I wanted to write one more post about water conservation and what I learned while I was in Europe. As I was thinking about the article, I went to the library and got out a book that gave me even more ideas. The book was Sustainable Design: A Critical Guide by David Bergman, which is a bit technical but very interesting.
There are some simple things we can do in our own homes to make them more eco-friendly. I mentioned in my post about my parents’ house that they put in energy efficient lightbulbs. Turning air conditioning units to a few degrees warmer and turning off lights help lower energy consumption as well. There are also more complicated things we can do without rebuilding. These include adding insulation (in my parents house their pipes freeze in the winter if they don’t leave the taps running which is a terrible waste) and putting in low flow toilets. What I noticed in Europe was that almost all the toilets, public and private, had two flush buttons. I was never one to go with “if it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down” because I couldn’t get over the gross factor. I just didn’t want urine sitting there for any length of time. But with a dual-flush system, you can minimize water usage for urine while not risking clogging the toilets all the time. The other big difference in European bathrooms is the lack of stable shower heads. Both of the bathrooms in the apartments I stayed in required me to hold the shower head. It turns out I used a lot less water and got just as clean.
To get back to the book, there were two mentions of Europe in the book that I thought I would highlight. I don’t know if you are familiar with Material Safety Data Sheets, but I have seen them a lot in theater. They are published for all materials and contain all known hazardous ingredients and any other safety information. In the U.S. apparently the hazard has to be recognized by the government (well-established with evidence) before it needs to be included. Apparently in general Europe doesn’t wait for conclusive evidence and errs on the side of caution. Practical for safety, but less practical for the bottom line. The other mention of Europe was the Passive House movement, which apparently started as the Passivhaus movement in Germany. The idea behind it is to build houses that don’t require as much energy rather than trying to using alternative energy sources.
The last month has made me think I should move to Europe.