When I read that the topic for Blog Action Day was the environment I knew almost immediately that I was going to write about my trip to Germany this past summer. It was my first trip to Europe, my first trip beyond North America, and immensely influential to my environmental consciousness. When comparing the environmental consciousness of the average person in Germany and the United States, there really is no comparison; the people of Germany, either compelled by state policies or through individual belief, consider the environment when making choices.
I first had to get used to taking a shower differently. Instead of leaving the water on during an entire shower, in Germany (and I guess all of Europe) people rinse, turn the water off, soap up, then turn the water on again and rinse. I was aware of that method, but thought it was a pain in the ass. It’s not, and I think you might get a better wash. Regardless, it saves a lot of water when you turn it off when it’s not needed.
I’ve tried to alter my behavior in other small ways: recycling more, being more conservative when using water, and turning down the temperature on my water heater. But these small actions can’t compare to the policies the German government has instituted to slow the increase in greenhouse gases. Germany produces the most wind turbine electricity in the world, and is rapidly growing its solar power base. Besides direct investment in these technologies, the government has required utilities to pay a competitive rate for solar power generated and put back on the grid. In the real world, this means that it makes sense for people to invest in solar panels. Traveling around the Black Forest, I saw these panels everywhere, even on the smallest farmhouse or factory.
During my trip to Germany, I came up with an idea to increase the environmental consciousness of Americans (who need this the most, it seems): the U.S. government should pay for a two week trip to Europe for every citizen, during which people can get some sense of how others are treating the environment. For me, this trip was an environment changing event.