Sustainable Agriculture

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Cost of Attendance

Fellow Sustainable Agriculturalists,

A little note about the cost of living here in Witzenhausen:

Life is easy, cheap but not shoddy, here in the rural center of Germany. Most of the students here get by on a very small scholarship and a few hours of work per week counting beetles, organizing events – maybe even shoveling walkways.

The major contributor to the economic ease of this masters program is educational fees: the price of attendance at Uni-Kassel is free. Cost of attendance in Göttingen is nearly free at just 470 euros per semester (660$). Rent is anywhere from 90 to 200 euros (120$ – 280$) in Witzenhausen and a little higher in Göttingen and Kassel at 250 euros (350$) or so. Food on the market is inexpensive by European and US standards, a local organic diet costs about 150 to 200 euros (210$ – 280$) a month.

Travel is very affordable: My old bike came with my flat, other folks have picked theirs up at the local bike shop for just a few bucks. Both the Göttingen and Kassel student cards offer free public transport for most of central Germany. Outside of the free public transport area one can take part in the German organized hitchhiking crowd called ‘mitfahrgelegenheit‘ and the French covoiturage of ‘123envoiture‘. I also carry a Bahn Card 25 from Deutsche Bahn. This saves a lot of money when it is necessary to take a train outside of the free public transportation area provided by the student card.

Best Green Blogs has a number of informative Blogs about life in Germany.

Check out About Germany.Org for more general information.

I also just did a quick Forestle search and found a number of hits about getting by in Germany.


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Sustainable Packaging

We are all back in snow covered Witzenhausen and classes are in full swing with all the red cheeked students and a din of inspired conversation. In these first couple of weeks of 2010 we have had a visit from the Vermont Bread and Puppet troop for a puppet making workshop and a theater. We have had visitors from the College of the Atlantic for discussions about the vision for the Trans Atlantic Partnership and opportunities for students to do research and take classes at College of the Atlantic. The Organic Research Center and here in Witzenhausen with Kassel, Göttingen and Fulda.

Dr. Angelica Ploeger’s Sustainable Nutrition class is now concentrating on Life Cycle Assessment. We heard a comparative life cycle analysis of organic and conventional dairy farms from three colleagues and from Phd Candidate Mehrnaz Aminforoughi about on sustainability in milk packaging. The really intriguing thing about all this was the proposed ecological solution from a Norwegian study. According to the authors the best possible packaging solution, after a full life cycle analysis from production to disposal, is plastic bags. The plastic bags get used once and then burned. According to the research this uses much less electricity, requires less diesel in shipping and creates less overall GHG emissions.

This class leaves us all with a lot of unanswered questions and a lot of follow up research to do. What do we make of this if it is true? How much of a role does consumer awareness play in the food industry? Are we all so fed up with scientific analysis that we have stopped paying attention? Should we start buying things in plastic bags instead of in glass bottles?

Some helpful resources:

Science Direct, IFEU, Enviro Pac