Sustainability in Italy – A Special Series – Sustainability and Agriculture – by Sara Desrocher. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

Sustainability in Italy – A Special Series – Sustainability and Agriculture – by Sara Desrocher. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

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Buongiorno! I will be spending the semester studying abroad in Montespertoli, which is about 13 miles outside of Florence, Italy. I am being hosted by Castello Sonnino, which is a family owned residence that has been converted into a winery producing wine and olive oil. A few of the structures were built in the 13th century! Students are being housed in a few buildings throughout the property. I am living in the Farmhouse, which was built in the late 19th century. You can guess why it is called the Farmhouse, one of the farmers lives beneath us students and the backyard is teeming with chickens, roosters, cats and dogs.

I am studying Sustainability and Agriculture in Italy. I had assumed that we would be spending a large amount of time focused on talking about the environment and recycling but I did not expect to see the processes already in place within the community. For example, Italy has a program in place which reinforces recycling. There are four garbage bins in each apartment to sort out the waste. The bins are labeled: Paper and Cardboard, Organic Residues, Packaging Materials of Plastic, and Non Differentiated Waste. Each one has a list with 15-20 items that are accepted in the bin. There is a 500 Euro fine, which is 563 USD, for a household that puts an item into the wrong bin. These same recycling bins are found all around the city and I’ve already passed by a few in Florence.

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While shopping for food, I found another concept that was new to me. Selling non-biodegradable plastic bags is illegal in Italy This was interesting to me and I imagine that it is making a great impact on the community. Some businesses will use biodegradable bags, which simply feel a little thicker than regular plastic bags; customers often have to pay for these. It was a bit interesting shoving all of my groceries into my backpack instead of paying extra for a plastic bag. Otherwise reusable bags are offered at some stores for a price. I am not new to recycling by any means, but I am already becoming more conscious about which waste goes where and how we can reduce the amount of resources that we use up on a daily basis.

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The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy (http://NorthStarReports.org) is a student edited and student authored open access publication centered around the themes of global and historical connections. Our abiding philosophy is that those of us who are fortunate enough to receive an education and to travel our planet are ethically bound to share our knowledge with those who cannot afford to do so. Therefore, creating virtual and actual communities of learning between college and K-12 classes are integral to our mission. In three years we have published over 250 articles covering all habitable continents and a variety of topics ranging from history and politics, food and popular culture, to global inequities to complex identities. These articles are read by K-12 and college students. Our student editors and writers come from all parts of the campus, from Nursing to Biology, Physical Therapy to Business, and remarkably, many of our student editors and writers have long graduated from college. We also have writers and editors from other colleges and universities. In addition to our main site, we also curate a Facebook page dedicated to annotated news articles selected by our student editors (http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports). This is done by an all volunteer staff. We have a frugal cash budget, and we donate much of our time and talent to this project. The North Star Reports is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at: http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica. Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports.

(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org ISSN: 2377-908X The NSR is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, with generous support from The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact editor-in-chief Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu

23 Comments

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23 responses to “Sustainability in Italy – A Special Series – Sustainability and Agriculture – by Sara Desrocher. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

  1. Sofia Pineda

    It makes me very happy to learn about the different actions countries around the world are taking in order to help our common home. Sometimes recycling can be a very expensive process and consequently it is not practiced in certain nations around the globe. However, even though I believe recycling is very cultural, I think that everyone , no matter where they are from, should be conscious about the state in which our world is in and try to help it in one way or another.

  2. Cassie Mahlberg

    It’s so awesome that they started to offer the HECUA trip to Italy. I hope you will post more as your adventure and educational endeavors continue overseas. I am interested to learn more about this specific program (as I am intending on doing it as well) and would like to figure out if it is a good enough fit for me. Back to you and your experience so far: isn’t it fascinating how other countries of the world are working to improve the incredible waste problem? Comparing their system to ours, it is curious that they use four bins and we use two or three (waste, recycling, and compost); is their system reducing and recycling more than our own? Is it possible to apply the same system back here at home, more separation, fines for not following the directions, etc? Aside from the actual system itself, I also find it interesting that they are switching their bags at all locations to encourage reusable alternatives (I have seen this in some parts of the U.S. in particular stores, as well as on my trip to Germany a couple years back, but not everyone has converted yet). I am excited to read more about your trip and the ideas you find useful while in Italy. Safe travels!

