Although the island is picturesque at first glance, many practices of sustainability could be altered. One of the problems they face is their disposal of waste. As there are very few vehicles on Hydra, the two garbage trucks definitely stick out. They are known to set fire to the waste they carry, which we’ve learned throughout the class is harmful to both human health and the environment. Going along with poor disposal, they also dump wastewater into the sea affecting marine life as well. Hydra’s economy is powered by tourism, however, they don’t bring in a lot of tourists in comparison to some of the larger islands of Greece. Reading about the struggles of Hydra is very shocking to me as when the class visited from the surface, it seemed like the island would actually be more sustainable than others. I remember immediately stepping off the ferry, I thought I walked into a different century. It was a smaller island with sea taxis carting tourists around. There were also donkeys everywhere and many were loaded up with pieces of luggage to cart around. Even when we sat down for a quick refreshment, I noticed a tiny boat and a man took a large bag which I discovered to be the island’s mail, and loaded it into a wooden pull cart. Along with packages, he carted all of them and the mail off instead of having an automated vehicle take it. Between hand-pulled carts and donkeys, I assumed they were cutting down on gas and emissions this way. I even saw a few windmills while walking across the island and combined with the low emissions thought sustainability was very important to them. The valuable part however is that changes are being made to lessen the problems Hydra faces and move to a more sustainable future for the island. Initiatives to explore and improve include the island’s water supply, power and energy, waste management, land use, education and employment, and transport. Pointing out these issues is only the first step but it is a step in the first direction, to the improvement of the island and a better environment for all. This means that there are many more steps to be made but there is hope for a better future. There was also mention of initiatives across Europe which is good to see more change and upward environmental trends across the board.
The Eco-Innovation Observatory is basically a place where people gather and study lots of information about eco-friendly innovations and the circular economy. They collect this information from different parts of Europe and other important economic areas in the world. This helps companies and organizations that work on innovation get all the information they need in one place. It also helps policymakers make good decisions when creating new policies. In the report Eco-innovation is defined as “Eco-innovation is any innovation that reduces the use of natural resources and decreases the release of harmful substances across the whole life-cycle”.
Eco-innovation is very important in Greece due to its susceptibility to extreme pollution in ecosystems and climate change having many islands. Policy regarding Greece’s environment is focused on renewable energy and energy efficiency that follows eco-innovation. In 2018 Greece is ranked low out of all of the countries in terms of eco-innovation performance, with a score of 75 getting closer to EU’s average of 100. In 2020 the environmental performance index ranked Greece 25 globally overall. The country’s air quality, fish stocks, and GHG emissions intensity are all about average. However the country struggles with air emissions from transport and electricity power stations. There are also obstacles regarding loss of biodiversity, overexploitation of water resources, and degradation of coastal zones. In terms of the use solar thermal energy, Greece is continuously thriving better than most countries.
Due to the Waste Management plan there has been a reduction in the pressure from regeneration and treatment of waste. No matter what, there still continues to be a problem with illegal landfills. Greece lacks facilities to handle this issue of the illegal landfills and all the hazardous waste produced overall. Although they are doing better at waste recycling, they still fall behind when trying to meet the 2020 municipal waste recycling target of 50%.
During Greece’s most recent economic crisis most of their money and resources were focused on research and development and they couldn’t pay enough attention to improve the protection of the country’s environment. Thankfully, the economy has made significant progress. The economy is mainly based on tourism, shipping, and the public sector. Greece’s strengths are in organizational and marketing innovations and their weaknesses are technical improvements. Small companies, especially the ones that are just starting out, have a hard time getting money because banks and other financial organizations are afraid of taking risks. Currently the support for research and innovation mostly relies on being able to use money from the European Union’s funds for development and research.
A circular economy is a method of production and consumption with the idea of ‘closing the loop’ within the supply chain. Currently, we operate using a linear economy that is wasteful of resources and harmful to the environment as products are processed through the chain and immediately discarded at the end of their life cycle. This discarding step either goes to incineration which is extremely dangerous for human health or a landfill which only worsens the environment around us. A solution to this introduces a circular system by looping the system around. It aims to prolong the life of a material by finding an alternate use or function at the end of the cycle rather than discarding it. The product ultimately gets repurposed and shared with another function within the supply chain. This principle is led by three main ideas including designing out waste, keeping the materials in use, and regenerating living systems. The driving idea behind this is that nothing gets lost, materials are simply transformed to serve a different purpose. By throwing away nothing, many issues that arise with the current linear economy are eliminated. The release of greenhouse gases and the increase in pollution are also eliminated by transforming the materials, which makes for renewable resources that better benefit the environment. What our current environment does only continues a domino effect and makes the world worse for future generations. Decreasing waste and allowing for the regeneration of materials can only help look out for the future of the world around us and many generations to come. Products we value take a long time to produce and perfect so ensuring that their life cycle doesn’t just end abruptly, but is able to be repurposed in meaningful ways and can gain another life somewhere else in the cycle is transformative. This doesn’t just benefit the environment but can also free up resources for essential needs such as housing, clean water, and good nutrition for our families. It reduces our carbon footprint and ensures there is still an environment for us to exist in. The economy is then able to circulate, businesses are able to operate, and with renewable resources, we still have a home and air to breathe. Although every system comes with certain barriers and challenges. shifting to a circular economy by closing the loop has real benefits which can instantly be reaped by creating small changes gradually to extend and regenerate the life of products and materials.