take the car when we can get exercise?" Interesting... because in America we rarely walk anywhere. Taking the car to go anywhere is commonplace. That's just what we do. And often times the infrastructure isn't in place to walk or bike. But here today, in Germany - we're walking to the store with our cloth bags, buying groceries, and walking home. #socialimpact #socialgoodness


A Philosophy

We're not taking the car, we can walk. Why would we take the car, when we can get exercise?

Being overzealous in my shopping commitment is an understatement. I put absolutely everything in the cart. Meat, cheese, milk, juice, pop, bread, pizza. Granted - I'm still in elementary school so my choices reflect my age, but Omi also places a 'kisten' (crate) of bier in the cart. Beer comes in crates, and all empty bottles are returned to the store for 'pfand' (a deposit refund). #recycle #recycling #plasticfree



As I think back to my American childhood, we purchased an 8-pack of 7UP in tall slender green bottles and we returned the empties to the store for a refund. So the idea of glass instead of plastic, and getting back a deposit, is not such a foreign idea.


As Omi and I pull up to the check-out counter she starts loading the items onto the belt. There's no mention of 'paper or plastic', there are no bag choices of any kind. As the items are scanned, Omi starts packing our groceries into her own cloth bags she brought from home, she pays, and with groceries in hand, we start the journey home.


That was 1979.




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