Nantes: An Environmental City

Eleanor Desing headshot
Eleanor Desing
March 17, 2023
A picture of a sleeping beast made out of bushes in the Jardin des Plantes

One of the aspects that I’ve come to love the most about Nantes is its strong dedication to and integration of environmental consciousness throughout daily life. Although it is presently difficult to tell because of the current sanitation strike causing garbage to line the streets (an aside: I have definitely had the opportunity to see the French exercise their right to protest in response to President Emmanuel Macron’s retirement reforms), I am usually very impressed with the way environmental awareness is incorporated into daily life.


While here, I’ve learned that Nantes was named the European Green Capital in 2013, thanks in part to its extensive transportation system. Transportation in Nantes includes buses, trams, and navybuses which travel on the river. I’ve found that the transit system is generally more reliable than that of Chicago and especially that of Milwaukee where I grew up. This is especially impressive when the size of Nantes is considered. Nantes is the sixth largest city in France, with a population of about 300,000 in the city proper and 600,000 in the metro area. I am consistently impressed with the extent and consistency of the transit. Additionally, the city is designed to be pedestrian friendly and discourages the usage of cars. Most streets that diverge from major roads are blocked off by bollards that can be removed only if cars have a special pass. This leaves streets open to pedestrian traffic. This is something that I think is unique to Nantes as I’ve felt that cars are more of a priority in other cities in France that I’ve visited, such as Bordeaux.


Another difference that I’ve noticed compared to the United States is the French perspective regarding energy conservation and consumption. At the beginning of the program, IES Abroad directors gave us recommendations on living with host families, and one of their biggest pieces of advice was that we needed to learn to take short showers. I’ve found that the French always turn off lights when a room is not in use and are in general more aware of their energy usage. This behavior is partly driven by higher European energy costs, especially because of the war in Ukraine, but also by different cultural attitudes. In my opinion, it seems like there is a larger recognition that energy is a limited resource.


There is also a commitment to minimizing the amount of food waste. At every meal, it is expected that you will finish everything that is on your plate. During meals with my host family, if one person is full, one of the siblings will often finish whatever is left. There is also an emphasis on the usage of local/in-season produce. When I first arrived and told my host family that I only like tomatoes when they are mixed with other ingredients, I was surprised when they told me it wouldn’t be a problem because tomatoes weren’t in season during the winter. This attitude is something that I’m not used to, but can truly have a strong environmental impact.


The last environmental aspect of Nantes that I want to discuss is the abundance of green space. It’s surprisingly easy to find parks full of trees and plants in the middle of the city. One of my favorite spots to go is the Jardin des Plantes. Parks like this which contain playgrounds, greenhouses, and cafes can be found in cities throughout France. I love doing my homework in the greenhouses and then visiting the goats and birds in the park.


Overall, I love Nantes and all that it has to offer, especially its care for the earth!

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Eleanor Desing headshot

Eleanor Desing

Hi, my name is Eleanor! I am majoring in French and Psychology, and I am so excited to be participating in the Nantes immersion program in order to improve my language skills and immerse myself in French culture. I love to read, cook/bake, and spend time outdoors. I can't wait to share my experience with all of you!

2023 Spring
Home University:
Loyola University Chicago
French Language
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