First stop on the sustainability tour: Hallingelille. Hallingelille is an eco-village of about 20 families. Here is the website in English: <http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=da&u=http://www.hallingelille.dk/&prev=/search%3Fq%3Dhallingelille%26client%3Dsafari%26rls%3Den>
We arrived to a warm dinner in the community house at the center of the village. I ate with Elin, an artist who works with glass and sells it at the famous park Tivoli, in Copenhagen, and her daughter who is 16. That night we fired up their sauna with two of the men from the village and alternately swam in the lake (think ice cube) and baked in the sauna. We cooked for ourselves and the villagers on a cooking rotation, and each morning helped the community with the tasks they have to do to keep everything functioning: harvesting potatoes, pumpkins, beans, apples, shoveling cow poop and cleaning the barn, cleaning the stables and feeding the horses, and assisting in the construction of their newest building: a learning center. I was in heaven.
Every building is made from sustainable materials: straw, clay, recycled wood, recycled tires, hemp insulation, bricks made from highly compressed dirt; each house is powered by solar panels. When they first started thinking about the village in the late 90s, almost everyone was living in Copenhagen, but around 2000 they moved to this piece of land where the village is. Everyone lived in trailers and small small houses while they built the village as a community (and with the help of a cool construction company, whose name translates to: “We’re in It for the Money & Daughters”). So everyone got to design their dream houses. Some are strange shapes, most have huge windows and receive most of their heating from these windows. Their waste system is a “willow waste system”. They have a couple long lanes of willow trees, where all of the waste goes from the village (100% organic products and waste). The willows are really good at cleaning the bacteria from the waste, and each season they are not being used some are harvested to build fences and other structures, then replaced). Each member of the community is expected to put in a certain amount of hours per year to help the village function, but one of their core values is that there is no policing. The community is all about trust, and everyone who lives there wants to be there. There is no exclusivity, you just have to go to three common meetings before you can decide to move in. The idea is that eventually the village can be a completely closed loop: they have a building where people 50 and over can rent rooms with small kitchens, and are just building this learning center.
Most of the families do still have cars. The village is not in walking distance from town and people have normal jobs in addition to being part of the village.
Another highlight: dumpster diving! In Denmark, somewhere between 33 and 50% of all food is THROWN OUT!! The day we went dumpster diving the our organizer Camilla casually asked, “So who can drive here?” This is how I ended up driving two unfamiliar standard cars on our trip, with passengers, my first time in Denmark and my first time in 2 months. I was a wee bit nervous at first, but they were both so fun to drive (I hate this about myself but I just love driving). Our accomplice on the dumpster diving mission was a man from the Czech Republic, who is an experienced dumpster diver and had a lot to say about the dumpster diving community; a conflicted mix of homeless and dirtbag hippies. The dumpsters are just the normal ones located in supermarket parking lots. At about 10 PM we went to our first dumpster… and found fresh tomatoes, spinach, kale, peppers, bread, yogurt, organic greens and bananas… Next stop we found about 100 bags of small cakes -perfectly good- and more fruits and vegetables. An entire crate of unopened grapes. We had enough food for about three days from three stops at dumpsters. I think everyone, especially those from the West and from Japan, felt a lot of guilt looking at all of this food that is wasted. It also means that food is between 33 and 50% more expensive than it needs to be, if stores controlled their orders more sustainably. Or it means that almost everyone who is suffering from hunger in the world could be helped.
This is also the end of my first week as a vegetarian. I am a vegetarian because I realized that it is not enough to talk the talk, it is much more effective to walk the walk, even if it doesn’t feel like you’re doing all that much. Before the tour, we had been learning a lot about the different ways that the Industrial Growth Society is harming…everything. A big way is meat production: mono-cultures reduce biodiversity, require large amounts of chemicals, take away jobs from people and give them to machines (which also require large amounts of chemicals and oil). Then, these mono-cultured grains (over 80% of corn grown in the US, for example) are shipped long distances by oil or coal guzzling trucks, trains, and boats, to livestock around the world. The livestock are overfed and malnourished, and they are then shipped MORE places to be killed, packaged, and brought to the store. Altogether it is a terrible system that is inhumane to almost everything that it influences, including people.
So I am a vegetarian, but not a strict one. If meat is free-range, organic, and local, I would love to eat it. The real tragedy is not being able to eat kebabs, but other than that it really hasn’t been the worst.
Today we got to Odense, on the island of Fyn, and the birthplace of H.C. Anderson. Internet is limited, but thank you for the comments 🙂 I’ll keep you updated about my campaign to live in Hallingelille forever (HAH only kidding), and also about my travels. XOXO