“Separate the trash!”
“Don’t eat so much meat!”
“Turn the light off!”
Trying to protect and safe the planet can be a hard and annoying task. Yes, it is a bit more thinking to remember what to put in which kind of bin. Yes, sausages are available every day on the hotdog stand you pass by contrary to a veggie sandwich and not to forget to turn the light off when you have to hurry to leave the house can be tricky. If all people do a little step a big step can be done… True. But why should they do it only on their own and with all this thinking of obligation if it was possible to do it together in an interesting and fun way?
And maybe saving the planet or at least parts of it could become more then an annoying obligation or a fun experience - it might be even possible to do it as a job. And that’s what we did during our 9 days in the South of France- we discovered Green jobs and what we can do to have a greener life style.
This already started because the German team - as being located in a reasonable distance to make that possible - took the long journey by train instead of going by plane. We were picked up by some of the lovely and crazy French guys who drove us in the village. After one day of getting together, team building and talking about expectations and fears, we visited the pedagogical farm where most of the workshops took place and had a discussion about climate change. This was very interesting because we could share various insight in the situation in different countries. Being from very diverse and also sometimes far-distanced countries: French, Germany, Czech Republic, Spain, Greece and Algeria - there were interesting differences in the point of view and efforts concerning environmental protection. Before lunch I did a little session about environmentally induced migration, the topic of my Bachelor thesis, in a quiz. I chose some rather provocative questions and answers on purpose to break some stereotypes and have interesting discussions.
In the afternoon, we had little workshops concerning what we can do in our life. My first workshop was soap making. Being used to make my laundry detergent and cleaning with natron with my bare hands I was very surprised about the safety measures we had- such as gloves and masks. But, better too safe then unsafe and it lead to really funny pictures. We made a soap based on olive oil and could add different scents such as coffee or lavender. It is really easy to make- the only thing you need is a gadget that measures the temperature and a blender. Since the blender got very hot in the end we even measured the temperature of the blender. After making the soap you have to leave it for five weeks so that the Soda cannot touch your skin. After that I went on a tour to look for wild herbs which gave us the opportunity to discover the surroundings. We passed by a castle which is a home for handicapped people- great place to live I guess! The third workshop was about the carbon footprint. The international edition of this test was a bit weird and let to some unrealistic calculations: According to the programme, one of the participants who never takes the car and flew once in his life was a real damage of the environment (compared to others who drive the car and fly). We also criticized that this version of the tests doesn’t take food and what you do good for the environmental (e.g. planting trees) into account and therefore is a bit misleading.
The next two days we spent by trying out green jobs in four different groups. My group, the donkeys, had some problems of finding themselves. We split into different groups by taking note with a farm animal written on it, closing our eyes and then walking around imitating the animal noise. One of our group members read “monkeys” instead of “donkeys” and walked around making monkey sounds but we finally figured it out bursting into an incredible and long laughter. The first workshop of the donkey’s group was wood work. We constructed the doors and part of the roof for the new donkey stable for the farm. Our instructor and his assistant were very happy that in my small group we could all speak French and explained and showed everything with patience and passion. We learned how to use the saw, to measure and to drill. In the afternoon we visited a bar for cultural activities in a little village (Poucharramet) which was very old and constructed with mud and clay. Later on, we went to a farm and helped the farmer to prepare leek and onion for the market. Contrary to the group in the morning who had to plant vegetables in the heat we had a really relaxing job. We could just be in the shade, work with our hands and talk. I found it very interesting that the owners of the farm weren’t farmer from the beginning. Instead, after working for many years in the jobs they learned, they decided to grow vegetables.
