Monday, April 7, 2014

Danish Transportation Culture

We begin the dinner with a question: “what percentage of our home city is dedicated to transportation”.

I come from Dallas, Texas. Transportation in Dallas is… for lack of a better word, a “mess”. I immediately had violent flashbacks to bulky roads, traffic jams, smokey air, light pollution, car crashes, hit and runs, and the sad state of public transportation in my home city. Virtually all of Dallas is dedicated to the automobile. Okay, not all of Dallas, but a large, heaping chunk is dedicated to highways, parking spaces, roads, and the like.

I take a swig of wine.

You see, having been in Copenhagen for some time now, I’ve been spoiled with the many modes of transportation that the city can offer. The city is extraordinarily walkable, as the S-trains, the metro, and buses run fairly efficiently. Moreover, bikes rule the city. Given the close proximity of most buildings and places of interest, bikes are often the most efficient mode of transportation. Why take a train when I can stop by the river to take a picture on my way to Christiania? Why take a car when I can get to point B faster on a bike?

We had a egg and potato casserole with stir-fried peppers, garlic bread, and a fruit salad. It was quite nice.

We talked about potential infrastructural changes that could be made to improve transportation in cities. We considered adjusting the size of buildings, or at least the allotted usage of buildings to a smaller, more human scale to promote increased walkability and potentially biking. That seems to work in Copenhagen. In a market oriented city with little regard for public space, such as Dallas, this thought could only be a dream. Nonetheless, we tried to stay positive by introducing better public transportation options and considered the driverless-car. Some of us mentioned participating in the taking over of parking spaces to bring awareness for the need for increased public spaces. It helped force people to realize the possibility of having a social, open public space for all pedestrians to enjoy.

We shared our dissatisfaction with a car-oriented transportation culture in America, mentioning the complicated public transportation systems and the overall lack of options that continue to plague our roads, leading to an array of negative externalities. Denmark felt like paradise, transportation-wise.

Lastly, we talked about transportation issues in Denmark. Carson mentioned his dissatisfaction with the possibility for reducing biking lanes after the city worked so hard to create them. Moreover, we talked about racial differences in biking culture and brought up a point that much of the Muslim immigrant population did not participate in biking as much. As idyllic as Danish transportation is, there are still improvements to be made, physically and culturally.

Lastly, Ross felt inspired by the Danish biking culture as he stated, “If I see a girl in high heels and a dress, I go… ‘I could do that’”.

And so we did it for him.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Community Values, Green LLC and Beyond!

Dinner 3/19/2014

     After a delicious dinner, the Green LLC sat down to discuss Community Values. While its quite a ways into the semester (halfway, don’t want to think about it), we decided its never too late to discuss our community values and how we believe communities should form. What is interesting about our Green LLC is that despite the application necessary to live here, there is no “green” or sustainable commitment that the community members have to make, outside of volunteering at the vegetable Co-Op twice a semester. In the past, members of the LLC have been disappointed at the lack of requirements set forth for the Green LLC community. However, it seems as though most people in the current community are satisfied with how our community is functioning. For the most part, we believe that sharing the common interest of sustainability is enough to foster a sustainable community. Without all sorts of requirements, we have managed to learn from each other’s sustainable practices, for example making our own detergent or learning the art of thrifting. 

     In addition, we discussed the differences between community formations in Denmark and the US. We discussed how Americans tend to form strong and high commitment communities wherever we go. For example we maintain our communities from our childhood, while making strong connections with the people who live around us at school, in addition to having obligations to clubs in which we share interests with other people. However, in Denmark, we have learned, communities are often lower commitment. Outside of hometown communities, which Danes tend to maintain for years and years, the types of communities that are formed are very low key. For example, a community may be formed around a particular Friday Bar or a Vegetable Co-op, but there is not much more commitment beyond coming by for a drink or helping out every now and then. 

We’re looking forward to our upcoming travel breaks and Green LLC retreat. We love Copenhagen, but we’re sure excited to get out and see what there is to see!

-Micaela 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Food Waste and Dumpster Diving

Dinner 2/26/14:

     Our cooks out-did themselves this week with an amazing menu!

Beets salad, Carrot and leech soup, Rice, Potato and bean salad, and apple snicker doodles for dessert.

This week we got into the new topic of dumpster diving. We tried to explore if anyone had tried it, what drives people to dumpster dive, why people might in Copenhagen in particular, how to be safe and legal when trying it, and what our ethical opinions were on the matter. As usual, we spread out between three tables to diversify the conversation and got some very interesting answers along the way.

