Amanda Vasi is a student at Agnes Scott College and an ISA Featured Blogger. She is currently studying abroad with ISA in Granada, Spain.
When I first arrived to the capital of Spain, I was deeply impressed by the average Madrilenian’s commitment to sustainability. Although I considered myself an environmentalist before leaving abroad, I realized how much I and the U.S. could learn during my first few weeks. Separating recycling into distinct, accessible bins and the non-use of free plastic shopping bags are some examples of common practices city-wide. Even living in the quite progressive Georgia capital of Atlanta does not meet these standards.
Coming down four hours from Madrid to Granada, I still found a strong commitment to a green way of life. As a city within a European Union (EU) country, Granada also shares the international environmental expectations set by the EU to create a green economy, protect nature, safeguard health and fight against climate change.
Living in Granada for the past two months, I also have found myself becoming more sustainable while adjusting to the Spanish culture. One custom I have adapted to is the clever use of natural light in place of artificial light. In many households throughout Spain and Granada, during the daytime curtains are pulled up and away to illuminate rooms and working spaces. Generally, artificial light is only turned on at night or for rooms typically without windows, such as bathrooms.
Though this behavior is partly explained by the high cost of light throughout Spain (ranking 4th place for the most expensive electricity prices out of the 28 EU countries), there is also an underlying sustainability motivation to avoid unnecessary energy use. This new habit of mine represents one of the many ways I am green while in Granada and what I can’t wait to continue practicing in the U.S.
Another way I am green in Granada is how I get around the city each day. Like most Granadinos, my primary methods of transportation to the center and around town is walking or bus. From where I live on the Camino De Ronda, I walk about 20 minutes to reach the Centro de Las Lengus Modernas, where my classes are hold, and about five minutes more to cross into the center and its main neighborhoods, Relajo and Albayzin. At the end of a typical day, I plug in about 5 miles of walking on my step tracker device. Relying on my feet as my principal means of transportation like the Granadinos not only saves energy, but represents one simple way I have been greener than ever while in Granada
Since Granada’s main attractions are centered close to the city’s heart, being without a car is nowhere near an obstacle. Those that are drivers only own motorcycles or cars that are rather small and economical. I still have yet to spot a large truck in Granada and I will be frankly quite shocked to find one here! For a typical working family, however, it’s not uncommon to not have a car and solely rely on public transportation when traversing longer distances to school or work. There are many buses and trains available throughout with the highest price 1.20 euros for one trip without a bus card. Due to the walkability of the city, I have only used the bus for transportation to the main bus station for occasional travel purposes but not habitually. My support for communal transportation methods removes more cars off the streets and reduces energy from taxis as I continue on the pathway of being green while in Granada.
During my time in Granada, I have enjoyed my access to fresh, mostly locally-grown produce in places scattered around the city, called Fruterias. I am inspired by the overall availability and affordability of fresh produce, about 0.70 euros for 4 items, as it serves both a nutritious purpose and to support the systemic local growing and selling of fruits and vegetables. It’s such a great and simple way to reduce the carbon footprint by avoiding use of dangerous pesticides and preservatives as well as reducing the need for excess transportation.
For each meal, my Spanish host family and I eat one fruit bought in these fruit markets and at least one type of vegetable, often grown and picked from their garden. Besides the incredibly sweet taste of the food, I also have been enjoying giving my support to local, organic produce instead of those industrially produced. This support goes a long way to not only becoming greener, but also in creating a more sustainable world to live and thrive.
The typical sustainable lifestyle of a Spaniard in how they use energy, get around the city and consume energy has taught me many important lessons on what it means to be and live green, and what that can look like in the modern world. I definitely plan on continuing and sharing these green habits upon my return to the U.S!
The world awaits…discover it.