Sustainability in Tasmania

There is a large amount of skepticism in the United States about sustainable practices, both due to the financial aspects and the effectiveness. While I knew that there were many countries that had taken a number of steps towards sustainability and climate change mitigation, I’m not really sure what I expected of Tasmania.

I knew Tasmania was wild; a state of Australia which boasts an incredible appreciation for nature by preserving just under half of its land area. There are areas of Tasmania that are incredibly remote, rarely explored by humans.

Living sustainably on this dynamic, sensitive planet is incredibly important for the maintenance of vital ecosystems and Earth processes. The goal of sustainability is to ensure that future generations will have access to resources of the same, or greater, quantity and quality that our generation has access to. Being a Sustainability Minor at DU, I immediately noticed the steps that Tasmania has taken towards sustainability.

There were two things that really caught my attention in the first couple weeks of my stay: solar panels and rainwater tanks.  Every small town here has at least a few buildings with solar panels. In Hobart, the capital of the state, you can see solar panels perched on roofs in almost any direction, in every part of the city.  As for the rainwater tanks, I actually wasn’t sure what the tanks were when I first saw them because I had never seen a rainwater tank.  Moreover, I’ve never seen so many tanks of that size and abundance. There is even a Rainwater Harvesting Association of Australia, which promotes rainwater collection and works to maintain guidelines in Australia.  It doesn’t surprise me that rainwater collection is so popular, given the country’s history with drought.

What also caught my eye was the switches on the power outlets and the half-flush option on the toilets.  The switches on the power outlets allow you to cut off power going to the device that is plugged into the outlet.  This extremely useful, as it eliminates the wasted vampire power, otherwise known as standby power.  In terms of the toilets, during my time here (about 3.5 months), I have only seen two toilets that do not have the half-flush option.  Even some really old toilets have the half-flush option.  Yet another water-saving initiative implemented by Australian.

Aside from appliances, I have noticed that most homes are small in Tasmania. Granted, Tasmania is a small state comprising of just over a half-million people who like to keep it simple, but I personally believe that it is out of the ordinary to have such a great number of small homes.  Intentional or not, this practice is inherently saving energy and reducing the amount of building materials needed.  It is important to note that homes and buildings don’t seem to be properly insulated, which increases energy usage. After researching the subject, I found that there are several articles written recently about Australia’s insulation problem.

There are so many great sustainable practices in Tasmania, but I have noticed a few select items that could be improved upon.  For one, reusable water bottles are not popular here.  This may be due to the lack of public water fountains and bottle filling stations.  In fact, during one of my first days of class, I walked all around the Geography building looking for a water fountain to fill my Nalgene up.  I was surprised to see so many plastic water bottles being bought and used.  Interestingly enough, some people actually reuse their plastic water bottles for a few days.

Additionally, Tasmania is lacking an adequate amount of bike lanes.  When I first arrived, I bought a bike so that I didn’t have to take the hour walk from accommodations to my classes.  I’m not an avid bike rider, so I’m not always comfortable biking without bike lanes.  Despite this, biking around is a popular practice here, even with the massive hills.  But I do believe that more bike lanes, as well as the addition of bike racks to the buses, will encourage more people to bike to and from work and school.

Overall, I’d say Tasmania is a pretty sustainable state.  I think Australia, as a whole, has taken on a lot of sustainable practices.  There is definitely room for improvement, but that’s with every other country in the world, too.

Tasmania, give yourself a pat on the back for this one.

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Ireland

This past weekend, the day after returning from the Camino de Santiago, I boarded a plane and flew 3 hours to the city of Dublin, Ireland, and met up with some of my friends from the University of Denver. Coming from Alicante, a warm city along the coast, it was a wonderful change of pace to experience some cold weather.

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Roasted Barley for Guinness

Dublin is a large, spread out city with a wide variety of interesting experiences and a lot of intriguing graffiti murals. On the first day of our Dublin trip, my friends and I walked around and went to some art galleries and shops before taking a tour of the Guinness factory; which has a rich history that is very important to the country of Ireland. We got to see how the famous beer is brewed and everything that goes into the brewing process. On top of the Guinness factory, there is a circular room made out of glass                                                                                       panels that offer a beautiful 360° view of Dublin.

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View from Rooftop Bar

The following day, one of my friends and I awoke at 6:00am for a bus tour that we had scheduled. The bus would leave from the center of the city at 7:45 and take us to the magnificent Cliffs of Moher. Dublin is located on the very East coast of Ireland, and the Cliffs are located on the very West coast of Ireland. Interestingly, it only took three and a half hours on a bus to travel across the entire country of Ireland. That is less time than it would take me to get from Kansas City to St. Louis.

After a very sleepy three and a half hour bus ride, we arrived at the Cliffs of Moher, and they were even bigger than we had expected. The cliffs stand at 700 feet tall, and had a somewhat eerie feel to them due to dark storm clouds and stories we had heard about individuals falling off due to large gusts of wind. That being said, they are one of the more beautiful spectacles I have ever witnessed in person. Viewing the white-capped waves crashing into the rigid, mossy cliffs from 700 feet above was truly aw-inspiring. We explored the cliffs for a little less than two hours before boarding our bus to return to civilization.

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On our way home from the cliffs, we stopped in a small town called Doolin to try some local food and experience a rural farm town in Ireland. There, we learned that sheep outnumber humans four to one in the country of Ireland. It was really nice to travel from East to South coast by bus, because we got to see a lot of Ireland and what it looks like in the center.

Sadly, on day three, right before touring the Jameson factory, our trip was cut short due to hurricane Ophelia. Many of my friends flights got cancelled, so we had to go back to our Airbnb and book new flights. Mine happened to be in 2 hours from when we found out about the hurricane, so I raced to the airport and made it to my plane with 2 minutes to spare. Although our trip was cut short by a day, I am very happy I visited Ireland and hope to return someday.