We were also lucky enough to welcome a special guest, Jacob Brauner, who is a sociologist and dumpster diving enthusiast in Copenhagen. He discussed the differences between programs in the US and DK as well as the differences in social views. Americans tend to pity those that dumpster dive, seeing it as a necessity more than a choice. In Denmark, people are often seen as crazy or blame people for not taking advantage of the welfare system. The main cultural differences we unveiled was the view of reuse-whether it is to be praised or puts one in a lower social standing if they have to reuse. There are also major concerns in liability and sickness.

Not many people in the house had tried dumpster diving besides Micaela who gave us a different perspective from her experiences. 

So why dive? Some people need it as their food income source. Some people try to dumpster dive and then relocate the food to a more easily accessible place for those that need it most. Others act in a rebellious fashion to make a political statement. Others still want to do it for the environmental benefits. There are thrill and fad seekers that jump in the mix.

Some of the main focus of our discussions were the benefits and other saving techniques such as composting, labeling, farming types (hydroponic, industrial), and soil depletion prevention. There is a large consumer influence movement around the world so most of us saw dumpster diving as an added way to increase sustainability.  Since buying organic food can be rather pricey, money saving techniques such as dumpster diving turned out to be rather appealing and make sense.

There are around 10,000 homeless in Denmark, although that is relatively low compared to America’s 24%. How they are supported is rather different, as well. Denmark brings out vans and go to the “Red Light District” because shelters tend to harbor violence and drug usage. Around 900 people sleep on the streets although the drug use and mental illnesses are high across the board. (In Denmark: 65-70% drug dependent and 90-95% have psychological issues.)

We discussed the stereotypes of dumpster divers and the ethical implications of potentially taking away from those that actually depend on the food they might find there. Overall we came to a consensus that a balance in needed so as to respect others in the dumpster diving community and their needs.

The laws in Denmark make it mostly legal to dumpster dive. It is not viewed as stealing most often, although it is important to not come off as suspicious because one would likely meet people with differing reactions.

Tips we would pass along to be safe when trying it:

Watch out for deceiving packages; be aware of everything in the dumpster; spoiled items; other reasons for throwing items away such as recalls policies.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Volunteering: Motivation, Education, and Group Leadership

Our third Green House dinner went smoother then it has since the start, about a month ago, thanks to the combined effort of chefs Marlys, Jordan, Colette, and Caitlin. This weeks vegetables from KBHFF consisted of pumpkin, carrots, apples, cabbage, mushrooms and radish sprouts. Together with a couple of additional ingredients the kitchen presented a wonderful dinner of pumpkin-carrot soup, stir-fried peppers and mushrooms over rice, cabbage salad, and baked apples.

While enjoying our meal, we discussed our experiences with volunteering and the different aspects that come with uniting a group of people behind a cause. Our guest for the evening, Aske Steffensen, shared his experiences with volunteering as a local in Copenhagen. He talked about not over-extending yourself or the group with too many projects to keep everyone motivated to continue their work. He also suggested making do-able goals, ones that can definitely be met so that when they are people can feel accomplished and be motivated to continue to progress.     

A difference that we found between Aske’s volunteering experiences and that of the rest of the house, was in the structure of the organization. Most of our volunteering experiences are through school clubs and initiatives that are run by boards as opposed to the community run organizations Aske is a part of that operate by general consensus. However, a similarity we found in the ways both types try to drum up support and new members by hosting fun activities and having food related incentives that bring people together. These volunteering “fun-ragers” make helping out a social gathering that can help build interest in trying something new or learning different perspectives about issues that you care about.

The house had a lot of different things to bring to the discussion, touching on personal volunteering experiences that put them out of their usual community, balancing volunteering and work/school life, false activism and the importance of being informed about the causes and organizations you support, the different benefits that come from officially registering volunteer organizations, and the need for a cooperative leadership to be able to accomplish group goals.

We ended the night with a little tangent about Aske’s experiences in Greenland, where his family is from, and the Denmark-Greenland relationship which were very interesting to hear. It was great having Aske there to share his perspective on volunteering and his stories about Greenland’s culture.

Next week we will be hosting some locals from the dumpster diving community for our Wednesday dinner and will be meeting up at the HUB for a talk and later at a Feminist Folk Kitchen on the 28th.   

