Friendly Green City

The tiny, yet resplendent, Musee d’Histoire des Sciences

Last week I visited Geneva and I wasn’t sure what to expect at first, having booked a college trip for my students almost exclusively to visit CERN (although there’s plenty to see and do).

It is a truly multicultural and cosmopolitan place, with four official languages and the home of some of the world’s biggest organisations, including the United Nations, Red Cross and World Health Organisation. The UN tour was an unexpected pleasure, the buildings and grounds are spectacular and many of their World Environment Day displays remained in place from earlier in the month.

The gardens of the Palais des Nations – home of the UN 
Plastic pollution display at the Palais des Nations 

The public transport system is made up of buses, trains and trams and although expensive (if you stay in a hostel you are issued with a free travel card) is high quality and runs like clockwork. Staff are warm and friendly and one in particular was more than happy to help as we flapped around the ticket machine when we first arrived at the airport.

Geneva is hands down the cleanest place I have ever visited and they have clearly labelled, segregated and easily recognisable recycling facilities across the city.

Recycling Station at Parc mon Repos

There’s also a great amount of beautiful parkland, and not just managed parkland but biodiversity friendly unmanicured areas too.

Bee hotel at Parc mon Repos

There is almost zero litter around the city, in three days I counted one plastic bag (that a student picked out of the lake) and a cigarette butt blowing around on a particularly windy day. There are recycling stations on seemingly every street, especially those with restaurants and bars.

It’s also such a welcoming place, everyone I met was friendly, I had a particularly nice discussion with a museum staff member who was keen to know about our group and share his experiences of the UK and Ireland. Despite my limited French (and virtually none on the part of my students) everyone was extremely accommodating, relaxed and keen to chat.

Many of the houses and even the entire sides of high rises are covered in solar panels, we even found solar powered bins at CERN (not only are they solar powered but they also send a text for collection when they are full!). While CERN is certainly cool from a physics perspective I was also excited to learn that the site is sandwiched between Geneva and the Jura Mountains, an area I recently read about in the Lynx and Us, where there is a healthy population of Eurasian Lynx following re-introduction in the 1970s.

Solar powered bins at CERN 

It’s no secret that many of our continental neighbours are much better at waste management and other aspects of sustainability than we are here in the UK, and we can most certainly learn a thing or two from Geneva, a truly friendly, clean, green city.

Lake Geneva looking towards Mont Blanc 

Top tips for visiting Geneva:

  • Don’t miss the free train ticket machine before you exit the arrivals hall as we did (hence the flapping I mentioned earlier).
  • Although English is widely spoken it is not universal and some French is definitely of benefit (as well as courtesy) especially in restaurants.
  • Water sports are available on lake Geneva and you can swim at lifeguard patrolled beaches for a small fee.
  • Fondue and traditional music at Hotel Eidelweiss (although pricey) was delicious and good fun.
  • Switzerland is relatively expensive, I mean it’s not Scandinavia expensive but it’s up there. Expect to pay 40+ CHF (£30.50, $40.40) for a meal.
  • Tickets for tours of CERN are super competitive, you need to create an account and book at 8.30am on the days the tickets are released (15 and then 3 days before the date) tickets will be gone by 8.31!
  • Take a walk round the lake and into the parks – simply beautiful!
  • Talk to people – everyone we met was so keen to engage in meaningful conversation.

2 thoughts on “Friendly Green City

  1. It’s fun to read about the convergence of your scientific acumen (visit to world center of geekiness, CERN) and your environmentalism. Not that there’s anything contradictory between the two (except here in the States, where the EPA has outlawed science in the pursuit of restricting threats to the environment).
    My only visit to Switzerland was many decades ago, and I learned that the Swiss are clearly devoted to tidiness. I’m pleased to learn that extends not just to keeping things neat, but doing so in an eco-friendly way.

    Liked by 1 person

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