By David McLean Shoup
Romania’s rotating term in the European Union Presidency has come to an end, but now is as good a time as ever for Romanians to look to its brothers and sisters in the EU for inspiration in building a more livable and modern society. Such efforts may seem daunting, so it’s helpful to break this concept down into two simple but highly impactful lifestyle changes. So, let’s start with how to make Bucharest greener. I’ve spent part of this summer in Leipzig, Germany’s fastest growing city. Two aspects of local infrastructure, if replicated back home in Bucharest, could be a windfall.
Though falling on hard times in the post-war years under the East German State, following German reunification in 1990, Leipzig made major renovations to make this Saxon city one of the most livable in the world. Despite being home to over 600,000 people, Leipzig’s traffic situation is almost nonexistent. Most Leipzigers commute using either public transportation (electric tram, bus or metro) or biking to work, and the city has made it incredibly easy to do so. Nearly every major road in the city has an Amsterdam-style double bike lane along with separate traffic lights for bicyclists to ease the flow and maintain the safety of the roads.
Cardiovascular health aside, biking is a great way to jump start the day, especially en route to a summer’s day in the office. Winter is a different story, but Leipzigers tend to stick it out year round, snow be damned. Just like Bucharest’s King Michael (formerly Herestreu) Park, Tineretului, and even Vacaresti, Leipzig is packed with luscious parks that make for great cycling throughways or destinations on a sunny afternoon. And let’s not forget the environmental impact that cars have on a city like Leipzig or Bucharest. A 25 kilometer round trip daily commute saves a metric ton of gas each year. Boulevards Unirii, Dimitrie Cantemir, and Ion Bratianu are all ripe pickings for bike lane space. All we need to do is paint those lanes in.
Bottle return trips to any one of Leipzig’s supermarkets is always a nice opportunity to pick up bratwurst, popcorn, or just more beer free with the generous deposits, or Pfand: 8 euro cents for glass bottles and a whopping 25 cents on cans. Some of my older Romanian English students in Bucharest are quick to point out that during the days of the Socialist Republic, the city did recycle glass, albeit of a one-size-fits-all category and severely lacking in the type of modern, efficient, and sanitary recycling facilities that are available today. But the older generation needn’t harken back to the old days. Some in Romania have already gotten the ball rolling. Sigurec and Green Group are installing streetside industrial recycling machines that offer reward tickets to recyclers from partnering stores and supermarkets. The deposit system on glass and plastic would be a great next step, but it will take government and public action.
Last month OZB put out our “green issue,” and we can’t let the buck stop here. Looking to our European partners for green energy lifestyle changes and innovation is a sure way to maximizing Romania’s potential and maintaining its beautiful outdoors.