sestdiena, 2011. gada 23. jūlijs

European Youth Meeting 2011 for Sustainable development, Day 5- speech

Good morning on green carpet! This is the final "working" day of the EYM and today the final paper was printed. I will post the link when it becomes available online! The most important part of today was meeting in the Official Presentation of the Policy Statement at the House of the Brotherhood of the Black Heads. And... since I was selected to represent our working group on Urban Development, this was my speech:

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen!
Most of today's population is living in the cities, and the tendency to move from rural to urban areas continues to grow.
We, young people, stress the importance of sustainable urban development that would be coordinated with rural development, with the purpose to redesign and adjust cities to be environmentally and people friendly with no exclusions.
City planning should include the best practices that can be shared with and learnt from what others are already doing.
All stakeholders and inhabitants must have a say along with the municipalities in all areas of sustainable and green development of their city- strategy, transport, housing, work & services, waste management, water & energy distribution and green architecture.
The deadline of making all our cities sustainable and green is now, ladies and gentlemen!
Thank you!

As the whole presentation was filmed, I hope I will be able to get hold of the video and post the link here!

The second most important part of this day-after the speeches, photographies, cake in the reception we went for the first great and healthy meal in Tallin during the whole week. We had a wonderful lunch at Aed (Embassy of pure food), where I had a filling, healthy and very tasty Beetrood cutlet with hemp seed sauce. Mmmmm..... Unfortunately there was no time to enjoy the dessert, but I heard from my new friends the rest of the menu was also fabulous.
My single food suggestion in Tallinn- go to Aed!!!

European Youth Meeting 2011 for Sustainable development, Day 4- presentations and work on recommendations

Good morning again on green carpet! Yep, we're still at the EYM. Great moments of this morning- I ate the watermelon I bought yesterday and more of the black currant before breakfast :) Sad moments- cucumbers in breakfast were cut already yesterday and storaged in the fridge overnight so they were super dry. I also had to be the first in history to complain about how clean is our bathroom. The problem was that every morning our towels were changed. Despite the fact that green sheet in the bathroom says that they will be changed only if left on floor, but left to use more if on the hangers. We have all left our towels on hangers, but they were still changed every day. So I had to make sure this unstustainable practice is not continued today and spoke to very nice people of the hotel :) And it worked!! I have the same towel! Little victory every day might save the planet.

Today at EYM we had to present our recommendation statements (one of them available in previous post). Well, they had to be shortened even more comparing to the one of day before, so great part of today's work was redefining, cutting, rephrasing to come up with something that would both not lose the meaning and would fit in the provided format. So here are all of the aspects our working group wanted to include in the final policy paper that will go to UN:

• City planning - urban spaces should be re-designed and adjusted into new multifunctional contents. City planning must not endanger the social and cultural heritage of cities and should be co-ordinated with rural development. We invite cities to implement already existing good practices and methodologies, as well as certification and confirmation of cities efforts toward sustainable urban development. We call for participatory decision making approach as green budgeting and online consultations in order to build trust between cities and their inhabitants.

• Transport - cities should focus on fast, effective and renewable energy powered transport that is affordable and accessible for different social groups in all city areas. Authorities should be exemplary and supportive in using eco-friendly transport in cities (bicycles, electric and hybrid cars, carpooling, park and ride), and increase awareness among the population. Satellite technologies must be used for route optimising and
monitoring systems.

• Housing, work and services
- policy makers should develop residential areas with locally provided services contributing to social cohesion. These areas should be economically decentralised with local businesses, goods production and urban farming nearby, that will prevent unnecessary commuting. We suggest authorities to offer online services, as well.

• Waste management, water and energy distribution - strategic public funding programmes should be created and aimed at raising efficiency and modernisation of supply networks and households. Awareness raising campaigns on sustainable consumption and saving technologies should be run. Furthermore, the cities must secure re-use of resources, primary waste separation, waste collection coverage and ensure adequate treatment.

