If I had to name my most memorable moments from the Green House over these past two months, I can guarantee that they would all be the result of spontaneous decision-making. Just the other week, I came back from a study session at Studenterhuset to find three of my roommates getting ready to bike over to Nørrebro. After hearing that they were going to the KAFA-x folkekøkken, I decided I HAD to tag along. KAFA-x is a local folk kitchen that relies on volunteer help and donations to provide once-weekly vegan meals. KAFA-x has deals with nearby shops to receive unsold produce or baked goods that would otherwise be thrown away. This food is incorporated into one large meal on Tuesday nights. The night that I went, the cooks made some delicious vegetarian chili, potato salad, a fruit salad (with pomegranate seeds!), and bread. For dessert, there were a variety of pastries to choose from. After the meal, you have the responsibility to wash your dishes and put them in the drying rack. You also have the option of grabbing a loaf or two of bread (we always like to grab some pumpkin seed bread if they have it!). It’s become a bit of a routine for the rest of the Green House to expect a few loaves on the counter that evening. They’re usually gone within a couple of days!
One of the things that made my KAFA-x experience really enlightening was the atmosphere. I had never been to a folk kitchen before; this one was neat because most of the attendees were in their early- to mid-20s. At the school I go to back home, there are simply no initiatives like this that students would be interested in going to (we don’t have the greenest student body). I was proud of myself for breaking out of my comfort zone and trying something new. It was liberating to eat such a humble meal among people I had never met with food that wasn’t necessarily fresh off the shelf. I was trying to explain to some friends back home that I had never encountered such a vibe of unquestioned mutual respect. The whole dinner could have been chaos given the limited amount of space and the informal food assembly line. But no one there was pushing and shoving to get first in line, no one was taking more than their fair share of dinner (or pastries), and nearly everyone opted to give the 20 dkk donation.
KAFA-x is definitely on my list of places to re-visit here in Copenhagen. The people there were so open and friendly. The bike ride there and back was definitely a plus as well. I felt so sustainable and Danish, the best combination there is!
Every time I meet a new DIS student the conversation inevitably reaches this question and yet despite being asked this question hundreds of times (yes I am that popular and have met hundreds of people…not actually) I still have no idea what to answer. I could be very technical and say that the Green House is a special type of DRC called a living and learning community which houses students who all have some passion or focus on sustainability. I could also say that the Green House is a beautiful historic building located in city center. I could say what many people think and say that it is a physical house that is well known for its bright green paint (this is not true but many people take things to literally) but instead most of the time I just say a weird combination of all of these things and then mumble a little bit and change the topic. I don’t know why this question makes me nervous. I love the Green House and have been so happy to live here. First off the Green House is in fact a beautiful and historic house. My roommates and I have all commented many times about how this is most likely the nicest apartment we will ever live in. Between the gorgeous wood floors and the hygge (if you don’t know this word, you need to learn the meaning and then live by it) environment there is little to complain about.
But then what explains my hesitation? The reason, I have discovered, is that the Green House is not a place and it is not a thing, and no online DIS description would do it justice because Store Kannikestrade 11 is where I live, the Green House is the community and family I am part of. At dinner this past week we talked a lot about community and what it was. We talked about the struggles of balancing conformity and individuality while living in a tight nit community. We also discussed what roles community plays in happiness. Everyone had a different thing to say about what community meant to them but being the mushiest of Green House members I explained that communities for me quickly turn from strangers sharing common space to a family I can trust. A focus on Sustainability brought us Green Housers together but no one could predict the amazing bonds we have made in the short 2 months we have been here. There are perks to living in every type of housing option but I personally love that when I walk into the Green House I don’t feel like I live in dorm but I feel like I live in a home. As a community, we all are so supportive of one another and we balance and respect the many different personalities and backgrounds represented. When I come home from a hard test I know that there is group of people who want to run to Netto to get me a chocolate bar and another group of people who will be there to give me a hug. When I find out that there is a cool event going on in the city I know that I will never have to go alone. We came together over similar interests and those interests are seen in our community physically through our use of compost bins and community outreach assignments but also in our nightly conversations that spark up at the dinner table. The Green House is not all about the planned weekly dinners, or the discussion topics, or the individual projects but it is about the living sustainably, sharing thoughts and beliefs with people you can trust, and forming more than a network but a family of amazing friends you can have for the rest of your life.
So we have been living in Copenhagen for 8 weeks (!) and while we are feeling more and more comfortable in the city, there still are some differences between the U.S. and Denmark that we are having trouble getting used.
One of the biggest differences is composting (i.e. what is able to be put in the compost bucket and what can’t be). While both countries allow fruits and vegetables to be composted and don’t allow paper or plastic to be, every other product differs. These differences are due to the separate treatments of the waste. In the U.S., compost typically contributes to a soil enrichment process while the compost in the Green House bin goes to a Biogas plant.
Here is a list of what can be composted in the U.S. and in the Green House bin in Denmark.
- Fruits/ Veggies
Whatever country you live in, or whatever type of farm your compost goes to - make sure you compost! It reduces the amount of trash that goes into landfills, adds vitamins to soil, and in some cases (like Denmark) the waste can be turned into Biogas!
