Saturday, March 15, 2014

Sustainability in Greece

I have observed many practical sustainability solutions in Greece that match its climate and environment. Solar panels are fairly common and over 50% of the houses have solar water heaters on their roofs.  Flying in to Greece, we saw some intensive wind farms on islands like Evia where they have the wind capacity for energy production. The Island of Mykonos has some historical wind mills from the 16th century that have been maintained and are now a tourist attraction for the island.

The houses have localized heating and cooling units, rather than central air conditioning.  This enables one to set room temperatures (like in the bedrooms) where it is comfortable, but the hallways are allowed to remain at the ambient temperature.  This localized heating/cooling system is more efficient as you are not working to heat and cool the entire house. I saw the same systems in Townsville, Queensland, Australia which were used much more for cooling while I was there in January.

It is common to dry cloths outside or on a portable drying rack rather than to use a dryer. The climate is conducive to outdoor drying for most of the year and we found that the drying racks work quite well inside under the heater in the winter time when it might be cold of raining outside.

Most of the houses have stone tile throughout the house which would be cooling in the warm summer time which dominates this climate.  In the winter, rugs on top of these tiles help to keep your feet warm. We were instructed to only turn on the localized water heaters (one per floor) 20 minutes before hot water is needed. We founds (through trial and error) that the electrical system is not up to having the water heaters on more continuously or with larger appliances like a clothing washer. This apparent limitation actually forces the community to save energy by necessity.


Much of the Greek economy (especially around Athens) is driven in a large part by the tourism industry. We visited the island of Mykonos from March 1-3 and everyone from the travel agent, to our local baker, and our taxi driver noted that we are traveling during the off season and after mid-Marc
h, and really during peak summer, the town is dominated by tourists. It was very nice to visit Mykonos without large crowds although we found it busy enough with local activity. We have visited Athens twice and the city and its archaeological ruins seem to always be packed with tourists seeing these amazing ancient ruins.

Recycling bins are the norm. The trash system in Rafina is dominated by trash dumpsters every few blocks and these almost always have a recycling bin next to them. We found on the ferry that recycling bins where easier to find that trash cans. Many of the products are marked with a recycle symbol (the curved black arrow) and many of the products had FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) tags as well which show that the products are manufactured from sites using sustainable forest practices.

The urban vegetation is often made up of local well-adapted tree species such as this road lined with olive trees (picture on the left). I was surprised to find that much of the streets are lined with a now-familiar tree species from Australia, the Eucalyptus trees (picture on the right which is actually located just across the street from the previous picture). Eucalyptus trees are one of the dominant tree species. It is interesting that when we were in Melbourne, most of the urban trees where actually introduced from Europe and North America. Now when you travel to Greece or southern California, you find the Australian Eucalyptus trees lining the streets.

The public transportation is quite good in Greece. We are staying in the town of Rafina on the east coast of Greece. We can take a bus into Athens that runs every half hour and takes about 40 minutes to get in to the city. Another bus runs every half hour to the airport which takes about 20 minutes. The metro system in Athens is very efficient and can get you all over the city (including about a third of the way to Rafina). There is also a fairly extensive train and bus system that can be used to travel throughout Greece (although the train to Thessaloniki in the north of Greece would take about 7.5 hours).

We are spending this three month period in Greece without a car. It has been an interesting experience and we regularly walk 2 miles a day. Grocery shopping for four people is probably the hardest chore since the closest full grocery store is ¾ mile away over some pretty steep hills. We also found it hard to keep the kids from getting into trouble at the store with them both wanting to push the carts and pull everything off of the shelves, we have worked it out so that Karla entertains the kids at home while I take a cart to the store to stock up for a week at a time. We do other shopping at a closer bakery, green grocer, or dry goods store. Those stores are about half the distance but are more expensive, so we have been trying to maintain our larger shopping at the grocery store.  We found that the four of us go through about 1 liter of milk a day which means the weekly shopping trips are heavy work. The good news is that a fresh baker is closer than the grocery store, so all of our bread is fresh and we have been systematically trying all of the cookies that they produce (for scientific study of course).

No comments:

Post a Comment