Today I want to try and shift some of the stigma usually associated with Italy, and other Mediterranean countries with a similar culture (like Spain and Greece). These countries are often associated with laziness, holidays (great places to visit in the summer), where you can eat good food and bathe in beautiful crystal waters. They are rarely considered places where to set up business because of corruption, inefficiencies and long siesta times ( which by the way are not much of a reality anymore). We are not seen at the forefront of innovation or technology (is well known that you should opt for a German car rather than an Italian or even worse a french one) and are often not even considered in the race when it comes to sustainability...
But actually, while in Italy we don’t boost about sustainability as much as in other countries here I would like to highlight some good habits that also make us sustainable:
1- to go does not exist. We drink coffee in the bars (still on our way to work and meetings, standing up, fast), we take an actual lunch break and eat somewhere with a plate and a fork that will be washed (whether is home, a restaurant/refectory or even in our little offices where a desk gets dressed in a tablecloth at 13:00...). This reduces a lot of waste.
2- we are reducetarian by nature. The Mediterranean diet is put up there as the most sustainable. Meat is a bit of a treat, not an everyday / multiple times a day occurrence. While statistics for meat consumption put Italy still relatively high on the statistics, I don’t think many would disagree to be vegetarian for a day, and many of our recipes include great alternative proteins sources like chickpeas and fava beans. Greece is our better cousin, with a relatively low value of meat consumed per capita (70 kg vs 90 kg per person...).
3 - we ditched the plastic bags a long time ago. 2011 to be precise, placing Italy as the first country to replace plastic bags with biodegradable solutions. And since they still cost, it’s great to see many people bringing their own. Oh and we also use them for fresh produces. I was shocked when I was handed a plastic one for my apples on my recent trip to Cologne...
4- Greener agriculture. Yes, we also banned certain types of pesticides before others, like glyphosate in 2016 and we are considered to have one of the greenest agriculture in Europe. Sure , being greener doesn’t always mean being the most sustainable but...
Of course, there is a lot we need to work on and improve, by no mean I am saying any country is perfect .. we still have air quality issues, can improve on public transport, can better manage local businesses... the list in endless!
But, as it turns out from the latest ING international survey in these countries we are also very aware and switched on in relation to the changes that are needed to be made. When asked the question ‘To what extent do you agree or disagree with the statement: protecting the environment should be given priority, even if it causes slower economic growth’, nearly 80% of Italian and Spanish agreed compared to 50% of the Dutch and 60% of the German (but here the crown should be given to Romanian, where closer to 90% of the people agreed). Similarly, more people were likely to make sustainable action in their own lives (thus not just relying on policies to be made), being much more likely to repair items (perhaps also for cultural reasons?), look for durability, and recycle (92% of Italians say they do!) . Of course, this is just a result from an online questionnaire, and I would be interested to see more real data - but I think we are not that far off...
I'd like to conclude today saying that yes, 'they say' you shouldn’t compare, and that’s usually true. But we are always so used to look away and think they are doing better outside of our borders, we are so used to be told off by our big brothers up in the north, that actually sometimes we should stop and give us a pat on the back, and use it as good motivation to keep going forward. Let’s all go on with the positive changes..!
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