Europe’s environmental dilemma

One of the chief culprits of carbon emissions is air traffic. According to real-time monitoring data that track global air traffic, there will be 71% fewer aircraft flying in the sky in 2020 than before the epidemic. Affected by the shortage of flights, the author had to stay at home in Milan all day long. Italy has implemented a year-long quarantine measure across Italy. Any act of gathering people outdoors for entertainment will be heavily fined if caught by the police. There are fewer Italians who like to go out, and the outdoor car noises also decrease. As the most polluted city in all of Italy, Milan is seldom ushered in the fresh air that has been absent for a long time. In the fall of 2020, Italian media even announced that because all people are quarantined at home and they are compulsory to wear masks when they go out, the incidence of the flu season has dropped by 99%.

Throwing garbage causes trouble
Since the 1960s, environmentalism and green political movements have swept across Europe, making more and more people aware of the importance of environmental protection to the living environment of mankind. Driven by the environmentalist movement, environmental protection has become an important issue for the establishment of laws and regulations in the European Union, which promotes environmental protection actions and concepts throughout Europe and penetrates into the daily lives of Europeans. Italy has made considerable efforts in environmental protection, including behavioral restraints for the public: garbage sorting.

Therefore, garbage sorting has naturally become one of the biggest headaches when I first came to Italy. Here, each family must not only strictly abide by the garbage classification guidelines, but also pay more than 200 euros (approximately RMB 1,800) in garbage tax each year. At that time, I had never heard of the garbage tax. I thought it was the real estate agent who deliberately made a mess in the rental contract, thinking of ways to deduct my money. Later, I learned that this garbage tax will be used to dispose of the residents’ domestic garbage.

I don’t know how to sort garbage. On the first day of moving into a new home, I invited a large group of friends to eat hot pot at home. After eating and drinking, food waste, beverage bottles, water bottles, and wrapping paper were all stuffed into a large garbage bag. At the garbage dump downstairs, I randomly picked an empty garbage bin and stuffed it into it. The next morning, I faintly heard someone ring my doorbell in my sleep. I opened the door sleepily. It turned out to be the community guard. He asked me, “Did you throw a big black garbage bag downstairs yesterday?” I didn’t notice what was going on, and said to him very resolutely, “Yes! What’s wrong?”

The guard looked at me as if he was right and confident, and stopped talking, so he turned and left awkwardly. Only then did I feel that there seemed to be something wrong with the bag of garbage, but didn’t dare to ask him, just pretending that nothing happened. However, no one should try to avoid their own mistakes-I received a ticket that afternoon because I did not sort the garbage in accordance with the regulations.

From then on, I never dared to neglect the sorting of garbage anymore, coupled with the identity of the Chinese-the unique Chinese square characters on the domestic garbage, let the whole community look at the garbage to lock me, maybe it’s the one who doesn’t give it to the garbage. Classified suspects. I began to learn the rules of garbage sorting. Plastic, paper, kitchen waste, different garbage has different places. Old clothes can be washed and put in a special donation box to give to people in need. Old furniture needs to be specially notified to the recycling department. Recycling. At the beginning, I felt that garbage sorting had virtually added a lot of trouble to my life, and I couldn’t go back to the simple and happy days of throwing garbage away. But with the passage of time, garbage sorting has become a habit in my daily life, and this kind of burnout has disappeared.

