“Umweltschutz”: A German word so dear to my heart! For my non-German speakers, Umweltschutz simply means environmental protection. You learn that word pretty quickly when you start learning the language. Umweltschutz is part of the country’s culture. It seems to be embedded in the DNA of every citizen. I am yet to meet a German who would not call someone out for littering, or in their words, “you just lost something” ( like you didn’t just drop the piece of paper deliberately).
I have never been one to litter. More so, these days I often catch myself saying things like, “no, I do not want an extra plastic bag, that is not good for our planet”. I am not a die-hard advocate for “die Umwelt”. But I wish the rest of the world could be as aware as the Germans. They promote little steps in the right direction towards “der Umweltschutz”. It is this awareness that got me to see us, humans, in a different light.
Are you aware of your shopping behaviour?
I made a strange discovery while working in retail. Any active brain would wonder when reduced to folding clothes for hours on end. I could not stop thinking about the environment while in that shop. And not for obvious reasons if you are wondering. But I came to the conclusion that the way we carry ourselves mindlessly inside shops is the same way we mindlessly live in our environment. There is a direct relationship between how we behave inside shops and how we relate to our planet. I may not have the data to back my claim, but if you are the kind of person to toss things around while shopping, you most likely litter when going for a walk!
For the sake of this post, let’s call this retail shop I worked with Treff. Treff customers, simply put, are wild! Then again, a lot of us go wild when we believe someone else will take care of the mess we leave behind. The store has great systems of displaying its merchandise in categories of colours and sizes. Usually from XXS to XXL, top to bottom, or front to back depending on the method of display. It may be horizontal or vertical. Meaning all anyone needs is to pay a tiny little bit of attention. As a matter of fact, just look for a few seconds and you will be able to make your selection and be on your merry way without turning a perfect display upside down.
Don’t be a maniac!
But, the almost maniac-like spirit which buyers display daily terrified me. I realized I had been such a customer before. Mindlessly creating little tornados as I shop, all the while telling myself someone gets paid to clean up after me (the classic thought patterns of ordinary men). True, someone does get paid to clean up after us, but that does not mean we should go around acting like we were raised by wolves. We live in oblivion, almost blind to the repercussions of our actions be it in shops, or on our environment and the planet. Believing, subconsciously or consciously, that it is someone else’s job to clean up.
It scared me to realize that not too long ago, I was that shopper. Taking out packets of frozen bread from a freezer, approaching the counter, then deciding against buying, leaving the packet on the next available shelf. Who cares if it starts to defrost and becomes unconsumable? Someone has been paid to tidy up the shop.
Since moving to Germany and experiencing a different culture, there has been a massive shift within me and I know we all can contribute to bettering the environment and protecting our planet. To experience a culture that lays so much emphasis on proper ways to dispose of waste has been refreshing and fascinating.
Creating awareness on protecting our environment- “Umweltschutz” is a huge subject and a constant topic of debate. What strikes me most about this subject is HOW aware entire generations are when it comes to the subject. Selbsbewusst as they will say.
Do something for the planet
When was the last time you did anything nice for your environment and the planet? It could be as simple as properly separating your waste. Or recycling an old item. Think of the streets as your home, think of parks, beaches, and the earth as your home. They indeed are your home you know. You do clean up after yourself in your house, don’t you? You do respect the systems you have put in place to help you maintain some level of order in your home, don’t you? So why is it that in spite of the evidence that the earth needs help, we aren’t doing our bit?
Environmentalists have been singing for years that we need to reduce our production and consumption of plastic. Yet my American brothers and sisters still go shopping daily and come home with 20 bags made of plastic and counting. They still bake one time meals in disposable aluminium boxes and throw them after every use. In Cameroon, rivers and streams are dumping grounds for everything. I mean everything! We still drive short distances we could conveniently walk.
A friend of mine argues that my individual contribution would never make any difference. He said even if I choose to never drive my car and walk from now till I turn 80, nothing will change. That it is big organizations with huge carbon footprints that should be trying to save the planet. He says until they go carbon neutral, mother earth will continue to suffer. While it is great to see many big organizations begin to make huge changes, I still believe in our collective little efforts as citizens of earth. Just the awareness alone could change mindsets. Most of these big organizations have clear road maps to reduce their carbon emissions before a given date. Even some fast-fashion shops are going the sustainable route. Treff for instance has promised to ensure all its clothes are made using recycled or more sustainably sourced materials.
Like Treff’s customers, who turn stacks of clothes upside down in all aloofness, we pay little or no attention to some of our habits which are harmful to the planet. I read an article which listed 21 habits we could get rid of to help the planet. A few are cited below-
- Drive less
- Avoid buying fast fashion (note to self)
- Do not throw out items in good condition, repurpose, sell, or gift them
- Stop buying single-use items (disposable baking dishes,
- Reduce your meat intake (members of low carb community stopped reading)
- Do not buy more food than you need
- Stop using 60-watt lightbulbs
- Minimize leaving water running
- Reduce your use of paper towels
- Do not throw out electronics
- Don’t print them single-sided
Doable? Very much so. Our day-to-day lives must not necessarily wreak havoc on our planet. What are some of the ways you do your bit in “Umweltschutz”? Let us learn from each other in the comments.