‘Green Germany’ is a Facebook community set up by Joyce Chee, a Singaporean participant in the Bayer Young Environmental Envoy programme (BYEE). The Facebook page aptly sums up the theme of a week-long study trip in early November for fifty Young Environmental Envoys to the town of Leverkusen, headquarters of chemical and pharmaceutical giant Bayer.
For the envoys, who come from 19 countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America, the focus of the trip was indeed on all that’s green in Germany, from Bayer’s diverse efforts in environmental stewardship to a first-hand look at what citizens and local councils are doing to make the German state of North Rhein-Westphalia safe and sustainable for people and nature.
On the personal front, many envoys also found fresh encouragement and fodder for inspiration in the initiatives undertaken by their host nation as well as the projects led by their peers. “It’s an eye-opener,” declared Singaporean envoy Pang Yu Han, 18. “I got to explore more things and have become a more mature person.”
Dang Huyn Mai Anh, a 20-year old Vietnamese student who won one of three Bayer Young Environmental Leader Awards for her Green Handbook for Housewives, said: “What I liked best was the interaction and discussion with envoys from different countries and cultures.” Wan Nurhidayat Bin Wan Muhamad, 21, a Malaysian envoy who formed a Green Soldier Club to promote green practices among his fellow cadets, put it this way, “We are all comrades and fighting for one thing, and we do whatever we can in our own field.”
The accompanying photos capture some of the highlights of the BYEE study tour, from workshops and discussions at Bayer to field trips to waste disposal facilities around Leverkusen and scenes from the surrounding urbanscape.
Bicycling is a popular mode of transport in Germany, where bike lanes and parking spaces span much of the city centre in Cologne. Visible on the right are two rental bikes operated by Deutsch Bahn, which can be used when a hirer keys in an authentication code to unlock the machines.
The first evening at Leverkusen for the envoys, after flights from halfway around the world, was an informal gathering at the hotel and the start of many new friendships.
At BayKomm, Ms Pabst-Schumacher points to a portrait of Otto Bayer (no relation to the founders), a chemist who invented polyurethane and pioneered the development of this versatile family of plastics. BayKomm, Bayer’s Communication Centre at Leverkusen, was the daily gathering hub for the envoys. This area was a remote, sparsely populated area in the past, until Bayer moved its headquarters here from Wuppertal in 1912.
Rafael Ferraz de Barros (left) from Brazil shows photos of young wild animals orphaned by cars on rural highways. The young ecologist has travelled 15,000 km to gather data on roadkills and educate drivers.
The ‘Green Economy’ was the focus of a discussion helmed by (from far left) Nick Nuttall, Acting Director, Division of Communications and Public Information, UNEP; Patrick Thomas, Chairman and CEO of Bayer MaterialScience; and Dr Philipp Schepelmann, a researcher from the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy. “The world needs to decouple economic growth from natural resource use,” said Mr Nuttall of the UNEP’s campaign for “a transition to a Green Economy.”
At AVEA, a municipal waste handling centre in Leverkusen, manager Hamid Shakoor explains how household waste is sorted. Organic and horticultural waste is sent for compositing; electrical waste, metal, paper, glass and textiles are recycled; and hazardous waste such as harmful chemicals, aerosols and batteries is safely disposed in specialised facilities.
Sprawling parkland surround BayKomm, which is located near Chempark Leverkusen, an industrial site for chemical companies with the infrastructure to handle chemical feedstock and treat production waste. Chempark is operated by Currenta, a joint venture between Bayer and Laxness.
The Young Environmental Envoys with Dr. Philipp Schepelmann of the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy, Nick Nuttall, Director of Communications and Spokesperson UNEP and Patrick Thomas, CEO Bayer MaterialScience, at BayKomm in Leverkusen, Germany.
This writer’s trip to Germany to accompany the youths on the Bayer Young Environmental Envoy programme (BYEE) is sponsored by Bayer.