Over the past week, I have been outside more than I have this past month. In Amsterdam, I have really come to appreciate the sustainable lifestyle that is encouraged and lived throughout the Netherlands. I witnessed the extraordinary efforts and endeavors made by the people of Amsterdam to create a more green and sustainable society, which has left me with a lasting impression of this progressive attitude toward sustainability in my own community.
- Reducing Carbon Footprint: My first shock: the metro. The environmentally friendly transit system in Amsterdam is truly amazing. It's astounding how frequently people use their bikes as their main form of transportation. I got to see the well-known school bike lot, where thousands of bicycles are neatly stored as a tribute to the city's commitment to environmentally responsible transportation. People who ride as their primary mode of transportation can do so easily, due to the city's large network of bike lanes. Just remember where you parked! In contrast to most US cities, Amsterdam is also very walkable. As a result, there are fewer cars and trucks on the road, which immensely lowers carbon emissions. The city's effective train and metro systems help reduce carbon emissions by offering dependable and environmentally friendly options for longer trips. Also, Amsterdam’s abundance of parks, swimming holes, beaches, and even boats for transportation offer residents so many eco-friendly options. Through this lifestyle, the city fosters a closer connection to nature and promotes a healthier and more sustainable lifestyle.
- Embracing a Culture of Reuse: One of the things that makes Amsterdam's sustainable lifestyle special is how much they focus on reusing resources. As soon as I arrived, I noticed how common it is for people to do this every day. For example, instead of using disposable water bottles, it's encouraged to use reusable ones because the tap water in Amsterdam is really great and you can find it all over the city, even on the sidewalks. I was also surprised to see cloth towels being used instead of paper towels in public places and some homes. This might seem like a small thing, but it's actually a big deal because it helps reduce the amount of paper waste. Amsterdam has also made a lot of progress in using renewable energy, like wind and solar. Many buildings have solar panels on their roofs, showing that they're serious about using renewable energy sources. (Not to mention the countless windmills across the Netherlands!) Another thing I loved about Amsterdam is how they prefer to use paper instead of plastic, and I noticed there are lots of places where you can compost your food waste, especially near restaurants.
- Cultivating a Sustainable Mindset: Amsterdam is not just about being eco-friendly, it's all about embracing a sustainable mindset in every aspect of life. The city totally gets the importance of mental and physical well-being, which is why you'll find tons of cool green spaces, urban parks, and community gardens scattered throughout. And guess what? This sustainable mindset doesn't stop there. It's actually a big deal in the workplace too! Loads of companies and organizations in Amsterdam are all about going green, with energy-efficient offices, waste reduction programs, and recycling initiatives. I was also told by some locals that it's common for people to work part-time in the Netherlands, as working too much is not sustainable for mental and physical health. They're not just checking the sustainability box, though. It's about instilling a sense of responsibility and purpose in their employees. Speaking of responsibility, littering is a big no-no in the Dutch collective spirit. It's not just about looks, it's a reminder that we all have a role to play in protecting and preserving the natural surroundings
Amsterdam's commitment to sustainability, from its culture of reuse to its emphasis on active transportation and cultivation of a sustainable mindset, showcases the transformative power of a collective effort. It serves as a stark reminder that climate change is rapidly impacting our planet and that urgent action is needed to safeguard our future. It was shocking to see the dark orange skies and air quality warnings from my hometown in New Jersey, knowing that climate change will continue to wreak havoc without some sort of change. The sustainable mindset adopted by the Netherlands, particularly in Amsterdam, provides a glimmer of hope and inspiration. By embracing a sustainable mindset and implementing policies and practices that prioritize the environment, we can create a greener, more sustainable future for ourselves and for generations to come.