“Climate change”, “sustainable development”, “resource depletion”, “deforestation” are terms we hear more and more often these years, along with the term “air pollution” and overpopulation of the Earth, which reached 8 billion inhabitants, 7 millions more from the 1 billion at the beginning of the 19th century.
These terms reflect the negative imprint that our way of life is leaving on the planet. Given this, we are obliged to take measures to hand over our planet intact to future generations, and, why not, to improve our everyday lives. Such measures should already have been taken, but the current energy (and not only) crisis delayed them or, due to special circumstances, even undermining them…
Sustainability is on the agenda of the Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe and is also part of a three-subject agenda of the Cultural Routes Training Academy.
Since the certification of the Routes by the Council of Europe is a mark of excellence, we have to respond to such a vital and existential issue.
It is no coincidence that the Historic Cafés Route participates with two members of the executive team – the undersigned and the Communication Manager, Maria Mystakidou – in the effort not only to raise awareness but also to take action by our members (and not only) to make the problem known and to decide a framework for action. HCR also plans to establish both a “badge” of participation for our members, plus a good practice award.
For the sustainability programme, we have approached experts and there will follow a period of discussions with members and specialists on the domain. Then the Board of Directors will be asked to approve it. If this happens, it will be raised as an item at the next HCR General Meeting.
At the same time, those who can and those who wish to assist in the efforts to define and implement the sustainability plan are kindly invited to help. In the programme industry experts will be involved to ensure a more thorough and effective course in terms of objectives as well as clear and proper information.
So far, we contacted Professor Despina Vokou of the Biology Department of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, for this first recording of proposals.
There are three keys or, if you prefer, target categories in this whole effort.
These are Energy, Water and Zeros!
As we know, there is an urgent need to replace fossil fuels with “green” energy sources. And to be clearer, green they are:
- Solar energy
- Wind energy
- Hydro energy
- Tidal energy
- Geothermal energy
- Biomass energy
It is not always up to us to choose the energy source, although – depending on states and laws – there are exceptions and possibilities. Perhaps the first three are more accessible to individuals.
In the energy sector, however, in addition to the source, the reduction in energy consumption is of great importance. Such savings can be made, for example, in lighting by replacing light bulbs, in cooling/heating by less energy-intensive means, in better insulation, etc.
In addition to what will be undertaken by the member-companies themselves in the context of sustainability, the attitude of suppliers, who should also follow similar green practices, will also be taken into account.
For example – and I am referring specifically to Cafés – the supplier can use natural gas to roast the Coffee. This could be replaced by a machine inside the Café, which would provide a ‘fresh’ product, possibly less energy-intensive, especially if the Café runs on renewable energy, in general or in part.
Sustainable water systems should provide adequate water quantity and appropriate water quality for a given need, without compromising the future ability to provide this capacity and quality, according to the IWA (International Water Association).
Much can be done at the enterprise level to conserve clean freshwater, such as by choosing washing machines that consume less (and at the same time are less energy-intensive), by proper use in washrooms and toilets, by loss-free facilities and by other more specific constructions or processes (e.g. water collection tanks) that depend on individual characteristics of the enterprise and/or the area where it is located. A general policy that has fortunately become widespread is – for example – controlled and intermittent flow taps, although it is fair to say that hundreds of meters of paper on the side are not very welcome, unless it is exclusively recyclable!
Zeros refer to a broad category of individual objectives, where the aim is to drastically reduce the use of specific products or produce with zero waste.
Plastic is a main problem at this category, whether it concerns single-use or multi-use products. This is also the category where the “cursed” plastic bag or plastic straw are found, and so much is said and done about them, as if they are the only ones responsible for plastic pollution of our seas. Same goes for plastic cups, plates, cutlery, pitchers and more.
All of these have to be replaced by environmentally friendly materials such as wood, recyclable paper, glass, clay and others. Linked to these are suggestions such as reusable glasses in the “delivery” that are collected on the second order and a certain amount of money is deducted, personalized glasses and utensils that individuals will give to the companies to use for them. I note that there is a brilliant field of initiatives here for any business, depending on itself and the habits of its customers.
“Zero” refers also to the chemicals used for cleaning and disinfection. Many end up in the atmosphere and through waste in the environment, contributing to its deterioration and degradation. So choose products that are as “green” as possible. But be careful: double check to buy and use certified green chemicals, not “fake”.
At the “zero” category, garbage is also included!
If the separation into paper – plastic – aluminum etc has become quite commonplace in people’s minds (but not in all countries), the same doesn’t apply for food that is left unsold and often… thrown away because it expired.
One suggestion is that these soon-to-expire products should be marketed at lower prices, thus saving a considerable amount of energy and resources.
Another proposal is that those that are close to expiry should be marketed even as an offer to structures in need for immediate consumption.
It is both ecological and helps people in need!
This category includes milk, which is extremely valuable because the rearing of cows is associated with the release of methane into the atmosphere, which is much more active than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas (i.e., contributing to climate change). So, measure the milk you use and don’t throw it away!
Coffee grounds that accumulate in large quantities at the end of the day can be part of the zero category. It is a wonderful fertilizer!
And there are so many more ideas…
Therefore we look forward to your suggestions and comments as growth is good but, on the same time let’s keep the Earth sustainable for the next generation.
P.S. If for some reason you print this article, please recycle!
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