The next day we learned how to make bricks with clay and straw. Even though the discussion about sustainable house construction and the working with the hands I liked this workshop a bit less than the others. Being a student not knowing yet where to work and being part of a job market with limited contracts learning and not planning to construct a house at all to learn how to build a sustainable house is not very useful yet. That’s why I tried to ask question what to do to ensure a more sustainable lifestyle living in rented flats. There is not so much you can do because you are normally not allowed to change to much but there are possibility to make the isolation better. Afterwards we constructed a solar oven which paper, colour and aluminium which was a lot of fun! We melted chocolate with it and it worked very well. Even if I was sceptical about the waste of aluminium for this project I finally liked it a lot because I had the opportunity to look in some book with more solid constructions. Furthermore, it is great that you can construct yourself an oven which is strong enough to fry eggs or to melt chocolate with very few money!
After those very intense and interesting workshops we left our village and spent one day in Toulouse. We could choose if we want to go to the museum or do a guided tour. Later we met in the park to have a picknic all together. In the afternoon I went to the Japanese garden (where you could not touch the grass) park with a group of people and just relaxed, played boards games and climbed on the climbing frame. I really liked Toulouse because I found it a quite green warm and welcoming city. After spending time in a city we were prepared to discover the Pyrenees. After some trouble with finding the right way we finally arrived at a farm which produced goat cheese. After being welcomed by a little goat the current interns explained us how to make cheese and showed us how the milk of goats in taken. I think that the goats have a very good life there but I stay sceptical about the idyll because making milk and cheese always involves separating kids and parents of the animal and milking is also not a painless process. Still, I am convinced, if you want to consume milk product you should definitively go to such farmers. Apart from the wellbeing of the animals which is to be discussed for sure, the ecological balance of such farms is great for sure because the goats can be fed with grass. Furthermore, it is good quality and without antibiotics. The next step was the visit of a shepherd with a very nice dog which looked like a sheep. We were very surprised that these type of sheep had almost no wool. I found the conversation with the shepherd very interesting and I liked how passionate he was about his job. He was also not born in a shepherd family but decided to try out to life his dream which he is doing now. However, how I made the experience with small farmers a lot, some of what he said is very contradictory to me. He says that the sheep and the dog are like his family but on the other hand he kills most of the lambs after five months to sell their flesh and said that he has to kill his dog in case he bites him. Even if I am convinced he’s doing a hard and good job and that it is definitively a good alternative to mass production I can’t stand this superior position of humans towards animals. The visit of both places made me think a lot and as a consequence, strengthened my personal position concerning using livestock for food. Afterwards we did a little hike and then went by car to a lake which was fun to cross by swimming but for me it was too cold - not for three of the Greek and one of the Algerians guys who did a competition who could stay in the water the longest!
In the evening we normally didn’t have a fixed programme which I enjoyed a lot because it gave a lot of space for playing games, relaxing and having interesting discussions. On five evenings one team or our group cooked a meal for everyone. All of them the groups had a challenge- they had to fulfil the challenge and respect different eating habits: halal, vegan, vegetarian and lactose free! I think the most difficult challenge was making a meal with only raw food but they good along quite well and prepared salad, fruit salad and bread with different toppings. The other challenges were the following: making a fruit in the main dish and a vegetable in the desert, using aromatic plants in every dish, do everything green and international food. I really loved this idea and the food was always very good. We got most our vegetables fresh from the farm. But of course, cooking for groups can take a while and sometimes we were very hungry and ate very late. Still, the outcome normally made the waiting worth it! One evening, we went to a concert of a local group in a village nearby and rocked the floor! Afterwards we could watch a moon eclipse. Another evening, we went to an event in our village which was all about stars. There were theatre plays and people explaining the constellation of stars. On the second last evening we had intercultural nights and prepared a quiz for all countries and some food. Since the German team did not talk before what we’d bring we had a very funny mixture: A pork sausage (Mettwurst), Katjes sweets and Sauerkraut! My favourite table was the Greek one, from bread salad to olive oil to organic chewing gum, it was all so delicious!
In the end we very all very sad to leave, we had grown together a lot in the few days and were in a really good flow. Since the German team had to leave early in the morning, we spent the night awake with the some of the participants and volunteers. I think we all got very inspired for our future life and I hope we will also meet sometimes somewhere!