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Archive for October, 2012

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Technopolis at night

Technopolis is a major cultural venue in Gazi, Athens. It used to be the city’s gasworks from 1857 until 1984. In 1999 the complex (it is a collection of buildings) was converted to a cultural centre, hosting exhibitions and events. Many of the original features of the gasworks factory remain, so that the experience is a strange mix of art and industry. It is almost as if the places is a ‘factory for protecting and generating art‘. As a consequence when you visit you not only admire the art on the walls of the factory buildings, but also the buildings and interiors in their own right. Of course, you could argue that the National Gallery in London, or the Guggenheim in New York are both beautiful buildings with lovely interiors, but it is nice to see something different, something that wasn’t ‘made for purpose’ and instead has been converted to something quite different from its original use.

The complex is enclosed, so as you walk from building to building, it seems as if you are within a gated community of art. The exhibition that I saw was the Athens Photo Festival, and it was 5 euros entry (3 euros for students).

How to get there:

The easiest way to get there is to take the metro – get off at Kerameikos (on the blue line). Technopolis is relatively close to Monastiraki and the ancient sites, so I’d recommend it to tourists visiting Athens. Do check out what’s on first on their website – that said though the website is in Greek ! Ah well, that is the advantage of art – you can look at the pictures instead… Hopefully they’ll get around to translating it soon. Here are some more tripadvisor reviews.

Athens Photo Festival 2012

Personally, I prefer ‘proper art’ (paintings, drawing etc) to photography. However, I did enjoy this exhibition. There were different themes, such as ‘Greek Reality’ (very topical, and one would naturally expect it to be there. There were lots of photos of demonstrators and riots), the developing world (a generalisation, I know. I find it interesting to have some insight into a world that is so different from the West; I saw Portraits of Violence: Gangs of Port Moresby (capital of Papua New Guinea, which apparently has a 60% unemployment rate and high levels of poverty)), and animals. Some of my favourite are shown below:

Monika Merva – ‘Irma’s Peaches’

Namsa Leuba – Here is some more of her work

Karin Apollonia Muller – Morning Run

Giacomo Brunelli – more of his photographs of animals can be found here

I really enjoyed Jan Banning’s photos. His exhibition was called Bureaucratics, and is really interesting. Banning took photos of bureaucrats in different countries.

I also liked Carlo Gianferro’s work. His exhibition was called Roma Interiors. It documented the private world of affluent Roma families.

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Travelling Tips

Deer in Banff, Canada.

1. Be organised (this is also good advice for life in general). Pack your things in an organised manner – know where anything is in your suitcase at any given time. Trust me, it makes the trip more fun. Devote a section of your backpack to recyclable waste, if you are like me and have a physical inability to throwing recyclables in the rubbish bin (I recycle them later!).

2. Pack light -don’t bring too many clothes. Hotels/hostels usually have laundry facilities, but bring your own laundry detergent (whilst on holiday I bought some eco laundry with borax. I often use Dr Bronner’s liquid soap for handwashing in the sink, which is what I did at one of the hotels, letting the clothes dry in the bathroom). As for toiletries I bought along my homemade toothpaste, toothbrush, Dr Bronner’s liquid soap (for hands & body), homemade deodorant (recipe coming up soon), jar of baking soda & tiny bottle of vinegar (for washing my hair) plus I bought vegetable oil which I used for cooking & moisturising (my lips were really dry when the weather got really cold). I like to use environmentally-friendly toiletries on holiday. I also think that single-use shampoo bottles & lotions etc that hotels use are wasteful – I thought that this blog had an interesting suggestion for hotels to solve this plastic nuisance!

3. Hostels. They’re not just for partying early twenty year olds! I think that staying in hostels is good for the character. You’re likely to actually talk to other people staying in a hostel, unlike in a hotel, which can be interesting. Personally, I don’t mind sharing a communal bathroom with others, or a kitchen. In fact, the kitchen is always the biggest perks of staying at a hostel, since you save money by not eating out for every meal, plus you don’t have to tripadvisor every eatery in the city/town/village and inspect their menus online to see if there’s anything suitable for vegans (I tend not to eat salads at restaurants). Bring your own towel and lock though – hostels tend to rent things like that out (cheeky! Especially the locks for the lockers. Safety of possessions is a right, not a privilege). Hostelling is probably the most fun when you are with a group of friends. Otherwise, sharing a room full of other people is fine. The best of both worlds is if you get to have access to a communal kitchen and bathroom, but have a private room. Some hostels do offer this. Still, I’d recommend the experience of sharing a room with other people – it’s different.

4. I always bring my water bottle on holiday. It’s handy on flights too – the air stewards/stewardesses are happy to fill it up instead of me using a plastic cup. Make sure to empty out any water in the bottle before going through airport security though.

