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Friday, January 30, 2009

Ways to Save the Planet I Learned While Living in Spain

Don't get me wrong, I hate hippies as much as the next guy. It's just that living a little more frugally isn't going to kill anyone. I thoroughly despise the attitude of certain people in America who ridicule anyone who even mentions conservation, as if it is positively un-American to use less energy. How can anyone defend unbridled consumption as some sort of virtue?

This sort of falls under the category about how learning to live with less doesn't mean a diminished standard of living. Spanish people don't do all of these things because they are incredibly environmentally-conscious citizens, they do it because it saves them money, money they could better spend on wine and ham. There's a catchy slogan somewhere in that last sentence.

1) Use a pressure cooker to speed up cooking times. My pressure cooker was broken and I finally realized that it could be fixed. I went to a cooking supply store a whole half block from my house and they repaired it in five minutes. The 15€ price tag seemed a bit steep but it was well worth it. I just cooked garbanzo beans in a matter of 30 minutes. They usually take four freaking hours. My pressure cooker story leads me to the next thing.

2) Repair old items, if possible, instead of simply adding their carcasses to the landfill. Do you really need to replace your cell phone every six months?

3) Hang dry clothes instead of using a dryer. I realize this isn't always convenient but it is always possible. We use a clothes drying rack that we put in front of a window. In the summer stuff dries in a matter of an hour or two. If you are already heating your house in the winter hang drying clothes indoors makes complete sense.

4) Public Transportation. You should use it once in a while if for no other reason than to see what it’s like for people who do use it.

5) Bikes. I've been a bike fanatic all my life so it's exciting to see Valencia really get behind bicycles as a mode of transportation. I swear I notice more bikes on the road here every day. The climate in most of Spain is ideal for bikes but people in Belgium and the Netherlands are much more enthusiastic in the use of bikes and their weather is lousy. I rode all winter in Seattle. Riding in the rain still beats driving a car in my book.

6) Use heat and air conditioning sparingly. Try putting on a sweater in the winter.

7) Drive a fuel-efficient car. People here drive small cars, comically puny at times.

8) City living is infinitely greener than suburban life. 54% of New Yorkers take public transportation to work, by far the highest percentage in the country. The logic of city living was something else that I realized long before arriving in Spain. My life in downtown Seattle wasn't too different than how I live here. I have already talked about this exhaustively.

9) Our hot water heater heats the water as it flows through the pipe so there isn't a huge tank that has to be heated up. I don't know what the savings are with these heaters but I'm sure it's considerable.

10) Wear clothes more than one day. Something most Spanish people do is change clothes when they are at home. When you are home you wear sweats or whatever which keeps your street clothes neater and cleaner so that you don't have to wash them after wearing them out a single day. Someone told me that they do the same thing in Hungary and they call them “house clothes.”