Image: via OECD
4. Packaging Waste Reduction Laws
European law specifically restricts excess packaging. Packaging often serves more as a "hey, look at me" form of marketing, rather than to protect the goods sold. No longer in Europe: Here you see things that would appear in multiple clam-shells on a U.S. shelf hanging from a simple piece of cardboard. Furthermore, programs like the Green Dot put the onus back on the suppliers to take care of packaging, cradle-to-grave.
How to get it where you are: Write to CEOs and marketing departments, advocating responsible packaging. Vote with your dollars by not buying over-packaged products. If you see an extreme case, send us a tip with pics: Maybe a little exposure will convince the manufacturer that over-packaging is not such a great marketing tool.
Image: via Eurolush, Adventures in Germany
5. Beverage Container Multi-use and Recycling
In Germany, consumers pay a deposit on beverage bottles at both grocery stores and bars. After the population failed to meet high legal standards for the percent of the waste stream going to recycling, the deposit law came into effect automatically. At this time, multiple-use bottles were already a standard for the beverage industry, but the convenience of single-use packaging had increased over the years. Under the new law, the single-use containers are returned to stores along with the multi-use bottles, which ensures they are properly recycled and promotes use of multi-use bottles by removing the disincentive of a return trip to the store.
How to get it where you are: Buy multiple-use containers whenever available, and seek out the recycling options for your single-use bottles. Better yet, buy your own multi-use bottle and pack your own drinks to go.
Image: via SouthWest Walks Ireland
6. Long Vacations
Five or six weeks of vacation is standard in Europe. After all, we are intelligent and self-aware humans, not an ant colony. If you need a week at his folks for Christmas and a week at yours in the summer, how else do you get away from it all? There are benefits too: People have more time to get involved in their communities or do good around the world (signing up for volunteer vacations, for example), and workplaces thrive on a built-in redundancy of capabilities: as in someone knows how to do your job and can pick up the slack.
How to get it where you are: Negotiate at the beginning of your contract with a new employer. Many employers increase vacation entitlement based on years of service, so try to get credit for years of experience with previous employers. And write your politician. In a free market economy, only social policy can really drive change.
Image: via Inhabitat
7. A Progressive Energy Policy
Like all policy, the European energy plan is not always as effective as one would like it to be, but at least there are goals and visions. Without a plan, there is no hope for progress.
How to get it where you are: Get active in your community. Start at home by reducing power use and seeking renewable alternatives, and then spread the seeds of change.
More on Green Initiatives in Europe
Kelly's All-Natural Recipes
Green Travel Tip: Eat at the Local Butcher's
How to Shop at Whole Foods
Five Cool Cargo Bikes
Ride On: High Heels Are No Excuse
Get Fancy Water Without Plastic Bottles.
Q&A; Ecopackaging: Green Dot
Radical Solutions to Packaging Waste
Ambitious New Energy Policy Proposed for EU
Green City Guides