• Green architecture
- governments should establish and support entities that will develop new standards to ensure the introduction of innovative and sustainable technologies in architecture. The standards will include national criteria, indicators and benchmarks that will serve as the base of sustainable green architecture along with a pool of available green features and cities are asked to introduce validation system of projects  according to these. Environmental budgets should have expenditures towards financial incentives to popularize innovative and sustainable technologies.

Well, it does sound more of as political statement rather than an exact recommendation now, however, this is what it is supposed to be- a policy suggestion. Will it look like this in final paper- that's up to drafting commission.
We hope that the people interpreting this document and applying it in real life will be professional, green in their minds and enthusiastic to develop the cities sustainably, and will take all the best practices available around them and implement in their jurisdictions. Sometimes, however, I wish we could have had a whole detailed annex to each of the points explaining more in detail what we want. But that's on us this time- how we bring this document home and what we say to our local authorities!
Very interesting idea was shared on green carpet today- about the renewable energy supplies to the cities. Some are strong on advocating the smart grid, however, this also makes a lot of sense, even though then there should be decentralised system. Each city should have its energy provided as locally as possible. Sea side cities could live on tidal energy and sea snakes, mountain cities on wind etc. And then I come to think, that both systems could be linked, the decentralised local energy providers could be incorporated in the smart grid (that would be based on solar energy, of course), so whenever there's more energy than needed, it would go where it's needed more at that moment, so none is harvested unnecessary.
Just an idea of how our future could look like :)

piektdiena, 2011. gada 22. jūlijs

European Youth Meeting 2011 for Sustainable development, Day 3- Part 3- Workshops and recommendations

The third part of todays EYM was the skills workshop on "Build your own campaign for Rio+20". This was amazing in providing us with Advocacy tools- how to get our messages accross to others, how to plan strategies that will have the effect on someone elses life and how to get support for our ideas. I'm not going to repeat all of the tools and strategies we discussed, but the suggestion on green carpet today: check out Road to Rio plus 20 and take action! You can also contact them for advocacy training and advocacy toolkit :)

An interesting term appeared on green carpet for the first time. "Buycott". This is the opposite of boycott where you pressure not by avoiding or refusing something but quite contrary- by buying a lot of the product or services. For example, you can buycott your local farmer by buying all your products from him and asking all the people you know to do the same :) It is already long known that consumers are the most powerful force in todays economy and production cycles if they are joined in their most simple action- voting with your wallet. Your money gives the opportunity to live or to die for the business. Use your vote wisely and let's find somebody to buycott!
Along with that came term "carrot mobs" -Carrotmob also refers to a global movement[2] of community organizers who use the Carrotmob tactic of consumer activism as a way to help change businesses in their communities.[3] In a Carrotmob buycott, businesses compete to be the most socially responsible business, and then a network of consumers spends money to support the winner. 
This is something we could bring home and try in our own cities and countries!

Then back on EYM we continued in the working groups on drafting the recommendations to address the key challenges (available in previous posts). I would like to share the one that our team was working on: Waste, water, energy.
  • Municipalities should provide incentives and support programs for home owners to adjust all buildings in following ways: to properly insulate and install efficient heating and ventilation systems; to equip with energy and water saving systems (like "sink to closet") for more efficient resource use; and to install the "green" technologies and roof top, balcony and aquaponic gardens.
  • Municipalities should create a waste management plan that would be a "cradle to cradle" life cycle of resources, providing recycling opportunities to each inhabitant of the city.
  • Civil society, inhabitants and municipalities must now work together to increase the awareness on how to redue the resource consumption in the houshold, on resource saving technologies and to promote "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!" rule. 
We had a lot of examples in mind and other suggestions, but- as we must draft a policy document, then we must keep it short. So this was our first draft.

During and after the dinner there were a bit different heated discussions. This time on the organisational part. When you come to an event for Sustainable Development, you have certain expectations. Like food and accommodation, for example. Unfortunately, there was little thought given on vegetarian issue. Let alone having fresh foods. It is very sad that at the time (middle of the summer), when it's the high production seasons on fruits, berries and vegs, we still get food that's been previously frozen, instant soups and not a single leaf of fresh salad. It is just very unsustainable practice I must say and many of the participants have agreed with that. I visited a shop to buy fruits on my way back..
But the most important- sharing ideas, experiences, networks is going on very well and we are all happy about it!