Unexpectedly, the doorman quickly found the door again. I thought he was here to praise my positive attitude towards garbage sorting. Who knew he was here to tell me that I used the wrong garbage bag. In Italy, different garbage bags use different materials: kitchen waste needs a degradable garbage bag, non-recyclable garbage uses ordinary garbage bags, and plastic garbage must use a yellow translucent plastic garbage bag… Italy recommends the use of transparent or translucent garbage bags, because they want people to feel that they are being supervised by people in the same community while throwing away garbage-everyone can see through the transparent garbage bags to see if you have Sort in the correct way. I am not a person who pays special attention to environmental protection, but through this kind of mutual supervision and fines rules, I have virtually increased my pressure on environmental protection. European governments are deeply aware of this: a major feature of human beings is that they are sensitive to social pressure. In order to conform to the values, attitudes and behaviors of others, they can encourage individuals to participate in the recycling of community waste. In other words, in a community, if neighbors actively participate in environmental protection, then other people in the community are more likely to participate in environmental protection programs. In Switzerland, the garbage tax has become a “garbage bag tax.” When people buy garbage bags, they have already paid taxes and fees according to the number of garbage bags, so as to encourage people to reduce the purchase of garbage bags and reduce the generation of household garbage. Because of this, the price of garbage bags in Switzerland is very expensive. Ten 35-liter garbage bags cost 20 Swiss francs (approximately RMB 140). In order to save money and throw out rubbish, some Swiss people living in border areas take risks and secretly take rubbish to Germany, France, and Italy before throwing it away.

A country that relies on plastic
In addition to garbage sorting, Italy also has strict regulations on traffic emissions and energy consumption for houses. Cars that do not meet carbon emissions standards are banned from being on the streets, and houses that consume more energy need to pay more expensive energy bills. In 2020, the European Union also declared war on plastics, and we have to fight against plastics every day. Surprisingly, even though Italy has made a lot of efforts in environmental protection, it is still the world’s third largest consumer of bottled water, ranking second only to Mexico and Thailand. If the per capita annual consumption of mineral water in Italy is reduced by about 180 bottles, it can greatly alleviate the pollution dilemma of these plastic bottles. The defenders of PET plastic support the quality of mineral water bottles: this is a lightweight and cheap sanitary material that can be easily recycled if it is not polluted. But on the other hand, regardless of the life cycle of the bottle, the production and transportation of bottled water will inevitably generate carbon emissions. According to the analysis of an article in “Science” magazine, each 500ml bottle of mineral water produces about 80 grams of greenhouse gas.

Italians are keen to drink bottled water. The biggest reason is that the quality of tap water in the country is really bad. When the expensive French “Evian” mineral water, “Paris sparkling water” and Italian “Saint Bello” mineral water are exported to all over the world, they also bring the illusion of the beautiful scenery of France and Italy. The curved bottle design makes People have had unrealistic illusions about the two countries, so there has been a rumor that “Italian and French tap water can be drunk directly”. In fact, only local towns that produce drinking water can drink their tap water directly. In large cities like Milan, Rome, Paris, and Berlin that have been polluted by garbage, industry and automobile exhaust for many years, drinking tap water directly is equivalent to chronic suicide. Asian students bear the brunt of such rumors, ranging from hair loss to kidney stones. In the kettle brought from China, the scale accumulated after boiling the local tap water can be rubbed out in less than a week. Small balls.

In fact, we can’t blame Italians for drinking bottled water so much. Before justifying the existence of mineral water bottles, perhaps we should first consider providing clean and reassuring water sources for those environmentalists who like to drink from their own cups. The municipality of Milan insists that the quality of tap water is good.

Speaking of the EU’s ban on plastics, the EU has regulated and banned single-use plastics to varying degrees based on the use, substitutability and pollution of plastics, which particularly affected the food and beverage industry. Straws are one of the 10 most common garbage on European beaches and are not classified as recyclable packaging. The different shapes of straws can easily block the respiratory tracts of wild animals and fishes, while the garbage collection system is difficult to manage such small and light objects. They have become a symbol of pollution.

The “Save the Beach Hotel” in Rome, Italy, has its exterior walls completely decorated with waste recovered from the beach. Its materials include plastic bags, fishing nets, skateboards and unnecessary clothes. There is a chemical toilet, no shower, and the curtains are made of torn sheets.

The “Save the Beach Hotel” in Rome, Italy, has its exterior walls completely decorated with waste recovered from the beach. Its materials include plastic bags, fishing nets, skateboards and unnecessary clothes. There is a chemical toilet, no shower, and the curtains are made of torn sheets.

