Blog Post #22

December 5, 2023

Ana Paula Garcia

Sustainability Values: Looking Back and Looking Forward

As part of the introduction to the Serve, Learn, Sustain program this semester, we visited a garden at the heart of the city focused on highlighting local flora and fauna. The Jardin éphémère of Metz invited us on an ecological tour of the city, educating us about the diversity present in the region and the importance of its existence. The tour was a first taste of Metz’s approach to and perspective on tackling issues related to the environment.

Jardin éphémère de Metz

Throughout the tour, I kept imagining what a Jardin éphémère would resemble in Atlanta, but this dream was divided by the six lane highways I am very familiar with at home. Our visit to the Jardin éphémère in Metz was wonderful, and it sparked a new motivation inside of me to seek out places like it in neighboring cities, such as the one in Nancy’s Place Stanislas, and once I returned back home to the Georgia.

Jardin éphémère de Nancy

After this initial visit, my outlook on sustainability changed drastically; it was no longer about taking my own grocery bags to Target or shutting off the faucet when I brush my teeth. There was such a depth to this topic I had remained ignorant to for so long. This first demonstration of what is possible in a more environmentally conscious society was an awakening, almost a tip over of the glass of possibilities. After this visit, I started to really notice all of the efforts being made around me to reduce negative effects to the environment coming from human consumption. On my way back to the dorms at GT-E, I rode a public transport bus for the first time in my life. I’ve never lived in a place before where alternative modes of transportation, especially public, have been readily available and as reliable as the Mettis. Although the lack of air conditioning in the dorms puzzled me initially, it began to make sense when I read article after article about the seriously negative impact of central cooling systems. Even being served in non-disposable dining ware at the Burger King by the Cora supermarket was startling, it was no longer in the brown paper bag that I’ve thrown away a hundred times before.

Prior to beginning my stay at Georgia Tech Europe I had to go out of my way to perform an act towards sustainability, even if it was simply recycling a used water bottle. But as I sat and ate my chicken nuggets, I realized how vital these environmentally conscious practices are to everyday life in France. Since that first day of our course, I have committed to making a conscious effort of identifying these practices throughout Metz, France, and any new place I find myself in.

During our fall break, I had the opportunity to travel beyond the vicinity of Metz for a longer period of time. With a couple of cities in mind, I decided to venture into my very own ‘eco-tour’ and explore other city’s environmental consciousness throughout the week. The first stop in my ‘eco-tour’ was off to a strong start with the 2020 winner of the European Green Capital Award: Lisbon, Portugal. Besides being a city overflowing with natural beauty, rich historical background, and kind people, Lisbon has remained committed to achieving sustainability related goals in recent years. One of the most visible indicators of the city’s sustainability was its abundance of public transportation options and the affordability of them (only 1.50 E per ticket), which is especially important to enable the public to actually use these alternatives. Additionally, the city’s implementation of public and free refillable water bottle stations was very new to me as I’d never seen these before anywhere else. Lastly, learning about Lisbon’s successful efforts of reducing and offsetting carbon emissions was truly amazing. Recently, the city’s metro achieved carbon neutrality and is continuing with reforestation plans to continue decreasing the environmental impact.

Public Transportation in Lisbon

As I continued my tour onto Barcelona, Rome, and Paris, I kept noticing and learning about the ways that sustainability is intertwined with daily life and is prioritized as well. From our very first visit, this course has enabled me to seek these new aspects of the communities I experience and learn about their environmental approaches. Not only has this new habit allowed me to connect with more people, it has encourage me to implement these practices into my own approach towards leading a sustainable life.