Biodomes, a Meatless Cow, and a Lovely Picnic

It has been an activity-filled week with the SLS program! This week we got to go on many visits throughout the week! Our first visit was an organization called Un Jardin pour 2 Mains. This name is clever because directly translated using the numerical representation of 2 it means “a garden for two hands,” but when you say it in French, it sounds like “a garden for tomorrow.” The grounds were super cool and unique, given that the organization is sharing the space with other gardeners, artists, and even a YouTuber! When we were there, we got to tour their very own biodome, where they are researching new growing techniques such as aquaponics and vertical irrigation. Aquaponics is a food production system that combines plant growing with fish farming to reduce chemical fertilizer use. Vertical irrigation is exactly what it sounds like; the herbs are grown in a structure that runs water from the top down to produce a fresher taste and provide cleaner air in the biodome. I think these new gardening tactics are super interesting, which made this one of my favorite visits so far, and I hope to do some of my volunteer work here!

The inside of the biodome with the vertical irrigation system pictured in the center
The outside of the biodome

Our most exciting visit of the week was our big “sustainable” trip to Paris! This trip is one that we have long awaited for sure! We started the day by taking a cooking class at the Foundation GoodPlanet, where we learned all about the impacts of the production for foods that we eat every day. Me and my partner, Marc, were tasked with making a vegetarian protein substitute by roasting chickpeas. We were pretty happy about saving the cows, so we decided to get creative and form our chickpeas into a picture of a cow before putting them in the oven! Some of the other groups made dishes such as banana bread, green pea guacamole, chicory muffins, pancakes made with homemade oat milk, and the highly controversial beet ketchup (we couldn’t figure out if we loved or hated this one).

After we finished our sustainable snacks, we were off to our next destination: the Jardin des Plantes (the Botanical Gardens of Paris), where we had a picnic (yummy baguette sandwiches!) and enjoyed the stunning assortment of plants including an amazing pistachio tree that is over 150 years old! After venturing through many little garden paths and exploring different climate and soils, it was time for our last stop of the day, which was one of the Paris Design Week exhibits. Paris Design Week is essentially Fashion Week but for interior and exterior design. We visited one of the many showrooms and spoke with the designer about how he based his inspiration for each piece of furniture on nature and the seasons.

Waterlilies in the Jardin des Plantes
Paris Design Week exhibit
Dr. Jean-Jacques showing Lauren a handful of compost that is ready for use

Our jam-packed week of excursions concluded with a trip to the Saturday morning farmers market in downtown Metz. But first, Dr. Jean-Jacques Gaumet, a professor of chemistry at the University of Lorraine and partner of the SLS-France Program at Georgia Tech-Lorraine, took us to a local organization Oppidum: a community compost garden. There he explained the process of composting and showed us the different stages of the process. Did you know it takes about four whole months before it is ready to be used in a garden?! While we were at the garden, at least six locals showed up with their buckets of compostable waste. I thought it was so cool to see the community actively participating!

Speaking with a vendor at the Metz farmers’ market

After Dr. Jean-Jacques showed us the composting bins, he began to explain all the different herbs and vegetables growing in the garden. At one point, he literally plucked a flower out of the ground, handed it to me, and then told me to eat it and that it is excellent on salads. At first, I was skeptical, but it was actually quite nice! Once we had finished our herbal taste testing, it was time for us to go to the farmer’s market, meet with producers and pick out our lunch. Kara, Megan, and I decided to buy fresh tomatoes, strawberries, honey, bread, cheese, and olives to make a little charcuterie spread.

We finished the day with a picnic in a beautiful amphitheater park on a hill with a fantastic view of Metz where we ate our lunch, had some great conversations with Dr. Jean-Jacques and his wife and daughter (who, by the way, are masters of the art of picnicking), and even did some yoga!

SLS students posing for a photo in the Jardin des Plantes in Paris

It was a lovely week full of learning with the SLS program this week! Have a picnic, get some fresh air, do some yoga, and enjoy being in the presence of nature this week its good for the soul! See you next week! Au revoir!