- Linh

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

TAKE ACTION; GET INVOLVED

We had our second Green House dinner last week and it went real well. The food was prepared by Micaela, Elizabeth, Eddie and Matt. They had an interesting selection of vegetables from KBHFF including: kohlrabi, potatoes, cabbage, pumpkin and apples. They pulled off a very enjoyable dinner with a cabbage salad, roasted potatoes, pearl spelt with pumpkin and apple crisp. 

This time Bryn brought along Kasper Mikkelsen as our dinner guest. He is a former member of the DIS Sustainability faculty and now works with NIRAS. Our dinner conversation topics were “how was your short study tour”, “what did you expect about green Copenhagen before coming to DIS” and “what do you want to get out of your semester in the Green LLC”. 

Our house loves to talk and had no problem discussing these topics and venturing off into related conversations. It was an evening with great food, great people and great conversation.

For our post-dinner activity, we each presented the sustainability projects in Copenhagen that we decided to research. Here are some of the projects that our house seems passionate about:

Impact HUB

Green Drinks

Energy Crossroads

Cafe Retro

Bybi

Go Green Copenhagen

Bicycle Innovation Lab

As a house, we are very excited to get out there, take action, and get involved! Even though we are here for a short time we should use our skills and different backgrounds to contribute, meet Danes and enjoy Copenhagen. 

Peace & Love,

Aly and Erin

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The First Supper

Our first dinner together as a building was a great success thanks to the solid cooking of Jordan, Laura, and Elizabeth. The bags of veggies for the week were transformed into a great asian style pasta with brussels sprouts on the side. We spent time before dinner playing a few games to learn more about each other. The group then took some time after dinner to reflect on some of the conversations at different tables regarding personal beliefs and their connections to the world of sustainability. Some of the more memorable conversations revolved around a debate of what “consumption” entails. In a world where overconsumption is often glamorized and practiced, it’s nice to take a step back and think of the different forms of consumption we all partake in.

Bees seem to be the hot topic of the night as Caitlin professed her love for everything bee related while explaining the importance of these disappearing pollinators in today’s world. The group continues to bond and learn from each other, and The Castle feels more like home with each passing day! Overall, dinner was a great experience and allows us a platform to talk about relevant issues both inside and outside the realm of sustainability. 

The word of the day, thanks to Micaela, was Nuannaarpoq. 

Nuannaarpoq - taking an inordinate pleasure in being alive

She spoke of what the word meant to her, and then we spent time discussing what brought the most pleasure to our lives. All in all, a great night!

Ross

Friday, December 13, 2013

Community

Reflecting on my semester living in the Green House, I realized that one of the most important things for me about it was the community. I grew very close to the people I lived with, and it was hard to say goodbye yesterday. Even though yesterday was sad (as is today), I’m glad I had the chance to learn what it’s like to form a community with strangers you’re put together with in a new situation. I’m impressed with how close we grew and how well we lived together. It was great to have a place where I felt good, where I knew people would be happy to see me and there for me if I needed them, and I’m proud that I was part of making that happen. 

Sometimes community can be hard, especially when you’re living four to a room. When you hear other people’s alarms going off hours before you have to get up, when people forget to clean their dishes and leave you a mess, when you can’t finally anywhere in the house to be alone when you want to, those times can strain community. But one of the things I learned this semester is that if you have enough respect for the other people in your house and realize that they have the best intentions but are still fallible, just like you, it gets easier. 

To being it back to environmental sustainability, a number of the solutions to problems of over consumption and resource use we talked about this semester are predicated on a strong community. In addition, a strong sense of community is often part and parcel of generally valuing stewardship of the world. I think the fact that we were able to create such a great community in such a short period of time demonstrates that it is possible to create the kind of community we need to save the world.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Road is an Open One

I have to admit something to you all. It is something I have grown to detest, a strange feeling I harbor during discussions that I ought to bring more into the open. And it is the way we constantly find ways to pit Denmark against the US, the way we polarize their policies, lifestyles, and initiatives. Do I think Denmark is quite successful? Yes. Do I think that Denmark deals well with the poor, environmental policy, and providing careers? Yes. 

I think Denmark does so many things well, from the gift of higher education to the well instituted biking infrastructure. My issue dwells not in what Denmark does well, in what the US does wrong, or how we compare, but rather in how we discuss these issues. We tend to stray toward polarities, but the polarities are exactly what keeps this discussion at separate ends of the spectrum.

