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Freiburg, Germany Burch Cleantech Europe Trip, Day One

May 30, 2023 Hargrove Bridge

The first day of class in Freiburg, Germany was definitely a whirlwind adventure, and certainly educational. Personally, my day started when I decided to roll out of bed 15 minutes before a 7 am run with some of the girls. We explored the local park- Stadtgarten, went past the Freiburg Minster, and even made our way toward the Dreisam River!

Post-breakfast, our workday began with a presentation from Steffen, our host from Innovation Academy. He discussed many topics that would come up throughout the day and even the next few weeks, including the history of Freiburg and how it came to be so sustainable, and mobility. Our great adventure began at the local farmers market in the square of Freiburg Minster. The location used to be a parking lot prior to the implementation of walking zones. We checked out the local parking garage next, and its awesome view overlooking Freiburg.

Next, we walked away from the older part of town into the university area. The university library is called the Death Star by the locals for its futuristic look with solar panels on the roof that generate energy and the black, triple-glazed windows that keep the sun from overheating the building. The group decided that it is MUCH better than Davis Library. Before lunch, we checked out a few more sustainable mobility options including a bike rental facility, the light-rail, and carsharing- a great option for when owning a car is not mandatory… just like Zipcar in Chapel Hill!

Lunch was a lovely break filled with many glasses of water and a refreshing and traditional drink recommended by Steffen made up of juice and sparkling water called “schole.” After just two days here, one of the most prominent differences in culture seems to be the lack of water drunk throughout the day in Europe!

Hargrove Building

Once we were all fueled up again, we went to the new net positive energy town hall building. The round building had an innovative green space in the center filled with plants and solar panels along most of the sides for energy collection. Something I learned after our discussion here was the benefit of having shades on the outside of a building. While it is normal in the US for blinds to be inside the building, if the shades are outside, they can redirect the heat and absorb it instead of the building’s surface so that it does not require more energy to cool inside.

Hargrove ice cream stop.

After, we had an ice cream break quickly followed by a trip to the thrift (where a certain fabulous green trench coat that was tried on unfortunately remains unpurchased). To end the learning day, we traveled to Innovation Academy for a talk with UNC grad, Erin Danford. She educated us on her experiences at Perspectives Consulting, an advisory company focused on environmental solutions. Additionally, she gave us insight into her experience attending graduate school at the University of Freiburg and living in/speaking the language of Germany.

Our European FDOC was a success and we all walked home feeling ready for bed! Although, a few of us stopped to pick up our first souvenir: German shampoo and conditioner to replace the hotel’s 3-in-1 option!

About the Author

This article was written by Claire Hargrove ‘25, Environmental Studies on sustainability track with a GIS minor. Connect with her on LinkedIn.