  3. Eleni

    Thank you for the article. Congratulations on the trip, it sounds like you will be learning a lot. I think the enforcement laws the Italians are imposing for recycling are pretty neat. I like how all the garbage bags are broken down into the different categories that are very understandable. I believe that countries should start taking responsibility for their contributions to climate change and a proactive attitude like this one will, I think be very effective.

  4. Thank you for the article. Congratulations on the trip, it sounds like you will be learning a lot. I think the enforcement laws the Italians are imposing for recycling are pretty neat. I like how all the garbage bags are broken down into the different categories that are very understandable. I believe that countries should start taking responsibility for their contributions to climate change and a proactive attitude like this one will, I think be very effective. Keep us posted about the things you learn.

  5. Thank you for the article. Congratulations on the trip, it sounds like you will be learning a lot. I think the enforcement laws the Italians are imposing for recycling are pretty neat. I like how all the garbage bags are broken down into the different categories that are very understandable. I believe that countries should start taking responsibility for their contributions to climate change and a proactive attitude like this one will, I think be very effective. Keep us posted on the many new things you will be learning.

  6. Sara,
    I can promise you that your study abroad experience will give you unlimited learning opportunities to construct a new reality outside of the United States. It is a blessing! I think a lot of countries outside North America are more conscious about the environment and a few steps ahead in sustainability. When I studied abroad in Ecuador–by the way, my host dad was Italian–I ran across the same issue when it came to plastic bags. Although it may cost someone a little bit extra, the reduction of plastic bag usage will pay in the long run. Just a side note for when you do return, if you bring a reusable bag to Target, you shave five cents off of your purchase! I’m looking forward to hearing more from you!!!

  7. Christopher Killian

    Sounds like an amazing trip. I had no idea that Italy was so involved in recycling and has a planned out system. Also that is a big fine to get for recycling wrong I’m sure that is a big impact on how people think about recycling. I’d like to see more recycling done this way in our community. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  8. Christopher Killian

    Sounds like an amazing trip. I had no idea that Italy was so involved in recycling and has a planned out system. Also thats a big fine to get for recycling wrong I’m sure that is a big impact on how people think about recycling. I’d like to see more recycling done this way in our community. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  9. McKenna Holman

    What an interesting read. Last semester in my communications class someone wrote a speech about how plastic bags are polluting our oceans. Did you know plastic bags have a life expectancy of 1,000 years? People try to throw them away, but because they are so light they are often swept away and end up in the ocean. This is why I try to use reusable bags as often as I can and if I forget them I try to use paper bags. My mom literally has a stack of reusable bags that she keeps in her car for whenever she goes grocery shopping. I really like the initiative Italy is taking to try and prevent the use of these non biodegradable plastic bags, hopefully the US and other countries can learn from them!

  10. Very interesting indeed! It it awesome that sustainability is taken so seriously in Italy, it would be wonderful to see some of those same actions taken here in the US. Although, I would imagine the implementation of these changes would be extremely difficult to enforce. I wonder what processes Italy went through to make these changes and create laws surrounding them? Can you speak to that at all if you have received any history or information on it? I know many people who have begun to utilize reusable shopping bags, or save their plastic bags from the store to reuse for other purposes. However, I think a switch to biodegradable bags or reusable bags (reusable bags are probably a good investment over time) would be wonderful! Thank you for sharing, I hope to hear more!

  11. Alex Oliver

    I think that recycling plays an important role all over the world. For example, have any of you guys seen pictures of Rio D’ Jinaro, that is what happens when people do not recycle at all. I think it is incredible that someone that goes to Italy has to pay extra for plastic bags. What we have here in the states most people take for granted. Sometimes people should look around at all the wasted things we don’t use or are too lazy to properly recycle.

  12. Thomas Landgren

    Thank you for sharing your experiences so far! It is fascinating to see that countries are stepping up by implementing ways to better the environment. It is wonderful to see that sustainability is a huge part of the country and isn’t put on the back burner. Some States in the US are even trying to start on this path by making certain plastics illegal. I think that the fine is scary so that will help enforce this whole situation. Do you know how lenient they are when people put things in the wrong bin? Great Article! I am eager to learn more about the place you are staying and the other opportunities that you are given with this program.