Discussions, and my mind at least, tend to move towards solidity, finding some sort of firm ground. This often comes through taking sides. In taking sides there is a position to defend, a side to hold, and some sort of constancy. Taking sides is good, because it means that we have looked at the world, a discussion, or a worldview and decided what fits most in our paradigm or opinion. This desire for an opinion is natural. What can be more unnatural is openness and listening. Holding a side but then allowing others ones to be heard by others and ourselves. Since a major part of sustainability involves education, this act of listening will become extremely necessary because we are going to need to promote this style of living to others. This requires conversations, the interplay of people speaking and then listening. Polarization loses this conversational aspect because it pits ideas and people against one another. So when discussing differences it is hard for me when we rag on the negatives or compare two sides so strongly. I think a lot of this is my pride, which I’m learning a whole lot about this semester, but I think it is important to understand what sort of values carry over. Brynn asked a great conversation tonight when she asked us what can be applied to the states from Denmark. One I will think of over the next week. 

I also was telling her how strange it is to enter this act of reflective thinking. It takes a lot of energy to recall and understand. So many differences will not be understood until I return home, but right now I will think of the carry over. How can I listen to those around me? How can I enter into these conversations as the last two weeks wind down. 

One tangible fact from this semester is how much we need to be around environmental information in order to be thinking about it. Otherwise it slips away like sand. 

This post is a little

frag

mented. Sorry. 

I do love our conversations here, our community, and this city. How much thanks there is to give!

b

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The holidays are quickly approaching, and while everybody is busy preparing for finals and checking airline confirmations to head home, it’s important to take some time to reflect on our past semester and to be grateful for all of the opportunities we’ve been given.  

One evening, some of us got together to make holiday decorations and eat some yummy snacks.  We’ve been saving toilet paper rolls to make a “green” Christmas tree, which is now proudly on display on the first floor of our house.  There’s nothing better than welcoming the holidays with some quality time and fun arts and crafts.

The Green House had a delicious vegetarian Thanksgiving meal together, complete with homemade gravy and pumpkin brownies.  While enjoying our amazing meal, we discussed the topic of free trade, which can sometimes harm the environment because you’re ultimately exploiting the country’s natural resources.  That then brought up the topic of “paying” for services by returning the favor to somebody else.  An interesting comment was the idea of “prosperity without growth,” and how it would be nice to switch to more service based goods and having a more social relationship with others.  

After our dinner, we all said what we are thankful for, and after having a conversation about how the environment is greatly affected by our world’s materialistic values, it was very refreshing to hear how thankful we all are for the experiences we’ve had and the friends we’ve made while abroad in Copenhagen.  It’s so important to remember everything that we are blessed to have rather than focusing on what we don’t have.  The small things in life and the people we surround ourselves with are ultimately what will make us happy.  We finished the night by creating a Green House rainstorm (video attached).  I’m so thankful to be part of an amazing house!

Happy Thanksgiving!

~Brytne

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

How to Save the Planet?

Yes, I realize this question is unanswerable, even for us greenhousers and environmentalists.  That was emphasized in our discussion tonight about environmental politics.  Niels Fuglsang was our guest at dinner, my Environmental Policy in Practice professor at DIS who also works with the Social Democrats and used to work at Greenpeace.  The entire discussion centered around whether the policies in place are good enough, or if they are even working at all.  As one of the only scientists in the house, this is one of my favorite topics to discuss, because the facts and numbers heavily outweigh the policies we have in place right now.  International panels like the COP are not making meaningful and constructive changes in order to combat climate change due to mistrust and disagreements.  It’s a little scary, and I won’t get into detail, but we (meaning the world) need to get it together… and fast! There are some funny (but not funny) facts we discussed, including…

  • The EU is reducing their emissions by 20-30%, meanwhile the US can’t even pass a 4% reduction. 
  • GW Bush did not sign the Kyoto Protocol because (drum roll please) it is part of American culture to be energy intensive.
  • We need to reach peak energy consumption in 2015 in order to stay below the 2 degree temperature change, which if we go above, the whole earth system balance will be thrown off.

Fun things like that.  There is so much to say on this issue, but one of the take home messages from Niels was that we need to take the power away from money and give it back to the politicians.  Big businesses and media have a huge influence over elections and issues such as climate change.  As many island nations realize, climate change should be an issue on the forefront of everyone’s mind.  And if you somehow don’t believe in it, shouldn’t we make a cleaner, safer, healthier world anyway?

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So, sorry tonight’s topic was a bit depressing, but at least for me, these kinds of conversations are my motivation.  It just emphasizes the importance of environmental science and sustainability, and assures me that what I study will help combat one of the most pressing issues of our time. 

Peace, Lindsey