Unsustainable? vienNAH

By: Valentine

It is clear how wonderfully sustainable Vienna is just by walking down the street. There are separate bins for waste disposal, including a compost bin. It felt easy throwing my veggie and fruit scraps in a city compost bin downstairs from my Airbnb, the first time I didn’t need to run around the city or do additional research. Along with these bins were textile recycling stations and other disposal bins not commonly seen in the other cities I’ve visited.

The specific and easily separated waste disposal in Austria.

While traveling abroad, I like to cook most of my meals to save money or to take on the go when wandering far from the Airbnb for the day. I always look in advance for farmer’s markets to browse and shop at, making Nashtmarkt perfect. I managed to buy cheese, spinach, mushrooms, potatoes, bell pepper, grapevine tomatoes, avocado and cherries all in bulk! Despite differing first languages, vendors were kind enough to use my bags and understand my commitment to no single-use items. The ingredients were used to assemble sandwiches with unpackaged baked goods at a local grocery store.

Package-free food items bought at Nashtmarkt in Vienna, Austria.

There is a clear focus on taking care of residents’ basic needs. Vienna has taken some innovative steps to combat the homeless crisis that is rooted in the city. Shades Tours provides the ability for homeless people to give paid tours of a different part of Vienna that exists in the background. The founder, Perrine Schober, explains that the tours provide work, while also reducing public stigma against homeless people. There are initiatives by members of the community to provide free housing for people in need, such as JUCA, specifically for young homeless people. Vienna is also recognized for its inventive social housing program. The program refers to it’s 20th century government-regulated affordable housing that requires all members of society, regardless of class, to be provided housing that is of high quality.

The city of Vienna is the largest organic farmer in Austria. For residents there are green spaces taking half of the city’s land area. It is recognized as the greenest city with 100 square meters of green space for each of Vienna’s 1.8 million residents. In most of the parks you can find a drinking water station; which was great to refill my reusable!

A drinking water station in a Vienna city park.
Inside one of the city’s parks.

Vienna has started to implement the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals to be met by 2030, which former Mayor Michael Häupl signed off on in 2015. In partnership with the UN and several other European cities, there is a local, national, and international effort to switch to a more sustainable society.

It is hopeful to see such innovative endeavors among such an influential city in Central Europe.  My next stop brought me to Croatia where I stayed in Dubrovnik and Split.

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