This week’s Green House meeting focused on dumpster diving, a topic that not everyone would want to hear about while eating dinner but at the Green House, this was totally normal. Our guest Stephanie, an SRA from a different DRC, gave us the rare opportunity to hear about this phenomenon from a dumpster diving ‘professional.’ Dumpster diving happens in cities across the world and the reasons range from the homeless looking for food to Stephanie’s case, which is more common than you might think. She does not dumpster dive out of economic necessity but because the food she pulls out of dumpsters is edible. Sounds like an oxymoron, but Stephanie explained how this edible food ends up in the trash and the list is extensive:
· Something, such as juice, spilled over food itemsàtrashed
· Unopened items thrown out a day or two before their expiration date (realistically it will not expire for another few days)àtrashed
· The food item was left in random places of the store or handed back to the cashier at check outàtrashed
· The food item was crushed in its packaging but is still edible, just not nice to look atàtrashed
· Freshly baked goods were not sold at days endàtrashed
Stephanie also described that there is a network of people who dumpster dive to
essentially rescue the wasted food. Many are young people and what is interesting is that this network communicates over a Facebook group to discuss good dumpsters to go to. Interestingly enough it is not illegal to dumpster dive, provided there are no gates or locks blocking access to a dumpster. Unsurprisingly, people are cautious when they dumpster dive. Stephanie told us a story of how someone wanted to write an article on the dumpster diving culture and there was an uproar on the Facebook page against it because the divers did not want their dumpsters to be locked and they did not want their identities to be made increasingly public.
A few of us had the opportunity to go dumpster diving with Stephanie. On the night of our meeting Maria our SRA and Clare and her boyfriend Rob biked to various parts of Copenhagen and brought home bags of produce and bread and pastries from a bakery. The sight of all of the food was incredible. I was amazed at the variety of food that was simply thrown out and wasted.
The next night I went dumpster diving with Stephanie and another Green House member, Sophie. We biked throughout Norrebro and Osterbro and visited four different grocery stores. Dumpster diving was a unique experience. First, Stephanie is a champ. I don’t think I would ever have the courage to jump into a dumpster and fish around for food. She did so without hesitation because her purpose was important to her. Second, we found a lot of wasted food: grapes, loaves of bread, peppers, candy bars, cheese and meat. It was amazing how much meat was thrown out. The packages were only a day or two past their expiration date.
My feelings towards dumpster diving are mixed. I don’t know if I can personally stomach pulling food out of a dumpster (a bakery is a different situation, usually the bread and pastries are put into garbage bags and then thrown into a dumpster) but if you can, more power to you. I do appreciate that dumpster divers essentially save the wasted food but it also upsets me that food is wasted so carelessly. It was an eye opening experience and I did find that “dumpster dived food tastes so much better” as Stephanie said. Look for dumpster diving pictures to come! However, the culture around dumpster diving is somewhat secretive and hidden due to the unpredictable responses of stores to dumpster diving. Therefore, it is unwise and frowned upon to name specific dumpster diving locations and stores on the internet in case the stores crack down on it, thereby removing the main food source of many homeless Copenhageners.
Want to be like the locals? Jump right in and get “green-ed” up, we sure are! Here are five ways that the Green House members are living the green life:
1. We bike..EVERYWHERE!
Be careful because not everyone on bikes are Danes themselves! Yes, that means, that you might mistake one of my housemates for a Dane. We are proud of this. Just yesterday I went to the grocery store in Frederiksberg on my bike at night and ended up spending an hour in Fotex (a well-known grocery store). But luckily it did not take another thirty minutes to get home! That’s right, my commute was only ten minutes thanks to my little black two wheeler. We all have baskets on our bikes to make errands and shopping easier on us too. Some even have a bell and lights. Yeah we are pretty trendy in the bike world. Get on our level.
2. We bring our own plastic (or any type, really) bags to every grocery store! And if we don’t then we struggle carrying all of our groceries home.
That’s right ya’ll. You heard it! Everyone here in Copenhagen brings their OWN bags to the grocery store. What if they forget, you might ask? Then they have to PAY for a bag to carry their groceries from Netto (the most inexpensive grocery store where you can spot at least five other DIS students every time you go there) all the way back to their home. No one wants to do that. Sooooo they just DON’T forget. And if they do for some horrible reason forget, they just carry all the groceries home because we are all cheap college students and don’t want to pay the two dollars for a bag.
3. We COMPOST!
In Denmark, they don’t compost paper, plastic and packaging, tea bags, and eggshells. Instead, they compost fruits, vegetables, meat, and dairy. Wait..they compost meat and dairy?! Yeah, it’s pretty strange to us too. Whatevs, you get used to it!
4. We eat ORGANIC food! YAY FOR FRESH LOCAL FARMERS FOODS!
Every Wednesday we have a family-style home-cooked meal based upon the food we get from the Food Co-Op earlier in the day. The recipes we decide to make is totally based on the ingredients we get. In other words, it’s essentially like Iron Chef Green Edition! The two chefs (sometimes three if you are lucky..) get together three hours before the meal and cook their hearts out. By the end of the three hours, they are ready to be done and scarf their food down like you’ve never seen before! Tonight’s dinner entailed a pumpkin potato soup, beet avocado orange endive salad, celeraic and potato mash, lemon garlic glazed carrots, and apple raspberry crumble to top off a quite delicious meal. Get in my belly!! Can’t wait for next weeks dinner.
5. We REUSE all jars!
Instead of putting empty jars in the recycling bin, we reuse mason jars to store our leftover foods and other random food products. This way we don’t have to buy so many things of tupperware. Yahoo! Killing two birds with one stone: saving money AND the environment!
Although these are the top five ways we continue our sustainable living here in Copenhagen, there are other random ways too! Come to Copenhagen to find out; we promise you that your visit will be the furthest thing from a “waste!”
Tons of Green Love!!
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