  13. What a progressive measure that Italy is taking to be environmentally-conscious. It is interesting to note which countries are able to be able to begin to pass such measures implementing mandatory recycling programs, especially ones that are so strict. What is it that sets certain countries to begin to lead such movements instead of others? I would think that countries that have a certain level of peace and financial security would be able to focus on the environment, but it does not seem like it is always those countries leading the movement. The United States, for example, stable and grounded financially, has not implemented such policies. How and why has Italy beaten us to it?

  14. Ellery Bruns

    I would like to study abroad because it seems like an amazing experience! Learning about different cultures is fascinating. I am also glad recycling is incredibly important in Italy. I think recycling is a major player in the sustainability or our Earth, and I believe that we should take care of it to the best of our ability. Biodegradable bags or reusable bags are an excellent idea, so is the fine for not recycling. I wish more people recycled because it could eventually save many animals.

  15. Sarah Devine

    seeing as how you were able to acclimate easily to the (comparably) complex recycling system in Italy do you think it is something that you will bring back with you to the states? Is a system such as this one even doable within the United States as a whole, or would it be best done in small communities?

  16. Hannah Schaaf

    Nice article! It was interesting to see that Italy has a recycling program in place. Not only that, but it was also interesting to see how specific it was about what goes in what bin and strict it is too. I also really appreciate that they use biodegradable bags, instead of non-biodegradable bags. I usually try to bring my own bags when I go shopping. Sometimes it can seem like people roll their eyes at the idea of sustainability, so it’s refreshing to see that a whole country has adopted this concept and care about it. I wish that our country cared more about making sustainable choices.

  17. Taylor Erickson

    My goodness, I’m so jealous of you! Living in an Italian Farmhouse? Sounds amazing! But it’s so interesting to me that other countries have taken such initiative in being stewards of the environment. Environmental sustainability is so important, and I feel like it’s so often overlooked in U.S. For example, i have a very hard time imagining that U.S. Congress would ever be able to pass a law that people are fined when they don’t recycle (or recycle incorrectly). Even if the law did exist, there would be a nation-wide uproar about the infringement of personal rights! I love that plastic bags are hard to come by; they are so dangerous to our earth and the animals that inhabit it, and many people (myself included) are careless with them. But imagine what an impact it would make if the U.S. took more serious measures to enforce sustainability!

    • Ashley Kittelson

      Before imagining the entire United States altering its recycling and bagging system, start by imaging our Duluth community modeling the Italian system. I agree that passing similar laws through the U.S. Congress would me met with tremendous resistance however, we can still take steps to change our local community. For example, we could begin with our college and taking steps to limit plastic bag usage and encourage more recycling. Additionally, it would be more effective to lobby local city leaders than congress to pass a fine for incorrect recycling. If multiple cities adapt similar changes, it could start a larger movement that grows to the state or national level. At a time when many people feel disappointed by the national election results, it’s important to remember we can still impact our local community.

  18. Mary Tran

    Sara, this sounds like such a fascinating trip! It’s very interesting how countries are taking the stance to improving our environment! Especially how Italy reinforces recycling and fines households who put items in the wrong bin. In addition to the usage of biodegradable bags in some businesses. You don’t see many businesses here in the United States that stress the use of biodegradable bags. Is there anything that you’ve learned about Italy regarding their reinforcement for recycling that you wish the United States had or did more of? And do you think the United States should implement this policy like Italy has? Overall, awesome article! Have fun in Italy, can’t wait to hear more about it!

  19. Emily Hanson

    Great article Sara! I spent some time in Italy during my abroad experience as well. It’s a beautiful and amazing culture not only for their scenery but also because they are making very serious steps, in my opinion, to better their environment. I had seen their recycling system briefly while I was there, I did not know that their fine for inappropriate sorting was so incredibly high! My favorite part of my abroad experience, believe it or not, was grocery shopping out of my backpack. As odd as it sounds, it was such an odd concept to me that I looked forward to doing it. Now that I’m back home in America, I chuckle at the thought of checking out at a store and telling them I’ll put my items in my backpack instead of a bag. I hope you enjoy your time abroad!

  20. Isabella Williams

    I am always incredibly interested in articles about countries that have laws in place for environmental reasons, from banning plastic bags to reducing water use. It may seem simpler than it would be to implement, but it’s clear Italy has things under control pretty well if most households are keeping several different bins, which is more than can be said for many North American homes. I wonder how easy this kind of strategy could be introduced in the US, and if the public would be willing to follow.

    Thanks for sharing! Enjoy Italy!

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