A More Sustainable Future

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This weekend was our last entire weekend in Berlin, and we made sure to make it a good one. I cannot believe how fast this whole program went by, but I am thrilled with the results. I have met so many amazing people and know that this last workweek will fly by. I have learned many things from German culture, and one of those is how they value success very differently than in the United States. In the United States, I think if you asked most people, success would be valued on how much money you make year to year. While this can be important to living the life someone desires, I do not think it fully encompasses what it means to be successful, and from what I have learned, neither do the Germans.
Making money is obviously important for a company to flourish because if it is not making money, that is a big problem, but it does not mean everything. In Germany, there is a big push for sustainability. I have noticed this firsthand, especially because the co-working space that I have been working out of takes sustainability to the next level. When it comes to business, there is more of a push to create sustainable companies that will do more benefit than harm, especially to the environment. I have always loved nature, and there is a real fear of what the future has to hold when it comes to the environment. I think the United States sweeps this under the rug more than European countries. Many large companies in America are very harmful to the environment, and they are not concerned with the long-term impact they are creating on our Earth. I have noticed that Germany really tries to make choices that are focused on benefiting the planet rather than having their focus be on making as much money as possible.
This lesson is certainly one that I will bring back to the United States. Obviously, like any American, I do tend to enjoy some things that are not great for our planet, but there are definitely some little changes I can make here and there. One example of this is using a reusable grocery bag when I go to the store. At first, this was hard for me to adjust to, as I kept forgetting to bring a bag with me, but I quickly adjusted and noticed that it even made carrying my groceries way easier. Instead of struggling to hold ten plastic bags to avoid making more than one trip, you can just have one bigger bag that will not rip on you and allow you to hold more items with ease. Once I got over my initial adjustment, I asked myself why more people in the United States do not already do this.
While I would love to believe all Germans just create sustainable companies to help creates a better future for the environment, this would be a naive thought. I was taught that there are heavy monetary benefits from the government if you make specific changes to the workplace in order to make it more sustainable. I do not know a lot about the governmental regulations that are in place in the United States, but to me, this made a lot of sense. Most people are not willing to break their habits, no matter how little of a change it may be, without some type of compensation. Here in Germany, there are grants that small businesses and start-ups can apply for to receive enough funding to get their idea off the ground. Many of these grants are focused on funding sustainable and innovative companies, which I think is an excellent idea for the United States to adopt if it has not already. These grants allow people to really explore some new ideas, and sure, there will be a few failures along the way, but it usually takes many failures before success, especially in the business world.
I think overall, the mindset that the Germans have is a much more communal one than in the United States. People are not solely focused on themselves but are working together to create a better world and a better future for our planet. I’m not saying that everyone needs to make huge changes to their daily lives, but as I have learned here, change does not come from a single person living an entirely sustainable life, but rather many people making small changes to their lives. I will certainly be implementing many of these things I have learned back into my life in the United States and will help others understand as well.

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