Lipsi: A Greek Splash of Green on the Mediterranean

Crossing the Mediterranean blue aqua to the Greek Island of Lipsi was a blustery, yet calm trip. I was plugged in to my IPod, which created a background of soothing music to match the beating waves and bounce of the ferry. Lipsi Island is small in size, as well as in its population of 700 people.

All of the Greek Islands are charming, but Lipsi is unique in its attempt to become the greenest island in the Mediterranean, with a goal to eliminate all carbon emissions. It will do so by converting to hydrogen, solar, and wind energy sources rather than reliance upon oil and gas. All vehicles used on the island will be electrically powered by these clean energy sources. The island also has plans to build a desalination plant to sustain the entire island’s water needs. Many sustainable buildings, including an eco-village, are already underway. In the words of a local on Lipsi, this is a wonderful project that will take time to complete.

There are many reasons why Lipsi is capable of going completely green. One is the island’s small size and population; the other is the locals’ adherence to primitive practices. Walking the few streets of Lipsi, one will notice grazing goats wearing loud bells around their neck, small vineyards where grapes are still stomped by human feet, and families who produce enough cheese daily to make a living. Everyone on the island has a specialty, gives a little, and gets something in return. Enough to live by and little more. This old trading policy, which is still practiced in many wonderful places, allows people to live with less influence of money.

Walking two miles from one side of the island to the other, one hears rooster calls, bells in the distance, and waves rolling to shore. The pace of life is slow, work tough but simple, with many tiny cups of coffee downed over conversation throughout the day. Many are in the field growing greens or tending to citrus trees, some baking bread, and others bottling homemade wine which they will bring to a friendly supper sitting.

I was lucky enough to wander through Lipsi for Easter and was invited to the humming Greek Orthodox Church. Mass was held every day during the week proceeding Easter, and all were there. I learned that when entering church one ought to give a small donation, light a candle, kiss the saint paintings lining the wall, and join the mesmerizing hymn spoken by the priest at the alter. On Easter Sunday everyone feasts, the meal revolves around the goat, spun and sizzled over the fire for hours in preparation. Greeks dance, boister, and certainly are merry.

The goat slaughtered for Easter Sunday roamed the hills of Lipsi, likely for the entirety of its lifetime. Farmers on the island mark their livestock, but allow them to range and graze freely as they would in the wild. They are not brought into pens unless specifically needed for use, like Easter dinner. This is just another sustainable, primitive practice Greeks use to live a clean and simple life on Lipsi.

Along the ocean near the center of town are two fabulous restaurants, The Rock and The Bakery. The Rock serves ouzo mixed with water on ice, a licorice drink, as well as endless plates ranging from squid to hummus. Greeks love to share, so I was always treated to a wonderful evening on the ocean-side balcony. The Bakery offers a multitude of delicacies, from ice cream to chocolates and baklava.

The island of Lipsi is a secret splash of green in the Mediterranean, where you can swim in olives grown the way they should be.

Theresa Soley Written by:

A recent graduate from the University of San Francisco with a B.A. in Biology, Theresa is embarking on travel aiming to uncover the connection between culture and wild environments. She believes that most social problems are linked to environmental ones, and hopes to one day work between the two realms. Her newest motto is "living locally in a globalized world". She needs to begin buying carbon credits for all her international flights abroad.