Monday, March 7, 2022

Europe Does it Better

Annamaria on Monday

For years now, I have taken note of how Europe, and Italy in particular, handle energy usage.  Conservation measures that are common in Europe are, in my experience,  hardly ever used in the US.  These ways of saving on energy consumption require some forethought and infrastructure commitments, but they are easy enough to realize.

The US has 4% of the world's population, but we Americans consume 17% of the energy.  To be fair, all the developed economies consume more per capita than the developing ones.  Still, my country could do a whole lot better, if only we would would make small differences that would yield large results. Here are some examples:

    Europe: Lights in public spaces in hotels and apartment buildings are largely on motion-detectors.  They don't go on until someone needs them.

    USA: Lights in public spaces are on all the time, 24/7, even in stairways in elevator buildings where almost no one ever uses the stairs.  In many municipalities buildings are legally required to keep such lights burning and never to turn them off.  This, I imagine, is considered a safety precaution.  If Europeans can operate with motion detectors, why can't Americans?

    Europe: Most hotels have their guest room wiring set up so that the occupant needs to insert the room key in a slot to turn on the juice.  On leaving the room, the guest takes the room key and thereby turns off all the lamps and appliances.

       USA: I have never seen any attempt at lowering consumption of energy in hotels, except for notes in bathrooms, asking me to hang up my towel to signal the cleaning staff not to send it to laundry after only one use.  Usually, the motivation given is to save water consumption, also a very worth cause.  More times than not, however, the staff has ignored my compliance with the request.

Increasingly over the past few years, I have also noticed the superiority of the Eurozone when it comes to plastic. Nowadays, in Italy pretty much all the store bags and even the wrapping around paper products is biodegradable. These changes are so widespread that I think they must be required by the EU.  Bully for them.  Here in the US, our environment is still drowning in plastic film.



European Suppliers have even replaced with paper the lining in a box of tissues.



It is still plastic film in the US.  Well, gee, you might say, It's such a little bit of plastic.  I say multiply that by the number of homes where there is a box of tissues.  

These are only a few examples. My issue is that, as a nation, the US is taking a  laissez-faire attitude toward these important issues.  I hope that sometime soon we will at least be given a choice--as we now have with the paper products themselves, where one can choose recycled paper.  It would help if we could also choose environmentally friendly packaging.  Then the supposedly all mighty marketplace would give those of us who care about such matters the choice to act responsibly.


  1. Hi Annamaria. Love this, although I did notice that US supermarkets were using paper bags for your shopping long before we in the UK began first restricting use of plastic shopping bags, and now removing them altogether unless you pay for a stronger reusable one. The lack of recyclable packaging in some stores here drives me mad, though. And although polystyrene always has the recycle triangle on it, finding somewhere that will actually accept it to recycle is quite another matter.

  2. Yep, always SO much more that we could do. Plastic packaging is one of the reasons that I rarely shop at Costco anymore: So many things are packaged in military-grade plastic clam shells that it takes a Sherman Tank and a couple of rounds from a bazooka to get them opened.

  3. This country is drowning in plastic, true. The stores near me are supposed to use paper bags. A few do, but most still use plastic.
    I keep reusing my recycling bags so as not to buy more plastic bags.
    I don't know how this is solved, but I feel sorry for the sea mammals and birds who are consuming plastic from the ocean. I mean whales dying from consumption of plastic?

  4. In Greece, there are places so overrun with plastic shopping bags blown there by the winds, that it appears they're being grown inconsiderate tourists and locals.