Passengers can exchange tickets for the plastic bottle recycling machine at the Rome subway station in Italy.

The first competitor of disposable straws that appeared on the European market was reusable straws made of bamboo, steel or hard plastic. They can be seen everywhere on young people’s social platforms, and more and more are sold in fashionable furniture stores. It also comes with a small toothbrush that can be cleaned before the next use.

In addition to this reusable alternative, some disposable straws with less environmental impact have appeared in Italy, such as Sorbos and Canù. Sorbos is an edible straw containing 23 calories of frosting sugar, cornstarch and water, which can be eaten after drinking to avoid waste. Canù is a straw for spaghetti. Its shape is like a thin, long hollow spaghetti. It is made from flour and can be eaten as real pasta. Considering that many Europeans suffer from gluten intolerance, Canù has also introduced a gluten-free straw to avoid diarrhea as soon as they use a spaghetti straw.

In order to practice environmentalism, even pasta can be designed as a straw. What is incredible is that the EU food quality standards are still going against the path of environmentalism. It limits the appearance of fruits and vegetables. Some deformed fruits and vegetables cannot be put on the supermarket shelves, so that about one-third of the fruits and vegetables cannot be put on the supermarket shelves, although these deformed fruits and vegetables are no different from normal fruits and vegetables in terms of nutrition and health. One third of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture. If we stop wasting food completely, we will reduce our total carbon emissions by 8%.

Environmentalists against the government
Although scientists and experts warn us about the devastating effects of climate change almost every day, the response of most European governments is still to shrug. Faced with this attitude, a group of women in the UK decided to initiate a birth strike. They believed that humans were the chief culprit of environmental damage, so they decided that they would not have children until the current environmental crisis is truly resolved.

They call themselves “Birthstrikers” (Birthstrikers) and regard this behavior as a political gesture. On the official website, they wrote their own declaration, threatening to give birth to the princes: “Facing the severity of the ecological crisis and the government’s inaction in the face of this existential crisis, we show that we have decided not to have children.” These birth strikers believe that instead of secretly making the decision to not have children and keeping it secret, it is better to politicize this idea and call on everyone to slam the government, “This is a painful decision, but whether anyone can support us , Can arouse everyone’s attention to environmental issues.”

In addition to the United Kingdom, more and more European women have joined the ranks of birth strikers, taking the decision not to have children as a political choice. But in fact, a study published by the National Academy of Sciences in 2017 showed that when exploring global population changes by adjusting fertility and mortality, even if the one-child policy is implemented globally and “catastrophic deaths” occur, Nor will it significantly reduce the global population before 2100. On the contrary, “the more direct result of sustainability will come from policies and technologies that reverse the consumption of natural resources by the aging of the population.” In other words, the current environmental crisis has far exceeded those that can alleviate environmental pressure through women’s personal choices. degree. The personal impact of birth strikers on global climate change may be minimal, but their behavior has encouraged more and more women to speak out on environmental policies and other political issues, and stand up to protect their rights and the rights of future generations.

Wonderful “Zero Waste” Organization
In order to reduce waste and make a personal contribution to protecting the environment, a considerable number of people have begun to live a “zero waste” life. Zero waste mainly reduces human carbon emissions by reducing waste and eliminates plastics and non-recyclable waste generated in daily life. In Denmark, there is a “zero waste” organization, the founder Marianna hopes to “provide advice and resources for those who want to achieve a zero waste life.” After learning about the exploitation and destruction of the environment by fast fashion four years ago, Mariana began to stop buying clothes from large chain stores. She avoids the use of disposable products as much as possible, uses solid shampoo products, and chooses menstrual cloth instead of disposable sanitary napkins in an attempt to reduce waste of resources. Marianna proposed a classic “zero waste” life 5-piece set, which includes a set of tableware, a reusable steel straw, a reusable napkin, a washable handkerchief and a cup . Whenever she goes out for activities, “refusal” becomes the theme of her conversations in consumer places: when she buys coffee, she refuses the clerk to provide her with a coffee cup, but asks the clerk to pour the coffee into her own cup. European bars have an unwritten habit. When guests order a cocktail, the bartender will put two straws in the glass to prevent the crushed ice in the cocktail from blocking the straw. At this time, Mariana would refuse to use the straws in the bar, and instead took out her own steel straws.

