Cultural stereotypes as assets: ecological awareness

[This post is part of the series on navigating stereotypes that are ascribed to me because of my nationality.]

This time I have been both inspired by the newly introduced organic recycling containers in Barcelona, as well as by the following video comparing Germany’s recycling affinity with their love for their cars. Apparently yes, we love to recycle. And I remember that I felt physically ill when having to put plastic and organic residues into the same bucket when living in Brazil. This would be something like a capital sin in Germany. You usually have to divide everything into plastics, paper, glass, organic residues, and rest. And the world seems to know about this part as well, because I have heard a lot of jokes about the recycling part, whenever I pick up my double printed papers from the printer.

So all those small ecological steps that I incorporate into my daily life are usually interpreted as “typically German”. Switching off my screen when leaving for lunch, printing everything double sided, only plucking my phone recharger in when I actually use it (though I have to go under the table for this), insisting to be served my coffee in a real mug when at the coffee shop instead of the default paper cup, … Note that not everything here is actually German. But as so often abroad, I am taken as the German prototype and everything I do is immediately extrapolated to the entire German population.

Which is a little sad. I would love people to copy me in that part. Instead of brushing it off as an “oh those strange Germans”-things. Because, yes, it is more ecological to print everything two-sided. But it also saves paper and thus money. Switching off the computer screen (and the computer when going home) saves energy, and thus money. So for the company as a whole it would be wise to encourage such behavior wherever possible.

Yes, Germans might be more ecologically trained. But as one of the people in the video above explains. “I have solar panels installed on my house because: first, it is good for the environment; and second, I can make money with it by selling the energy to my neighbors.”

So next time you are puzzled by a different behavior from somebody else, don’t just brush it off as “oh, this is so[insert nationality here]”. Instead try a quick evaluation to find out whether it might be beneficial for you to pick up part of the behavior. You might save money, time, stress, … by learning from others how they do their stuff.

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