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Euro Spotlight: Environmentally Friendly Spain
Sustainable Travels

Euro Spotlight: Environmentally Friendly Spain

Barcelona-tapas
A selection of tasty tapas in Barcelona

Early this summer I took a lovely two-week trip to Northern Spain. We traveled to Mallorca, Valencia and Barcelona. Each spot was filled with its own brand of enchantment.

There were so many things that I loved about Spain  – the architecture, the late leisurely lunches complete with cava (and often dessert), the opportunity to stumble upon the most charming restaurants and bars in little alley ways and the laid back Euro attitude of course. (Naps at 4pm every work day?  Hey sure, sign me up.) 

I was also pleased with many of the environmentally friendly efforts in Spain. I struggle with dubbing these efforts “environmentally conscious” because it seems to be almost organic, as though the Spanish (and many other European countries for that matter) feel there would be no other way to live. However, we know this isn’t really the case.  There is a consciousness behind Spain’s efforts. Just a few examples: in 2006 Spain made wind energy their primary source of power; and in 2007, Spanish Socialist government made plans to provide citizens grants to make their homes more environmentally friendly.

Here are some of the more pedestrian observations I had in Northern Spain…

The food and drink is sustainable & local

Ahhh, Spanish food is so fresh and tasty. While I didn’t partake in the famous Spanish jamon (ham) I did enjoy an abundance of local fish, bread, fruit, and chocolate. I’m huge on appetizers, so tapas style dining where you could taste many different things was a dining dream for me. The tiny tapas and bigger meals we enjoyed were typically filled with fish caught that morning, local cheeses, freshly baked bread for crostinis and garden-picked vegetables (though I will say Spain is not big on traditional salads – tasty fried green beans or artichokes are more the norm.) My foodie highlight was probably the paella in Valencia (the “original home of paella”). The paella is served in an enormous cast iron pan; In my opinion the best part is scraping the bottom and devouring the slightly burnt pieces.

Valencian-paella
Paella in Valencia

Beverage wise you couldn’t beat the price of the country’s wine and cava (they frown upon using the term champagne in Spain). Wine is usually between €1.50-€3.50 per glass (cocktails, on the other hand, can be €8-€15). Since the wine isn’t traveling far there is no outrageous mark up.

An Appreciation for Horticulture and Green Space

This looked much bigger in person
This looked much bigger in person

The Spanish cities we visited took advantage of extra space by utilizing areas between buildings and busy streets – that may have otherwise gone to waste – with public parks and gardens. On the Balearic Island of Mallorca, we saw more tropical varieties of plants. In Valencia, one of the most interesting parts of the city was the “Jardi del Turia” (Garden of Turia) which was a river running through the heart of the city centuries ago but has long since dried up and has been turned into a huge park. There are soccer and baseball fields, tennis courts and a full track, as well as tons of beautiful trees and flowers. It’s great green space for the people of Valencia to rest or play. There is plenty of open space for big events and there was a carnival going on in the part of the Turia very close to our hotel.

I also saw the biggest trees I’ve ever laid eyes on that had to have been centuries & centuries old. I’m ashamed that I don’t have a photo of me hugging one!

Eco-friendly bill holder
Eco-friendly bill holder

Waste Reduction Efforts

Almost every restroom I came across offered only hand dryers and were sans paper towels. These use electricity, obviously, but the life-cycle energy for a hand dryer is lower than that of paper towels which aren’t easily recycled after the germ-cocktail they’re exposed to.

Another waste-conserving effort at a bar in Barcelona were recycled can tops used as bill holders.

Soller-mountains
The gorgeous view from the train on the way to Soller

 

Emphasis on walking and public transportation

It’s no secret Europeans tend to live a more walkable lifestyle then Americans. All three cities visited were easy to navigate on foot and in Valencia and Barcelona the metro could take you most anywhere.

In Mallorca we took a ride to a town called Soller – on a train that has seen only minimal renovations since 1912. The railway route from Palma De Mallorca to Soller was breathtaking.

Street Recycling

Let’s be real: while Philly has made major strides with BigBelly solar cans, we along with many other cities don’t always make it easy to properly toss when on the go. I was pleased to see many recycling bins along the streets in Spain.

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Beth is a Health and Wellness expert who believes sustainability goes hand-in-hand with self care. She’s the girl whipping up kombucha cocktails at parties, and extolling the benefits of canning vegetables to anyone who will listen. View all posts by Beth Funari
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