Lessons from Europe
I always find it interesting to see how others solve problems that seem so prevalent here in the states. Three simple ideas from Europe come to mind.
Honestly, this is such a simple solution, I have no idea why it hasn’t caught on here in the States. When we were in Italy, more often than not the shopping carts were linked together with chains and interlocking tabs. To get one to use, we were required to insert a coin in a slot which we then pushed in / pulled back to release the lock and take our cart inside the store. When we were finished unloading our purchases in the car, we simply took the cart back, inserted the piece again (I may be getting the actual procedure wrong, but is was super simple, nonetheless), and got our coin back.
It took no time at all to develop the habit of keeping a couple of coins in the dash, and for those that really couldn’t be bothered there were always teenagers or other financially strapped individuals around who would take the cart off your hands and re-park it for you in exchange for getting to keep the coin.
What we didn’t have to deal with? Carts slamming into our vehicle from blowing winds, or taking up parking spaces after they rolled around the parking lot a time or two. Additional bonus? The cost of goods inside the stores was more under control because no staff members needed to be hired to chase down and organize runaway grocery carts.
Bag tax / surcharge.
It’s great that some stores want to give you a discount for every bag you bring in that they don’t have to provide. But the fact is, some people just won’t do it. Just like some people don’t bother to clip coupons. When we lived on the other side of the ocean, there was an extra charge for every bag you needed. Some stores were good enough to save left over stocking boxes, but not all.
What was interesting to me at the time (it was several years ago, now) was how many more people I saw bringing in their own bags than I ever noticed back home. Not sure what the psychological difference was between saving a nickel and getting charged a nickel, but apparently it did the trick for some. Just an observation.
Highly prevalent small space and vertical urban gardens.
This blew me away. I couldn’t believe how many people were so talented with using every nook and cranny of their limited urban living space to grow food. Shrubs growing on the sides of an entry walk planted with rosemary, climbing vines of grapes rather than flowers, narrow strips along the sides of buildings planted with fruit trees pruned to grow flat against the wall and along wires strung for stability.
Tiny back yard areas loaded with tomatoes, basil and aubergines . . . literally every small space and vertical opening in our little neighborhood in Northern Italy was brimming with edible plants. Of course, it didn’t hurt that there was a fairly long growing season, but still.
How much could a single, apartment or town home dwelling family reduce their monthly grocery budget with these skills? Bonus? Lots of trees and plants growing up alley walls means less room for graffiti.
I don’t mean to reduce all the wonderful things I experienced there to such a sort post. It’s just that these things struck me recently as things we could easily do something about in America. On a selfish note, I vote we start with tackling the runaway grocery carts.
Have a great day, everybody!