Less is more. Although this proverbial phrase is most often associated with architecture and design, I like to think it relates well to environmental issues and actions.
Less driving -- more walking, biking and public transit.
Less fuel -- better mileage, clean air and money in your pocket.
Less electricity -- more energy conservation.
Less waste -- more reuse and recycling.
Less can be more when it comes to the environment.
On a recent trip to Europe, it was evident to me that many Europeans believe that less is more.
Let's talk about cars. Smart Cars, those zippy little Mercedes vehicles that get up to 41 miles per gallon on the highway, are just beginning to appear on Valley streets. In Europe, Smart Cars have been the norm and not the exception -- primarily as a result of the high cost of fuel abroad.
And for those Europeans who prefer mass transit and/or biking, the ability to get where you need to go is readily available. On the streets of Freiburg, Germany, I saw hundreds of bicycles parked at train stations -- they were, in essence, bicycle park 'n' rides.
Let's talk about waste. At the grocery store, European customers have had to buy plastic bags for years -- they are not included with purchases. The Trader Joe's-style, recycled bags caught on long ago. Outdoor markets are popular and buying fresh, and just enough, is preferred rather than the once-a-week trip to the grocery store. Recycle bins are often right next to the waste bins -- you don't have to search to find one.
Let's talk about electricity. The European hotel where I stayed required the use of a card key to turn on the electricity in the room. This keeps guests from leaving lights on when they are out and amounts to a significant energy savings. In homes across Europe, dishes are washed and dried the old-fashioned way. And clotheslines are commonplace, as dryers are considered a waste of energy and a poor substitute for fresh air and sunshine.
The reason for my trip to Europe was part of the Solar Energy Power Association's fact-finding mission to Germany. Germany has four times the solar output of the United States. Combined with the fact that this much smaller country has the sunshine equivalent to that of Alaska underscores Germany's world leadership in renewable-energy production.
So, how does Germany, with far fewer days of sunshine, create more solar energy?
The solar industry in Germany is highly subsidized. Utilities are required by the government to make monthly payments for 20 years to customers who install solar. The initial cost of the solar system is quickly recouped and provides a significant return on investment over the 20 years.
While there are many pros and cons to this type of a government mandate, it seems to be working well in Germany. They lead the world in solar-energy production, and many German companies are looking to the United States as a future market.
So join with me in adopting a less-is-more attitude. Whether it is driving a fuel-efficient car, bringing your bag to the grocery, or using less electricity, let's make stewardship of the Earth a way of life.
To learn more about how SRP can help you use less and be more environmentally friendly, visit srpnet.com/environment.
Lori Singleton, is Salt River Project's manager of Sustainable Initiatives and Technologies.
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