European Youth Meeting 2011 for Sustainable development, Day 3- Part 2- Working groups and best practices

The morning of the Day 3 at EYM continued with more positive discussions in our working groups. We were sharing best practices that we have seen, heard, experienced or done. Here are some of them in Urban Development:

  • High Line in New York- green zone and leisure park in the old metro line.
  • Gasometer in Vienna- four old natural gas tanks turned into apartments, movie theatre, student residence, archives etc.
  • Green Factor- building approval system for architects to design buildings. Only the projects including several green factors would be approved. 
  • Cycling rental systems in the cities - London, Paris, Netherlands, Riga and many other cities (London example of "Boris bikes" 
  •  Old, large buildings turned into other useful venues- Strasbourg prison, London Old Billingsgate market etc. 
  • Solar heating systems in universities- Montenegro private universities run their heating 80% depending on sun.
  • Local farmer seasonal, organic produce to city inhabitants- examples of Germany, UK veg box schemes.
  • Bottle deposit system in Norway, Germany. Each consumer buys not only a drink, but also a bottle it comes in. But once you have finished your drink, you can sell the bottle back and receive the paid money for it!
  • Composting places in the city - London has not only parks, but also wildlife gardens, like Phoenix garden. In the garden there are large compost bins and people from nearby are welcomed to throw their compost there for the use in the garden later on.
  • Recycling systems- many cities already have various recycling systems (London, Oslo), varying from street collection (put your recyclable items in separate, specifically dedicated bags and they will be collected in particular day and time of the week and brought to the recycling station) to recycling centres in residential areas (large containers near the apartment buildings where you can separate your rubbish) etc.
  • Trash cans near the street rather than in the middle of pedestrian pathways so people driving in the car could easily get rid of their trash instead of just throwing it out from the window.
  • Inhabitant initiatives like park reconstruction in Belgrade- citizens decided that they would like to have a parka and they created it themselves instead of hiring services.
  • Geothermal public heating in Strumica, which would provide this service for free to inhabitants.
  •  Lisbon Expo '98- great example of rehabilitation of degraded space in the city. Expo '98 was fully built from scratch, but most important part -every building was pre-sold for after-Expo repurposing thus ensuring that, after the Expo closed, the site would not be left semi-abandoned. The venue kept a free-access park, keeping the gardens, Oceanarium (Europe's then largest aquarium), observation tower, funicular, and the Virtual Reality pavilion and redesigned the rest for shopping malls, art exhibition centres, science museum and other multi-purpose spaces.
  • Renovated cruise ship in Rotterdam- the old cruise ship was renovated and used as new cultural space with all the facilities already existing on the ship, but instead of floating in waters it is available in port.
  • Real time monitoring of the traffic in Wroclaw- oppurtunity to plan your route according to real time facts availbale online (traffic jams, road closures, timing etc). 
  • Agenda 21 for city planning- great effort to involve all stakeholders from all backgrounds tp see what are the problems and measures to deal with them. Involvement of all population is crucial in decision making. 
  • Sustainability certification in the EU that provide clear goals to achieve and evaluation. 
  • School competition in Macedonia- competition works well, so the pupil are competing to make their school the most sustainable in the country. In Latvia there was a similar competition on paper recycling rates in between the universities. 

These are just few of the great practices in urban development that can be quite easily transferred to any other city in the world! Aren't you inspired by them? Let's be involved, aware of what we can do and do it! Let's learn from others and share our experiences on green carpet also in future!

ceturtdiena, 2011. gada 21. jūlijs

European Youth Meeting 2011 for Sustainable development, Day 3- Part 1- Presentation Video

This morning was not much different than the previous one, I just feel lucky to have the drinking water that I unfortunately had to buy yesterday in plastic bottles, and to have my box of home grown and hand picked black currants to have in addition to breakfast. Good surprise however was the beetroot salad that was added to the breakfast options today :) Yeey!