5. Pack re-usable bags, folding them neatly into your suitcase. They’re useful at home, and their useful on holiday e.g. lugging shopping from a local supermarket to the hostel.

6. Remember – road trips are meant to be slightly stressful. You can’t plan for everything. But let the stress go afterwards, and enjoy the rest of your holiday.

7. When I go on holiday abroad, I like to go for at least 10 days – any less and it doesn’t feel like much of a break. It allows you to really absorb your new surroundings, and even miss home. It’s also a good idea to stay in places for 2 or even 3 nights, particularly if they’re interesting, as opposed to whizzing around all holiday and only staying one night, which can be exhausting.

Do you have any tips for travellers/ people on holiday? 

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Eco Seattle

Whilst holidaying in Seattle, I have been impressed with how environmentally conscious the city is. I have never seen so many Toyota Prius hybrid cars (loads of which are taxis) and I even saw a Nissan Leaf (electric car), which is the first time I’ve seen one on the road.

This supermarket, below, had a huge banner above the entrance to remind customers to bring their own bags. I think that this is a bold and engaging way to help customers minimise their plastic bag consumption.

I had never heard of a solar compactor for bins, below. These solar-powered bins compact rubbish to increase the capacity they can hold. This means that bin collections can be reduced, making the system more efficient.

I was pleasantly surprised to see compost bins in public places, below. It is important to compost food waste, because sending it to the landfill is not an environmentally-friendly practice. This is because air cannot access food waste that is buried in the landfill, which means that food waste will break down to form methane gas, which contributes to climate change. On the other hand, composting takes place in an air-rich environment, so that hardly any methane is produced – and that’s good news for the planet!

Did you know that if we composted all the suitable food waste produced by UK households we could avoid the equivalent of 2 million tonnes of CO2 emissions every year?

Below, close up of the label on the compost bin.

I was also impressed by the ‘bulk buy’ food section that I saw in a lot of supermarkets. Buying in bulk means that single-use (and often non-recyclable) food packaging is avoided, especially if you bring your own reusable containers. Additionally, buying in bulk should mean savings for consumers, since you aren’t paying for packaging on top of the food.

Personally, I can’t wait until compost bins are introduced in public places here in the UK. Not to mention electric cars (powered by renewables). And of course, bulk bins ❤

Would you buy food from bulk bins instead of buying pre-packaged foods?
Do you think compost bins would be useful in public places? 

 

 

 

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Quotes

Common sense is severely lacking as far as sustainability is concerned

I found some good quotes in an interactive article from the Guardian. Ruth Bond said that ”The huge threat we all face from climate change means that the day-to-day decisions made about the food we buy, our travel & how we heat our homes are more important than ever’ – I couldn’t agree more. In fact, according to Rob Hopkins, we should be doing ‘pretty much just about everything differently’. Environmental sustainability involves scrutinising our personal lives and changing our habits and preferences for the long-term good of humanity. Some of these changes will be easy, such as changing our light bulbs so that they are more energy efficient; some will be much harder, such as stepping away from a materialistic, high-consumption lifestyle so as to reduce our environmental impact. All these changes require effort and commitment to personal goals, so that year after year we reduce our environmental footprint.

Our inspiration? Climate change is ‘a threat to national and global security’, according to Caroline Lucas; we need to realise that ‘the war is with ourselves. We are the enemy, just as we have only ourselves as allies’, as Al Gore said. Change lies within.

I often think of a quote I came across from an article in the Guardian by Andrew Brown, who said ‘Let’s face it, any adjustment to an ecologically sustainable standard of living is going to be a lot nastier than anything Greece is going through now’. I believe he is right – we are going to have to give up certain comforts and conveniences for the greater good. It is not easy being green, and thorny issues will have to be tackled, such as how to stabilise national and global populations. I know that I would hate to give up certain luxuries, such as flying abroad, particularly since there is rarely an alternative. In fact according to David MacKay‘s free book, ‘Sustainable Energy, without the hot air’ (check out the contents here), ‘ocean liners use more energy per passenger-km than jumbo jets’!

Have you set yourself any personal goals to reduce your environmental impact?
What are they?
Have you had any success in the past?
I’ve had some successes, such as not buying bottled water, plastic bags, conventional toiletries and cosmetics in favour of more eco-friendly options (e.g. toothpastes). However, some of my goals are works-in-progress, for example I’m trying to remember to bring tupperwares & cutlery with me when I go out. I also have some major goals for the future which I hope to fulfill as soon as possible, but it is likely I will have to wait well over 5 years for some of them, if not a decade (e.g. drive an electric car powered by renewable electricity, have my home powered by renewable energy). 

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