Slovenia: Green, blue and green. Part 2 – sustainability

Ljubljana_panorama
Panorama across Ljubljana

So, in my last post I waxed lyrical about some of the many, many joys of swimming in this gorgeous country and its amazing countryside. However, I was also really impressed with how green, clean and sustainability-minded it also seems to be.

At home in London, I can often spot on my way to work what people had for breakfast, or for dinner the night before, because the packaging and unwanted remnants of fast food are ‘handily’ left out on the street for other passers-by to see. I think a lot of people are aware that Britain has a serious litter problem, but I’d kind of got used to it. Visiting Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, has suddenly made me very aware of it again!

The one bit of rubbish we saw touring round the Slovenian countryside
Rubbish seen in Slovenia: item one of two

The place is pretty much spotless, both in the cities and in the countryside. Aside from the picture above, the only real rubbish I saw was a tennis ball in the (ridiculously clean) river that runs through the centre of the city. Fortunately, that had the amazingly redeeming feature of being played with by an otter. Yup, the river right bang in the middle of the capital city has otters in it!

The river, right in the middle of the capital city
The river, right in the middle of the capital city

Otters aside, it’s easy to see how city residents are empowered to keep their streets clean – there were recycling facilities for paper, plastic and metal everywhere, along with organic food waste bins. Instead of a single bin overflowing with every type of rubbish (like I’m used to), everything was separated out. Such a good idea.

Recycling bins in Ljubljana
Recycling bins in Ljubljana

Also dotted all over the city were water taps providing clean drinking water. I think this is a great idea – so much better than the waste generated by bottled water! What also struck me was that we hardly saw any food or drink served in disposable packaging. People lingered at cafes rather than getting takeaway cups, and we didn’t see a single shop selling food to go.

According to the website http://www.zerowasteeurope.eu, Slovenians generated 200kg less rubbish per person per year than the European average in 2013! I would be interested to know if this is more down to individual choice, or simply that the system enables lower waste production. I suspect at least partially the latter – in the one supermarket visit of our trip out in the town of Bled, customers were not offered any plastic bags to take their shopping away in and all the fruit and veg was loose. The people ahead of us grabbed a cardboard box from the entrance to use instead of a bag, perhaps carrier bags are just not the done thing? Great, if so!

In Bled, a town that contains the country’s only island in the gorgeously clean, warm Lake Bled, we stayed in a lovely eco-glamping site. Garden Village Bled is a series of tents on wooden platforms over a small (but surprisingly noisy) river, and some treehouses. It also had a pool kept clean by the plants that grew in it, and a restaurant serving food grown on the premises. There were alpine strawberry and tomato plants dotted about the place for guests to snack on the fruits – essentially I was in heaven.

Garden_village

A final mention should be given for the clean and readily available buses to travel around the country. They were also very affordable, due to a system that sets a maximum amount the bus companies charge per kilometre.

There are obviously many logistical, cultural and economic difference between a country with a population of around 2 million people and London, but I do feel we could learn a lot from them – normalising recycling and composting in public as well as at home, slowing down and stopping to smell the coffee (and stopping to drink it!), and most importantly being proud of your city and keeping it clean!

All in all, I can say I fell in love with this amazing country, and can only hope as it grows in popularity for tourists, that it can keep its unspoilt scenery and great attitude. Go there, and treat it nicely when you do!

Ljubljana sunset as seen from the castle on top of the hill
Ljubljana sunset as seen from the castle on top of the hill
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