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article imageOp-Ed: It's not all bad news from Greece Special

By Jeffrey Andreoni     Jan 29, 2012 in World
Athens - Despite the crisis in Greece, there are a plethora of sustainable, ecological and ethical initiatives being offered throughout the country.
Already in Athens the alternative economy is starting to catch on. People who have had to sacrifice many of life's little pleasures because of financial constraints are discovering that you don't always need money to get what you need.
My partner and I were just shopping for a therapeutic massage on an alternative currency website. After some comparisons we found a professional masseur who would come to our house and give a one hour massage for the affordable price of 35 Ovolos.
Ovolos, which was a form of currency in ancient Greece, is a website that allows you to exchange goods and services without using Euros. In order to earn the Ovolos that I was spending I began giving lessons in Italian cuisine where I use recipes from the Italian blog Cooking with the Crisis, which provides inexpensive and simple recipes that are (coincidentally) quite popular at the moment. There is even an Athenian LETS system in the works at the moment.
So you can get lessons, repairs and services by using alternative currency or by joining a time bank, but what about food? Although there are some producers accepting the alternative currency (especially in Volos), to have the variety of the supermarket you might have to shell out... but how much?
One new website allows you to order dry goods directly from local farms without even leaving your house. You just do your shopping online via the e-bloko portal and the box gets delivered a few days later. If you need fruit and veg then there's biobox, which delivers hand selected organics to your door for considerably less than you'd pay at the grocery store.
With record unemployment not everyone has the cash to buy food, so fortunately for them there are still several options. The Unemployed Kitchen takes place every Tuesday night at eight o'clock. The organizers of the kitchen say that "The essence of the Unemployed Kitchen is to do things collectively, to chat and have fun, to come together and feel good with other people. Don't worry about speaking only a little Greek, language is not an issue!" I once went to help cook the meal and learned yet another inexpensive and tasty recipe in the process: fasolada. There is another collective kitchen specifically for immigrants every Saturday called el CHEf at the Steki Metanaston social center nearby.
Whatever the problem, there's a solution -though not all of them are legal. In the northern Greek town of Veria, some of the cash strapped citizens were having their electricity cut due to the new property tax that was added onto their bills. An activist group decided something needed to be done and began reconnecting the electricity of the families that had been cut off.
It's not just electricity that's in short supply. Gasoline is an expense that is difficult to handle by yourself and many carpooling sites have appeared in recent years. Before the crisis carpooling was a rarity in Greece, but now people are changing their minds. Whether it's a daily commute to work or a five hour trek from Athens to Thessaloniki, chances are you will find a companion to travel with and share the expense. This has the added benefit of reducing traffic, which has long been a major issue.
If you don't have a car or don't like to drive there are still more options, especially in a city like Athens. Some cyclists have begun a weekly event not unlike Critical Mass where hundreds and sometimes thousands of riders set out on Friday evenings for Freeday. If that's too crowded for you then there are numerous other splinter groups listed on the website, and if you are looking for a cheap and refreshing weekend getaway you can find groups of cyclists going on overnight camping trips to the countryside -even in winter!
Once it happened that the Freeday ride was going in the same direction that I was -which was especially convenient seeing as how Athens' roads are not particularly safe for pedestrians or cyclists (which was recently seen with the death of Theo Angelopoulos), so taking advantage of these cycling caravans can be better than cycling alone. It's almost like carpooling for bicycles!
Speaking of which, there was a 10% rise in tourism last year, perhaps this will eventually lead to a surge in ecotourism for Greece. There are already numerous adventure tourism operators offering such trips all over the country. In fact, if people continue to leave the cities (hopefully taking their cars with them) in favor of the countryside and the cyclists continue to reclaim the traffic packed streets then maybe Athens could become a better city for cycling.
Perhaps the crisis could have a deep and lasting ecological impact on Greece, making the cities less polluted, the agriculture more sustainable and the consumers a bit more savvy.
A crisis which has threatened to tear the country apart could in fact pull everyone together and make the situation just a bit more bearable and the cities more livable.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about Ecotourism, Greece, Ecology, Sustainable living, greek debt crisis
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