Where did you study abroad, live, or have lived that you would like to share for the Sustainability Project?
I am currently studying in Aalborg, Denmark. It’s on the northern side of Jutland. It’s a small industrial/university city of ~120,000.
What do you think is the most exciting thing about this location?
Overall, Denmark has a heavy beer culture and it is used to promote socialization. The school allows the student organizations to host ‘bars’ in the canteen and classrooms. They really stress the concept of bonding and enjoying life outside of school/work and see alcohol as a means. That said, it’s easier to casually meet other students than in the States where you have to find friends on your own or join a club.
There is a street called Jomfru Ane Gade, which has a long street of bars and cafes. Between midnight and 6 it’s all bars and night clubs. The younger people in Denmark (16 for drinking, 18 for bars) pack out that street every weekend. There is a bar for every vibe along that street.
Is there anything related to environmental awareness or sustainability worth sharing?
Denmark has many great sustainable aspects about it. The government is more socialist (universal health care, students PAID while they attend universities, money for retirees, free state-run kindergartens, etc) and has a huge influence. Taxes are heavy on income (make more…taxed more) and purchasing goods. 25% tax is a starting Value-added-tax on all goods you buy. I don’t recognize big ‘class issues’ since taxes really level everybody out. Gas will cost you over 7 dollars (~rough calculation) and with heavy taxing, buying a car will cost you almost twice as much than in the states. The surprising thing is there is no outrage. The culture here is to not drive.
People bike everywhere. There are bike paths (separate from sidewalks) that span throughout the city. There are bike paths that parallel every major street, and some highways. This allow a bicyclists access to anywhere a car can go. The country is VERY flat. The countries highest point is a man-made hill 170m above sea-level. This allows easy biking without challenging hills. Most people in the city center bike the 4.5 kilometers (~3 miles) each way to the University everyday. During the day, it is very common to strap your baby into a bike seat, bike to the kindergarten, and then bike yourself to work/university. In the evening people like me bike into the city center to party, then bike home drunk. (still illegal, but not as big a deal as drunk driving).
Danes are heavy into renewable energy. They have about 20% wind energy (US is around 1.5%) generation for all electricity created. They also use bio-gas. They have a lot of pigs here – maybe 5 pigs/person here. Pigs make waste. They are collecting waste from cooperatives of multiple big farms, processing that shit, and making bio-gas and sending it to a CHP (Combined Heat-Power-Plant) to generate heat and electricity for their homes. This is similar to using natural gas, but it utilizes a renewable ‘waste’ product. The heating here is ‘district heating’. Rather than have a heater in individual homes, there are pipelines for the whole municipality that provide heat for the people. Individual users can turn on the steam into their heaters at will. This limits waste from individuals. In Aalborg the district heating steam is captured from the local cement factory. If you can’t understand that here’s the main point: Rather than having each house have a furnace/heater…they route all the excess heat created from a local cement factory into individual homes around the city. Lastly, all the energy utilities are state owned. It is worth noting that although we can borrow a few points…this energy policy would absolutely NEVER function in a capitalistic society such as the US.
Finally, they are similar programs to us in recycling plastics. Cans and bottles are charged deposits of 1, 2 or 3 DKK (depending on size of bottle/can). This is significant …5.5 Dkk/1USD. They have high recycling rates. Also, when you go to a grocery store, people bring their gym bags and backpacks for groceries. To get a plastic bag costs you 1 DKK/bag.
Is there one thing that you do in your daily life that can be attributed to sustainability?
I bought a bike at a police auction and bike a few kilometers everyday to get to school, buy groceries, go out, etc. I never biked in Seattle.
Why do you think Sustainability or environmental awareness is so important to our generation?
If we do not curb the irresponsible consumption of natural resources, there will be a resource war within our generation. Economically extractable oil (Peak oil) will decline within 50 years by most scientific agreement. Those with oil reserves will be in a position of power, and those without may become desperate. It’s a disaster waiting to happen. We need to become more sustainable and aware of our consumption because we need to buy time for our scientists and engineers to figure out better solutions. I see us at a point where we are going to prolong this ‘war’ and hopefully avoid it all together with the use technology.
What degree, have you received or are currently seeking, or what field of work are you looking to jump into?
I have a bachelors in Mechanical Engineering with an Energy and Environment concentration. I am pursuing my MS in ME. I am studying a semester abroad at Aalborg University in their Sustainable Energy Management and Planning program. I would like to work as an Energy Engineer and work to retrofit commercial buildings to improve their energy efficiencies.
If you could travel to one place in the world where would it be, and why?
Hawaii. Never been there and I have never eaten Hawaiian food I didn’t like.
If you could be one animal in the world what would it be?
Curious George. He gets away with anything.