O Brasil Verde

My Recent Trip to Brazil by Gawky Green @ twogirlsgogreen.blogspot.com

 

Olá! Tudo Bem?I'm back on U.S. soil. Brazil was absolutely stunning, or "beleza" as they'd say.The country is scintillating. And while there is a TON of green to explore, in terms of lush forests, rolling grasslands and mountains—I paid special attention to their green politics.

 

But before I get ahead of myself, let me set the scene. I flew down to Florianópolis, an island off the coast of Brazil that's known for its blend of pristine beaches, picture-perfect weather, unforgettable nightlife and lovely people. While I arrived in one piece (thankfully), my luggage did not. Let's just say hooded sweatshirts and long pants are not their most popular items of clothing. Not to mention I was traveling with 5 other guys, so borrowing clothes was not really an option.

 

Ah, I digress. We rented a house conveniently situated right across the street from the beach. We booked through a company called Nexus and it was fantastic. We wanted to make the most of our vacation, so we hired a concierge service through them. We basically paid to have a couple of Brazilians show us the best hiking spots, restaurants and night clubs in town.

 

Which brings me to my biggest green lesson from the trip. San, our Brazilian best friend (or Sammy as we bastardized his name) accompanied us on a hike through the mountains. After developing an unquenchable thirst, San took us to a little sugar cane juice cart on the side of the road (only in Brazil). The juice was amazing and filled with a load of nutrients. But even more tantalizing to me was the process. To make the juice, the man at the cart took these big sugar canes and stuck them into a machine. The machine squeezed every square inch of them leaving behind a good amount of juice. My inquisitive Portuguese boyfriend asked what they did with the sticks when they were done. Get this, the vendor sells the leftover canes to Ethanol distilleries!

 

I found out afterwards that Brazil has the largest and most prosperous bio-fuels system in the world and is proclaimed to have the world's first "sustainable biofuels economy"(According to Wikipedia). And it's through sugar cane that they have become so successful. The sugar cane is used to produce ethanol which is used to fuel cars. The Brazilian government has been extremely supportive in making this alternative fuel so viable. For example, it has provided optimal loan options for those involved in the process, subsidized ethanol fuel prices, and even provided tax incentives to help reduce the cost of ethanol vehicles. And guess what? In 30 years, you'll find it nearly impossible to locate a light vehicle that runs on only gasoline. And even if you do find one, it'll be hard to fill, granted that all gasoline must now be at least 20% ethanol. We rented two cars while we were there, both flex-fuels (meaning they could take any blend of ethanol and gasoline). Perhaps the U.S. government can take a few tips from the Brazilians when it comes to restructuring an entire country for such a big change. While there are many pros (e.g., lower CO2 footprint) and cons (e.g., deforestation and soil erosion) to using Ethanol-based fuels, which we can delve into in another post, I think Brazil exemplifies a really interesting case study on alternative fuels and the role the government can play.So green clearly does exist in Brazil.

But with every rose, comes a thorn. And I'll end this post with some stark reality. As I started to leave the sugar cane cart to head back to the car. I noticed two bin sitting there (see photo below): One for organic trash and one for recycled goods. As I peered into the bins, my fantasies of a green Brazil instantly became foiled: both bins contained the exact same items.

 

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