At first sight, Mendoza seems to fit the bill as a green conscious city. Its urban planning includes the huge green lungs of the 450-hectare Parque General San Martin, one of the most spectacular and well cared for municipal parks on the continent. The city’s dramatic setting in the foothills of the Andes inspires awe and respect for nature and the great outdoors. It is an oasis surrounded by desert, and relies on a fragile system of waterways and trees to generate humidity and shade. Constant water shortages during the summer months make it all too plain our dependence on the precious liquid. Also the province is the orchard of Argentina and its biggest fruit producer, much of it organic. Add to this the fact that it is geographically flat and therefore perfect for the cycle lanes that are now appearing around the city
Unfortunately the reality is somewhat different and Mendoza’s green credentials are somewhat thin on the ground. People waste water and it is not treated as the precious commodity it is.
Houses are poorly insulated and burn excess energy on heating in the winter months. Solar energy is non-existent in a province with an abundance of sun-filled days and waste bins are so rare people litter constantly. This is particulary obvious in the outlying towns where waste management involves loading your car up with that week’s garbage and driving to the outskirts of town and dumping wherever you wish, normally in front of a local tourist feature. Residents burns waste or leaves constantly and habitually contaminate the waterways.
On the road the car is king and only the bravest eco-friendly activists will dare to cycle outside the cycle lanes. And that is not to mention the humble pedestrians who risk their lives everyday crossing the road in a city without one zebra crossing.
Thankfully the green agenda is slowly but surely reaching the Andean Capital. A very popular and recent environmental initiative is the Mendoza Green Market. Started in November 2013, this “crazy idea by three crazy women is now followed by many other crazy people “, as Jazmin, one of its creators puts it.
The Green Market happens in different city locations and offers a great opportunity to go off the traditional tourist circuit. It is an excellent way to try local products and experience local hosptality.
The most recent markets have been in Park Raul Alfonsin, to the south of the city center, near the borough of Godoy Cruz. There you’ll find almost 50 colorful and flowery stands run by small eco-friendly producers offerering a great diversity of goods ranging from healthy whole-flour pizzas to herbal salt. Veggie burgers abound but also gluten-free desserts, organic ice-cream, raw milk yogurt, artesanal beers, organic or biodynamic wines and honey. You will even find recycled bikes and furniture.
All the small producers are from the region and follow organic practices or at least add a green touch to their goods.
“People don’t always buy, but what you notice is that they are very attentive listeners“, says Jazmin, and It’s not rare to see small groups of people getting the low down on how to make humus or an impromptu class on recycling or what exactly is biodynamic farming.
“When you walk through the green market, you come across scenes of old ladies eating vegan sausage rolls and teenagers trying organic home-made juices rather than coca cola”
The event also offers free activities like yoga, chi kung and cookery classes. There is even live music and local NGOs are invited to come and push their message.
“Some people dismiss it as a fashionable trend. I have to say that I am ok with this kind of fashion“, adds Jazmin.
The Green Market is definitely a popular event with an average of 30,000 people attending over the weekend. Everything from hipsters, families, gastronomic professionals, passer-bys, cyclists, runners, hippies, skaters and artists.
The Green Market is clearly becoming an institution,in Mendoza and it is not rare to spot people carrying the flashy green reusable bags or come across the next event advertised on the city’s billboards.
From twice a year, it is now held every six weeks and should become a monthly event by 2016.
The green wave seems to have finally reached Mendoza.
Mendoza Green Market. Check their Facebook page “ Mendoza Green Market “ for the next happening.