When it is 29 degrees C already in 9:00am, then you can't stop thinking about climate change and how privileged we as a species of human beings are to have options of conditioning, cooling elements and water.
This also makes me think of the definition of Sustainable development we have been using here at EYM, which in my opinion is wrong. Well, the current definition from Bruntland commission sounds like this: "meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." Well, I think we're missing the additional point here. The last part of it should include that it is for all species, otherwise we are just thinking of human needs.. sadly.. so my elaboration would be this:
"meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations of all species to meet their own needs."

But well, back to work. This morning session of EYM was presentation of the key challenges of the working groups (ours in previous post). However, I really wanted to share a video that accompanied our speeches that was created by one of the group members.
Great thanks to him and enjoy, think and act!

European Youth Meeting 2011 for Sustainable development, Day 2- Part 2- Working groups and workshops

Afther the lunch the EYM continued with working groups session. On green carpet the topic was "Urban development". Today we were suppose to discuss the main issues and problems of urban development in the sustainable development context and to come up with 5 key challenges that we would like to be addressed in Rio+20. So here is our draft of these key challenges:

City planning - city planning is not done with the appropriate independence of city planners, but under the influence of interest groups, technical and financial difficulties. Implementation of already existing best practices, know-how and study cases in the future planning is not ensured. Lack of holistic approach in terms of changing citizen behaviour, menatlity and attitudes. There is no transparency in environmental budgeting and expenditures.

Transportation - intensive urbanisation and daily migration leads to mobility inneficiency. Public transport coverage can’t meet the needs of the rapid dynamic of cities. Lack of eco-frinendly transportation leads to pollution and health hazards. Modern technologies (GIS, GPS) are not used enough in order to improve the mobility efficiency.

Housing, work and services - cities are occupying new space instead of re-adjusting and re-using existing ones. Jobs and services (health, education, culture, recreation ... ) are not in close proximity of residential zones. Lack of symbiotic planning cities at a smaller scale (neighbourhood), as an organic entity where all the needs of the population are at an aprochable distance, that would reduce movements and therefore general traffic issues.

Waste management, water and energy distribution - public services cannot meet the needs of growing population. Outdated network systems lead to great loss of resources. Cities become further removed from the nature than ever, although cities have never depended on nature more than now.

Green architecture - sustainable and green architecture is neither required, nor supported in the city. Current mindset of politicians, decision makers, planners and architects are not developing cities (buildings, parks, green spaces... ) with the principles of sustainability and eco-friendliness in mind. Green architecture is considered as an option, not a standard.

Even though we realize that this is not everything that needs to be done in urban development if we want our cities to be sustainable and green, but these are the challenges that we came up with at this working group and this would be a good start if they could be addressed properly.

After the working groups there was an informative workshop on Fossil Fuel Free Energy, focusing on Solar Energy and case of Photovoltaics (PV).
Some interesting points:
Theoretical potential of solar energy is 120 000 TW (received by whole planet); 1hour of sunlight would equal 14TW for a year.
Practical potential is however only ~600 TW. Generating 20TW needs about 800 000 square metres or 8% of the territory of the USA.
Which if we come to think of is not much at all.
Why are we still not using solar energy widely? Well, it's really expensive at the moment, the price of materials use is very high. However, the progress is happenning now, the next generation PVs are created. And as one of the best potentials is suggested the film technology- it will be cheaper, lighter, flexible, easy to apply and efficient to its price. It will be able to run a car for example, not even talking about such appliances as phones, laptops etc.
Well, this change will be very welcome on green carpet!

After the long, informative and productive day we continued heated discussions at the dinner table. It is however very surprising how "unsustainable" is the meal program at the event for sustainable development. During the season when everything grows and gives produce some still serve vegetables that have been frozen, poor variety of food and completely no fresh fruits or salad throughout the whole day! Shame, shame, shame..

