Germany prides itself of being a green country and claims international
pioneer positions in environmental policy. A key element of the Red-Green
coalition (Social Democrats and the Green Party), major changes have been
brought about with the help of vice chancellor and foreign minister
Joschka Fischer between 1998 and 2005, especially with regard to the
energy and climate change policies.
Especially recycling gets taken very seriously, with a minimum of 5
categories of litter being standard practice in every household. Growing
up in a system like this, one is inclined to take it for granted. It
wasn’t until I went to Australia that I understood in how many Western
countries people throw all trash in one bin.
Many German cities, especially the old university towns in the Southwest,
make no incentives for people to use cars. Parking is rare and large
pedestrian areas prohibit driving in the town centers. Cities like
Freiburg support the construction of houses with solar paneled roofs
and bike lanes
and this is a picture of my house in Tübingen´s pedestrian area
Traveling to the US for the first time, one of the first things I noticed
was the extent of consumption. Insulation seems inefficient, nobody uses
public transport because it seems inconvenient and overpriced (especially
with regard to long-distance travelling) and the vastness of the country
encourages air travel. Also, I have never seen a car the size of a house
before I came here.
However, in comparison, Germany is only middle-ranking in household
sustainability and consumption, and can still learn a lot from other
countries. A WELT article outlines this in more detail:
In summary, it seems fair to say that Germany could be greener, despite
the phase-out of nuclear energy in 1998, green electricity, recycling
deposits, ecological tax reforms, and the refuse recycling system Der
Grüne Punkt. The map on http://www3.nationalgeographic.com/greendex/
displays the „Greendex“ of a country, or, in other words, it shows you how
green you really are. Click on the country and read the extended PDF
version at the bottom of the speech bubbles.