Mariana’s feedback was different. Some restaurants and bars will give her discounts because of her environmental behavior of rejecting plastic, but some waiters think that Mariana “makes their work more complicated.” The members of the “Zero Waste” organization come from various fields, including marine biologists, designers, journalists, writers, etc., and what they have in common is that almost all people who practice a zero waste life will eventually become vegetarians. They believe that the process of purchasing, transporting and preserving animal products in supermarkets will cause a lot of carbon emissions and waste of water resources. If they need to buy meat and cheese for their families, they will directly bring their own tools and containers to the butcher on the local farm to purchase, thus avoiding buying meat directly in the supermarket.

“We live in a social system that does not promote zero-waste life.” A member of the “Zero-Waste” organization said, “If my son and I are outdoors, there are no bars, drinking fountains, only drink vending machines. I would rather make him thirsty.”

All zero-waste practitioners will encounter a difficult life problem, that is, the cleaning problem after going to the toilet. Some zero-waste people can only choose to use the most environmentally friendly toilet paper they can find, otherwise they will choose to use a rag to clean themselves and then wash them in time. In Italy, zero-waste people are much luckier-every household in Italy will install a bidet, so Italy generally uses less toilet paper than the Nordic countries.

Zero waste allows many people to live a different kind of life. When something breaks, they will find a way to repair it themselves instead of buying a new one-although this can save them a lot of time and cost. But most of the time, learning maintenance skills is the best long-term choice. In order to reduce carbon emissions, most zero-waste people have learned to grow and make natural products, including toothpaste, cosmetics, and even water and citric acid instead of detergent to remove dirt. In the concept of consumption, zero wasteism allows people to learn to buy what they really need and learn to have fun from consumption instead of accumulating excess. When going out for activities, they need to constantly enhance their communication skills, so that they can stick to their zero-waste life without offending and affecting businesses, waiters and friends around them. To a certain extent, zero-waste life is also a minimalist life of environmentalism. Zero-waste activists need to constantly hone their life skills and will, so that they can stick to this lifestyle for a long time.

Environmental protection is business
For enterprises, supporting environmental protection and implementing environmentally-friendly operation policies is likely to add more costs to the enterprise, and these costs will eventually be reflected in the price of goods. In the past, in order to prevent the loss of consumers, sustainable products were still “luxury goods” that failed to penetrate the mainstream market. However, “post-90s” young people have gradually become the main force in the consumer market. According to Nielsen’s 2015 consumer survey report, it can be found that 73% of millennial consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable products. Ethical consumption is becoming more and more important for the new generation of consumers, and their attention to environmental and social issues is exploding.

In order to keep up with consumers’ expectations of brand sustainability and maximize investment benefits, small, medium and large multinational companies in Europe and the United States will conduct commercial marketing through the promotion of “environmental protection” in order to attract a new generation of consumers , Rather than really improving the sustainability of the company itself, this marketing method can be called “greenwashing”. “Green Bleaching” makes environmental protection a powerful propaganda tool to change the corporate image.

If any company jumps into the big “green bleaching” dyeing vat, the “green environmental protection” marketing method will act like a moral barrier and become a protective umbrella, making people ignore the company’s true carbon emission level. For example, most brands that focus on environmental protection and energy like to use green as a trademark color, because green is visually reminiscent of nature and environmental protection, but in fact, green is the color that pollutes the environment the most during the industrial dyeing process. .