European Youth Meeting 2011 for Sustainable development, Day 2- Part 1-Opening session and discussions

First morning of the EYM started with breakfast, of course. Hmm, quite poor choice on green carpet. The Tallink Express hotel has only few options of food for breakfast, from which I chose the porrige. That seemed to be made in water only, no milk added :( And the only jam available tasted a bit synthetic. My suggestion would be to add some milk when cooking and put at least some honey for guests to use (especially for those who drink tea with honey instead of sugar). Talking about teas- the only option was black tea and even that was Lipton, which I strongly refuse to drink due to horrible practices implied on tea pickers. Have they never heard of other tea companies and some herbal teas? And one more minus point was that there was only margarin available, no butter at all. I would NOT recommend this hotel for environmentally friendly travellers who care what they eat and drink.

Nice walk took us to the Meriton Hotel- well that was a good change, and according to the speech of the GM, they have been very sustainable in their business. For example, they close the whole floors to switch off the heating during low season, they have put the movement sensores to their outside lights, they cook fresh food etc. Sounds nice! I have to spend some more time here to comment or recommend.
Now, finally, to the point of the EYM.

Opening session was mainly dedicated to the topic Green economy (GE) and how we should "marry" the Economy with  "Fair and Green". And it is time for youth to be involved. There are major groups that are having an official say in the UN, a mandate to talk about sustianable development given by the last conference- Rio Earth Summit. And now there are also several organisations that provide the space to be involved. Some of them I'm about to check out later- Rio+Twenties and Youth Caucus as suggessted by Michaela Hogenboom from Rio+Twenties. 
We should also compare some reports - UNEP, Green Economy Report (from environmental and social perspective) and OECD, Towards Green Growth (from economic perspective) as suggested by Gabe van Wijk from Dutch Youth Council.

Mr Friedrich Bart, Senior Advisor on Environment, Climate and Energy to UNDP in Europe/Bonn reminds us that such problems as poverty, lack of resources, energy, water etc. and deforestation, desertation, 'plastic soup' in Pacific etc, are none created by climate change. They are created by bad management. But the climate change will put ane normous pressure and accelerate all of them. So we must think of new ways of management for it, and Rio must be one tool to do it.
Previous practice was to build and develop first and clean up later. This must be changed now, we have to remove the pressure from environment immediately. Therefore we can't help developing countries to develop in the same way that we did. They have to develop within and using GE instead. For that we need more jobs in GE than conventional one also in the developed countries.
Part of the GE is the inclusion of external costs - the environmental impacts should be taxed, the pollution cost should be included in the prices of products etc.
We already know many answers to our problems- efficient energy consumption, knowledge how plants harvest natural energy, organic farming for agricultural issues etc, we just need to pressure it more. Some say the waste management is a problem. The problem is in the name- in reality there is no such thing as "waste", it's all resources that we throw away, therefore solution must be the reduction first.
But GE roadmap should include one more thing- changed budgeting systems. We must get rid of subsidies for unsustainable practices and create a system where you pay to the eco-system. And that must be done in a way that also the poor countries can participate. They need investment opportunities and capacity in the governments to do it. Money, technology, skills - it's all neccessary for the GE, but if the national government is very weak, we need tough environmental legislation first. And our problem at the moment is that also international governance level is very weak, UN is too small, UNDP and UNEP are lacking people, capacity and power.
The change starts with awareness of little things, like, if you know how many litres of water per day you use, you are more likely to be both willing and able to reuce it. But to make a change you also need skills to do it. Too many people can speak on what needs to be done, but too little people can actually do it. Therefore the first step is to change this mindset personally and within the education.
Rio needs both the input and the pressure. But it must not end with that- we must see through the promisses our governments are making, we have to create a checking system in society.

Ms Marina Kaljurand, Undersecretary for Foregin Economuc Relations and Development Aid in the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs was presenting the Estonian practices on "Development Cooperation and Sustainable Development". The aim of the development cooperation (DC) is to reduce the porverty, support economic and social development and increase welfare, and the very important part of doing it well is teaching that to children and youth. The society must be educated that communities receiving the aid are not just poor people who get something, they are partners. The aid effectiveness is depending on various relations between partners and donnors, and working together as partners is the only way to be effective.
She reminded us about Millenium Development Goals (MDGs)- it was the first time in mankind history when all UN Members could agree on something all together. We must put a pressure to achieve such agreement also in Rio+20. Even though many MDGs are far from reach, some even getting worse, we must not think of this as a fialure. We must focus on Rio and what can be done now from individual to international level. Better small steps than none, it can be "a hen"- project by young people to donate a hen to African family, or a goat or cooperation in between the countries. But it must be there. And the more practical the DC is, the better it is. More on Estonian DC.
Sustainable development should be one of priority sectors for every government. The Sustainable Development Strategy (SDS) must be devleoped and implemented, but the society again is the one who must check it and remind it to the governments every other Monday.
Ms Kaljurand reminds- get others more interested in the world around you!

