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NSW III Brown is Green

Australia, which from the air is mostly red and brown, is turning increasingly green.
         Green, as in the way people think about the environment.
         We saw it in many different ways. While New York is just banning plastic bags, Australians have been bringing "carry bags" with them to the grocery store for the last few years. If you forget your carry bag, you get charged for a plastic bag. We became regulars and packed an extra carry bag with us.
         Our friends Bruce and Nancy also have multiple wheelie bins (moveable garbage cans) that collect garbage for the landfill, recyclables, or garden debris and compost. In their house, they keep separate areas for various plastics. When they go for a walk with their dog, they routinely pick up any plastic bags (plus Jasper's deposit and other dogs' poop) they find.
         Nancy, who is an avid gardener, told us how the world of potting and clipping has changed. At a major gardening show she attends, growers no longer use plastic pots. Some of the replacement pots are made out of newspaper, moss or other materials that decompose in the ground. ID tags for plants are no longer plastic, but are made out of wood tongue depressors or popsicle sticks.
         On a visit to the Taronga Zoo in Sydney, you can fill your water bottle (either plastic or reusable) at refilling stations. When you leave, you can drop your plastic bottle (5 cent deposit) at a bin where the deposit goes to support the zoo. Straws are made of paper. Eating utensils at the zoo were made of wood or bamboo, not plastic.
         Sydneysiders used to drive their cars to the airport and valet park them. Increasingly, they are doing what are friends do: take a ferry to Circular Quay where they catch a fast train to the airport. There are no traffic worries or parking tickets. (We were an exception: our bags were so heavy with three months worth of clothes, cosmetics, purchases, etc. that we used the old-fashioned way to get to the plane. But, we did take public transportation a lot around the city.)
         This is not to say that Australia is a totally green paradigm. The country still uses a lot of coal for its power (a big debate) and public transport is mainly centered in the big cities. One morning we woke up to a neighbor using a two-cycle lawn mower that spewed fumes. And, every day cruise ships (which emit pollution) were docked across from the iconic Opera House.
         But, Australia is a lot greener than it was when we lived there – leaded fuel was still the norm. And, their environmental focus has made us look more closely at how we live in New York.

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