Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Very Green Citizens of Switzerland

In honor of Earth Day today, April 22nd, I'd like to pay tribute to the Swiss, who are perhaps the greenest citizens of any country I've visited and are maybe even trendsetters.  I say they might be trendsetters because my husband and I noticed their recycling obsession way back in 1994 when we visited Switzerland, and in fact, we still make jokes about it.

We were staying in a wonderful youth hostel, Naturfreundehaus Grindelwald, in Grindelwald, which serves meals in their spacious dining room overlooking the gorgeous valley.  After meals, guests are asked to bus their own tables and dishes.  After our first dinner there, we walked with our trays over to the bussing station only to be confronted by some very baffling instructions.  In German.  And although I speak German, I was still perplexed.  There were at least a dozen containers in which to sort and dispose of one's rubbish.  There was one for green glass, clear glass, brown glass, aluminum cans, plastic, paper, metal, compost, food scraps the pigs will eat, and food scraps the pigs won't eat.  Now, neither hubby nor I are super well-acquainted with the diet of swine, and there were no clarifications.  So we dumped our food scraps into the bin for the pigs.  And, of course, were quickly admonished.  How were we to know pigs don't eat banana peels but love orange peels?  And did you know they like to eat lumps of coal?  Like I said, we still laugh about this experience today.

So I had to smile when staying at Our Chalet in Switzerland in December, to see another multitude of recycling possibilities.  These bins were near the front door:

And these tubs beckoned to us after every meal in the dining hall:

I had no idea - and neither, certainly, did the suburban teenagers I was with - how to differentiate between "Food Scraps," "Unwanted Food," and "Compost."  Notice the little icons taped to the wall behind the tubs . . . a bit of help, but not really.  We tried our best.

On this Earth Day, I thank the Swiss for being at the forefront of the effort to save our planet.


  1. The Swiss and other European Western nation's GREEN Parties including Belgium and Germany are actually making some headway into the politics in some cases getting up to 10% of the parliamentary votes. Hence the advanced green policies and recycling programs.
    Unlike North American efforts. I think in Canada we have only one Green Party seat in the parliament. Not sure about the US. Something to be inspired about.

  2. Never would have thought that I'd have to research pig eating habits for a trip to Switzerland. I'm sure I would have gotten in a lot more trouble than you guys did from the recycling police. Those little pictures sure don't look like they're going to help much.


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