Mr Lloyd Russell-Moyle from European Youth Forum was giving an enthusiastic and passionate speech on youth envolvement, our vision, good and bad practices. He emphasises that "not going dar enough is a failure", and there are many failures after Stockholm 40 years ago or Rio 20 years ago. We still fail to agree on consumption and production patterns for 19 years already. UNEP is created and paid by only 5 countries and it will cease to exist if Rio+20 is another failure.
But even with all this history, we must not lose our vision- world environmental organisation that is powerful and capable. We all together have to contribute in creation of an institutional network in Rio, because we will be the ones to work with and within this system.
We must be more efficient on how we do it. We must talk with the youth around the world- Asia, Africa, Latin America etc, and then the voice of youth in Rio will be strong. We have to work together with every group of youth-young politicians, scientists, street activists and others. We need this support from each other.

All of the speeches were very encouraging, but during the discussions young people were asking- what mandate do we actually have in such negotiations? 
  • as long as the civic society is self funded, the mandate is weaker than if it was supported by governments or large lobby groups, but that is our task to get this support
  • individuals should come together in national coalitions, those would come together in regional coalitions, which then would meet at the UN, and then the voice would be billions strong. The positions must be coordinated between the activists to gain greater weight.
  • also the civic society must be transparent in their decision making and functions to see that the processes are democratic and reliable. There must be high professionalism to participate in negotiations, great knowledge for not to be played into advocating something else in the end. However, sometimes it's the governments lacking expert knowledge....
  • the approach must be tailored, separate to each and every country's government, because each one of them have different story, problems and background. Make it individual to just that government.
The young people were worried that it still goes nowhere, sometimes we doubt if youth involvment is actually working?
  • Good examples of yout contribution is Article 21, Youth Caucus, and Article VI in Cancun, where the amendments were made from concrete proposals by young people. They were not just recommendations but 'real decisions'. 
  • One of the significant ways to impact something is to be the agent of change, and sometimes it's more important to have the effect on society- families, friends, schools, jobs etc. Then it reaches the government via different approach.
  • We must remember, that even though the online participation is great, it is neither the only, nor the best practice as it is very Western tool. Actual working groups and meetings are important, especially when you work with other regions. And once you have participated in a group meeting, don't just leave it be- bring it then both online and to home organisations!

The Part 1 of the second day concluded with lunch, which was a bit better than the coffee break as it had some vegetarian options available (but I highly doubt any organic). But the food was not the most important on these moments- we were all hungry for networking, new contacts, getting to know the backgrounds and experiences of each other. All new friends are very welcome on green carpet! :)

trešdiena, 2011. gada 20. jūlijs

European Youth Meeting 2011 for Sustainable development, Day 1- Arrival

OnGreenCarpet is visiting Tallinn, Estonia, where European Youth Meeting for Sustainable Development is taking place.
19 July - opening day. Arrival was planned by car, but on the last moment the situation changed. It would be very unsustainable and ungreen to go by car from Latvia to Tallinn alone, and since I didn't have anybody to go with together, I decided to take a bus (Ecolines). 4,5 hours ride- good time to sleep, read materials, books, eat (food taken from home, of course- stewed carrots and cooked courgettes- all ingredients from our own garden, grandma's hen farm and local dairy).
Arrived in Tallink Express hotel right before the time to go to the Opening ceremony. Quick registration, quick chats, choosing the working groups (again) and time to go. Opening ceremony was fantastic- not just the concert, but the speeches! President of Estonia was very encouraging and enthusiastic with the opening speech, and many of the followers were wonderful as well. Great boost for this week!
Dinner at "Lido"- good food, at least the traditional recipes and I believe that lots of the products are local. At least healthy option :)
Night at the hotel- they have been very economising on the budget as we are three people in quite tiny double room, and I have the spare bank bed. Not very comfy, but I'll manage I think. The huge minus- the water from the tap tastes awful and there's no other drinking water in the room. Hmm.. will have to buy the plastic bottles I guess..
Sound sleep with great aspirations for tomorrow!!