Even the world’s most famous porn site “Porn Hub” has “greened” itself. This website is a well-known pornographic video streaming site where people can watch pornographic videos and live broadcasts online. Erotic movies seem to have nothing to do with environmental protection-after all, no one really wants to save the planet while watching pornographic movies.

In 2019, Porn Hub launched a homemade erotic movie on its official website. They invited the 2 most popular erotic actors on the website to shoot erotic scenes on a beach full of garbage. In this approximately 12-minute erotic clip, from time to time, garbage cleaners wearing biochemical suits will pick up trash on the beach. Porn Hub named this pornographic movie “The Dirty Pornographic Movie in History”, puns urging everyone to pay attention to the theme of environmental protection. It was announced on the platform that Porn Hub will plant a tree for every 100 views of the movie. So far, the movie has been viewed 12 million times. If Porn Hub really fulfills its promise, 120,000 trees should have been planted now, which is indeed much more attractive than stealing energy in the ant forest. This is a highly successful marketing method, which has aroused the curiosity of a large number of netizens who have no interest in pornographic films, and has also allowed more companies to see “greenwashing” business opportunities.

In all “greenwashing” marketing methods, food plays a leading role. From energy companies to the fashion industry, from McDonald’s to cheese workshops in the Italian countryside of Parma, “greenwashing” has always appeared at the forefront of marketing methods. The reason is simple: food has a major impact on the environment in the production process. European supermarket shelves are full of organic food and food packaged in sustainable environmentally friendly materials. They may have made an outstanding contribution to environmental protection, but their high prices have also caused harm to our wallets. As my chemistry teacher in junior high school raised the question: all plants grow from the soil, and the soil itself is organic. In theory, all plants are organic plants. So, why do the supermarkets deliberately emphasize “organic” plants and have to sell them more expensively?

Nowadays, sustainable development has become the mantra of every company in self-promotion. It seems that there is no company that is unfriendly to the environment. Whoever works harder to show off environmental protection is the final winner.

“Organic food” has moved to another exquisite extreme under the impetus of consumerism. It is bound to “healthy life” in the life language of the middle class, and has become an indispensable part of the middle class diet. Take organic fruits and vegetables as an example, mulberries, blueberries, strawberries, small tomatoes, thumb-sized small carrots… these petite foods are placed in transparent plastic boxes, labeled with organic food, and then placed in supermarkets. In the freezer, there is a higher chance of being selected by young white-collar workers as small food in afternoon tea or cocktail parties. Ironically, wild mulberries can be seen everywhere on the roadside in Italian suburbs and towns, but no one cares about them. Some supermarkets in Milan even sell an unbelievable “packed apples”-merchants cut the apples into slices, and each small piece of apple is individually sealed in plastic packaging for sale, resulting in a kind of over-packing. Waste of resources. Organic fruits and vegetables are not much different from the bulk fruits and vegetables sold in supermarkets, but compared to other more expensive ingredients in middle-class recipes-foie gras, caviar, and truffles, the prices of organic fruits and vegetables are more acceptable. It makes people have an illusion of happiness of “going to middle-class life”.

Once a “greenwashing” company is exposed to the hypocrisy of consumerism, it will have counterproductive marketing effects. Straberry is an organic fruit and vegetable company located in the center of Milan. People can often see Straberry’s cute trucks selling boxed fruits on the streets of Milan. On the company’s official website, they have repeatedly emphasized their sustainable and organic planting methods: “We operate with absolute respect for the environment, using photovoltaic panels and solar greenhouses placed on the ground… In 2013-2014, we Obtained quality recognition from the agricultural department of southern Milan because we have a commitment to the environment, soil and landscape.” However, at the end of August 2020, the Milan Labor Service raided Strawberry’s farm because it was found to have been exploited and seized 100 Many foreign workers.

In Puglia, Italy, a natural wine winemaker named Valentina was accused of using farming as a guise for her family to conduct gang activities. Valentina owns the largest natural mold grape growing company in Italy. She expressed her environmental philosophy on the company’s official website: “It is a pleasure to live in harmony with nature and taste the smallest details in daily life. To Mother Earth It’s a joy to express deep gratitude for the gifts she gave to humans.”

