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Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Is Brussels More Sustainable for an Athenian? A Personal View

After more than eight months here in Brussels, I have found out every day that it is a more sustainable city than Athens.  There was a hope that things would improve in Athens but unfortunately everything seems to be going backwards now...

I was happy to discover bicycles here in Brussels.  There is a perfect system with the city bikes that you can take from any bike stand next to your place and park it at the nearest stand to your office stand without any charge for the first 30 minutes (you don’t need more time to go to your office).  The streets are full of bike routes that you can cycle on easily without being afraid that a car will come at you.

In Athens, which is flatter than Brussels (at least at the center), where there are much fewer cycle paths (and none in the center of the city), it is very dangerous to bike.  And if you did manage to get to the office by bike, you will be met by the derision of your colleagues for your choice.

What about public transportation?  In Brussels, there are metro, tram, buses and train lines for every spot in the city.  In Athens the metro is not that big and is still being extended, works that no-one knows when they will finish.  Buses, trolleys and trams?  Good luck with that as it will most likely take more than one hour to go to your destination.  The traffic is terrible and the bus routes are not enough.

Another thing that I like in Brussels is the recycling system.  You have three different bin bags - yellow, blue and white - which you use in order to separate your garbage.  Instead of having trashcans on the street, you take out your bin bags on specific days.  If you put the wrong garbage in the wrong bag, they will not take it and they will leave a warning note for your mistake.  If you get it wrong next time, there are fines.  Everyone obeys.

In Athens, the recycling system is not going well.  There has been a reduction this year compared to last year according to the Hellenic Recovery Recycling Corporation.  Not a lot of people seem to care that the blue bins are for recycling.

Brussels is green, there are parks everywhere, which are not (too) dangerous at night and where you can go (if it is not raining) and relax with your friends.  Brussels is a city with one million people not five million like Athens - a smaller city, less pollution, less traffic and a better quality of life.

I do have to admit that Brussels’ streets are not that clean.  The pavements are dirty and many dog owners do not clean up after their pets, something I really can’t understand.  But Athens’ streets are dirty too.

I will never change my mind about leaving Athens, not least because my life became much greener here.  Never say never, you will tell me.  Well, I will think about this during the green events, which are taking place in the city this September.

Blog by Aris Koutentakis

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