OnGreenCarpet in the countryside and two homes

It's been very quiet on the online part of the green carpet.. but that's not because all the green things are gone, not at all. Quite contrary- the green carpet has become much more green now with the move to the countryside of Latvia, and the online silence has been so long due to many green things you can do outdoors.
One of my plans or I could even say- dreams- of life in the country has been reducing the time I spent at my computer, which was a lot when I was working in the office and doing some stuff on the internet at home as well. This was no challenge to reduce it to approximately 30min per day in total, it has been a pleasure. However, I'll try to increase it just a little bit again to dedicate some time on green carpet online as well :)

So life so far- my family has moved back to Latvia, and we are going to have two homes here- apartment in Riga and country house in, well, countryside :) First I'd like to tell more about the two homes.

Riga apartment is located in quite green area, at least down from our balcony there's a green patch with grass, trees and blooming bushes, which is nice. Another green point- it's on a 5th floor, no elevator. So we will have to get back to excersise on stairs :)
At the moment there are refurbishment works going on, we're changing the whole bathroom. Even though the tiles for it are coming from Spain, the "big" items like bath tub and sink are made locally :) We've also bought new washing machine, which is more energy efficient and uses less water. We could have done a bit better, but we had to work our budget, so we are having Samsung WF-0600NCW/YLE. However, we did not throw the old one just out, we gave it to my parents. Their household is huge and with rural tourism business the washing up is a big deal, so they needed a spare one in case something happens to the ones they have :)
We ditched the plan of changing the floors because they are still good and it's much more sustainable to take care of the ones we have till the end of their lifes. I think we can have them for couple more years. However, I will want to place some carpets in the winter here and there now with the baby coming soon. Just have to find some greener options!
We also arranged the fixing of balcony doors so that the apartment is more efficiently heated in the cold winters to come. We will also change the heaters, just have to arrange that with the company responsible for that. I wonder, what do they do with the old ones?
The kitchen will need some extra stuff as well. At the moment there's a small cooking surface using gas. As our family is growing, the plan is to change it to a bigger cooking surface using electricity. The gas is not very good for health and the prices at th emoment are closer to equal than before. We will also need an oven, but I haven't done the research on that yet. I know that all new ones are A+ on energy class, but I wonder if there's more info on other issues like resource saving on production, non-use of harsh chemicals etc.
I'll tell more on everything when we move in!

Country house we're currently living in belongs to my parents, I grew up there-it's very green and super-sustainable on one hand, and very un-green on the other. Since it's a household, we're responsible for our own water consumption, electricity use and heating. I'm not going to impose any green revolution here yet, but I try one baby step at the time. At the moment there's no heating at all because it's summer, and in winter we use wood. Some may oppose that the wood is not the best resource to use, but we use it very consciously and both of my parents are working with responsible forestry, so we put it back what we take from the nature. Water saving is also easier now in the summer as I don't take morning showers but go swimming instead. Electricity use, however, is one thing I am currently trying to work on here. For now it's turning all the lights off that are on unneccessarily. For example, my parents have got used to leave the light in the bathroom all day long. I have no idea why, but I always turn it off, when no one is there. The same with the small kitchen light and couple of household appliances. I hope they'll pick it up quickly!
My revolution here will be the stuff we use to take care of ourselves and our house. By this I mean cosmetics, soaps, washing up liquids, sprays and all the rest of the chemical stuff. At the moment we have about 25% of organic and eco-friendly stuff, mostly in body care and some washing up liquids. Every time my mom buys something, I offer an eco-friendly product instead of the "conventional". Sometimes it works, and that makes me happy. I hope it will work even more soon enough!

See you soon on green carpet again, I'll tell you more on life here!