From these cases, it can be seen that “greenwashing” may bring reputation to the brand, but the moral responsibility that really needs to be paid attention to has been ignored by the company. Behind the appearance of ecological benefits, there is actually a lack of social benefits that are becoming less and less accepted by public opinion. Behind the industrial framework with severely under-supported rural policies in Europe, the rights of workers, racial discrimination, gender, wages, safety and other issues need to be taken seriously by companies just like environmental issues. Up to now, “greenwashing” is no longer enough to distinguish between truly ethical companies and ostensibly ethical companies, as the case of Strawberry and winemaker Valentina reminds us: Today, truly “green” The trust that “moralism” brings to consumers is no longer enough for everyone.

Environmental behaviors may also damage the environment
In Europe, environmental protection behaviors are simply summarized into three “Rs”-Recycle, Reduce, and Reuse. With continuous government supervision, these three pillars motivate people to reduce their environmental impact in their daily lives. However, these habits sometimes produce results that are contrary to expectations.

Sorting does not automatically solve the problems of overproduction and waste management. According to Europe’s plastics strategy for the circular economy, whether it is reuse, recycling, incineration, landfill, and disposal of household and industrial waste, a lot of economic and environmental costs will be incurred. For example, studies have shown that only 9% of the plastic produced from 1950 to 2015 was recycled. In most cases, excessive sorting and recycling of plastic will only delay the arrival of objects at the garbage dump. This may explain why in Germany, where garbage classification is particularly stringent, the garbage recycling rate is far lower than in Italy. In Germany, it is required that the caps of plastic water bottles, the wrapping paper of water bottles, and the body of water bottles be recycled separately. Italy does not have so many restrictions.

Some families who are overly enthusiastic about garbage recycling will thoroughly wash the used disposable tableware before putting them in the trash can for recycling. The National Packaging Recycling Alliance believes that it is only necessary to effectively clean the food residues attached to the tableware. Deep cleaning does not help much to recycling, and it will waste water.

For another example, for more young Europeans, canvas bags have become an environmentally friendly and fashionable “outfit”. However, whether this can truly be environmentally friendly requires a quantitative analysis.

Strawberry planting base in Italy. “Organic food” has moved to another exquisite extreme under the impetus of consumerism.

The “greenwashing” of the winemaking industry may bring a reputation to the brand, but the moral responsibility that really needs to be paid attention to has been ignored by the company.

For young Europeans, canvas bags have become an environmentally friendly and fashionable “outfit”.

The production of canvas bags requires a lot of resources, and this process will also produce a lot of pollution. Studies have shown that people must reuse the same canvas bags nearly 7,000 times in order to eliminate the negative effects of producing them. Regarding organic cotton, the Danish Environmental Protection Agency’s attitude is more severe: not using pesticides and fertilizers on cotton will actually reduce crop yields, resulting in a greater demand for resources than traditional cotton. In 2006, a report by the British Environment Agency pointed out that canvas bags must be used 173 times on average to have less impact on the environment than high-density polyethylene plastic bags. Therefore, these two studies both emphasize the need for canvas bag production companies to produce more wear-resistant and washable canvas bags to promote their reuse. But in Europe, almost any store will print its logo on the canvas bag, or sell it or give it to customers. As a label of environmentalism, canvas bags were mistakenly promoted to an excessively high fashion status and were over-exploited. When people collect all kinds of canvas bags, they can only pile them up at home, which makes them lose the possibility of reuse.

The biggest change that most people in high-income countries can make is to stop buying too much food in the first place. Ultimately, the reduction in demand may cause our social system to no longer produce more food than we need. Personal efforts to environmental protection issues seem to be a drop in the ocean, but as more people start to care about environmental issues and begin to monitor social and government-related behaviors to reduce waste in the entire social system, this will be a real contribution we can make Things.