When you're in a foreign country, there's a great temptation to leave all your green habits at home. After all, you're only here for a few months and you want to make the most of your stay, not waste time worrying about turning lights off, right? Florence is a beautiful city, a Renaissance wonderland to be explored and enjoyed, but it's important to remember that the hundreds of thousands of students and tourists who pass through every year have an enormous impact on the city's delicate environment. Squeeze every last drop out of your stay, but make sure you give back as much as you take away!
Here are some eco-hints:
While you're finding your way around town, take time to find the nearest recycling bins. The blue bell-shaped bins are for plastic, glass and metal; yellow bins are for paper; and the rifiuti indifferenziati bins are for the remaining non-recyclable rubbish.
Recycling bins are few and far between in the centre, although they can usually be found down smaller side streets. Many areas in the centre have door-to-door trash collection with specific times for collecting different kinds of rubbish. If in doubt, make the effort to ask your school or host family.
Fill up on water at home. Tap water is 100 percent drinkable in Florence, despite what many Florentines themselves will tell you. Bottled water is expensive, environmentally unsound and probably the biggest swindle in the history of retail. You can buy reusable, lightweight metal water bottles at Universo Sport in piazza Duomo and Galleria dello Sport in via Ricasoli.
Turn off lights, don't leave your computer or TV on standby, and don't stand under the shower for 45 minutes a day. If you wouldn't do it at home then you shouldn't do it here. Keep electrical appliances to a minimum, as most Italian houses have a limited peak-kilowatt capacity, which means you'll blow the circuit every time you turn on your hair-dryer and kettle together.
Hire a pedicab for an eco-tour of the city, or rent a rickshaw with a group of friends. (www.pedicabfirenze.it / 338 6389245).
Rent a bicycle from Florence By Bike in via San Zanobi 120/12r, which also has a buy-back plan for people visiting the city for periods of one to five months. See the website (also in English) for details www.florencebybike.it. Cycling is a great way to get around and get to know town. Many Florentines cycle, and doing so will make you feel more Italian.
Give something back to Florence by volunteering for Florence International Theatre Company's Creative Campus. Creative Campus is currently planning a performance and exhibit for the Festival della Creativitt, on October 15-18. The project will be bilingual (Italian and English) and include all disciplines of art. For further information, contact [email protected]
Use ecofont for your school papers. This font saves on ink by leaving microscopic white dots within the letters. The Dutch company that came up with this genius idea are marketing it as the Edam of fonts' (i.e., it's holey'). Download it for free at www.ecofont.eu
Forget about eating asparagus in winter. Learn from Italians and eat local, seasonal produce. It's cheaper and it's GOOD!
Naturass is Florence's organic supermarket, selling everything you'd expect a supermarket to sell but all organic, environmentally friendly and ethically produced. Part of a national chain, it has the widest selection of eco-products in town. There's one on via Masaccio, 88/90 and one on viale Corsica, 19/23.
For a more intimate ecological shopping experience, go to Sugar Blues in the Oltrarno on via dei Serragli 57/r. It has organic groceries, some fresh produce and an extensive herbalist. Just across the street is La Bottega Borgo Allegri, which also has a selection of organically produced dry goods.
For an organically grown vegetarian brunch, go to the peaceful and alternative Caffellatte (La Latteria) in via degli Alfani 39/r. Brunch is served all day. Try the wonderful deserts and the terrine di formaggio caldo. Take your time over your food and leaf through the magazines and newspapers there for the customers.
La Raccolta is an organic restaurant and grocery store on via Leopardi 2 (c), with a great selection of fresh produce and dry goods. The restaurant has a 90 percent vegan menu and also offers take-out.
Next door to La Raccolta is the clothing store Insoliti Tessuti, which has a wide selection of clothes all made from natural, organically produced fabrics. Check out Be-Have Urban Atelier (via Ghibellina 86/r, www.be-have.it) for funky, original and ethical clothing. All pieces in the store are made on site are vintage, second-hand, or hand-made from vintage or used remnants; see also the jewellery and bags.
Green bookworms should head to Paperback Exchange (via delle Oche 4/r) for the city's biggest collection of used books in English. Recycle your old paperbacks by trading them in and picking up a good second-hand read for as little as 25 cents.
For a full directory of environmentally sound and fair-trade stores, restaurants, get a copy of the FirenzEtica map from the tourist office in Piazza Stazione. (www.firenzetica.it)
Thanks to the current eco-trend, places like those listed here are springing up all over Florence like (organic) mushrooms. If you come across a store or restaurant you think we should know about while you're studying here, let us know at [email protected]