Thursday, January 21, 2010

Discrimination by Energy-Comsumption?

Those of you who know me know that I'm perpetually afflicted by the travel bug. It's always been that way. I have my adventurous parents to thank for that, and I am lucky to have married someone who shares this passion. I don't have to twist his arm to convince him it's time for a trip....I just have to create a budget and then save the money for it. No problemo.

So we're packing up the children and heading to Europe for a month this summer. (If you have small children, feel free to make your "she's nuts!" comments here. I know, we might just be crazy, but why keep putting off what we love?) I won't lie...I'm having a blast with the planning. At least I was, until I got to the part where we rent a Tuscan villa for a week. I reviewed hundreds of them online until I found the perfect, dreamy house surrounded by vineyards, sunflowers and lavender, with the perfect view, etc.
When I began communications with the owner, all seemed well at first. We hit it off immediately, but when I told her how many were in our party, things cooled. "Americans?" she asked. "Yes, 7 adults and 3 small children." Very politely, the owner then proceeded to explain why that was too many people for the house, despite the fact that there were more beds in the house than we would need. She said, in so many words, that so many people would put too much stress on the well, the septic, the energy-use and the pool. (I'm still not sure how we would affect the pool.) Out of infatuation for her house and desperation, we responded that we ourselves live with well water, and we know to respect it. We practically promised not to bathe (the children will be in the pool - they won't need baths!) or wash our clothes. Scott explained how he had lived in Italy & France and was accustomed to life there. Her very last email summed it up as our group would "displace the natural harmony of the house." Poetic way of saying "no thank you, you're going to run my well dry with all your frivolous water consumption and drive up my electric bill."

I don't think it really mattered what we had said beyond Americans. Maybe if it had been just the 4 of us (but then we couldn't actually afford to rent such a beautiful place) it would have been different. This nice Italian lady must have had a bad experience which now leaves her no choice but to discriminate against energy-consuming Americans?

Perhaps she already knew that per capita energy use by Americans is 2.46 times higher than Italians? (Data from US GOV Dept of Energy International Statistics 2007) How is it that those Italians are so GREEN? From my short time studying in Italy in college, I noticed a few big differences. I think this article on the Yale Environment 360 website explains beautifully What Makes Europe Greener than the US

So we've moved on to a second choice villa, which is actually closer to the town where we really wanted to be (molto GREEN, not having so far to drive to get to the bakery!) I've given it some time and I'm now in love with this house as well, and you can bet that while I'm there I will treat the property with respect. I will dry our clothes on the clothesline. I won't be using a hairdryer. I will be eating by candlelight on the terrace. Even if these were things I never do, I like to go "native" as I say, when spending time someplace else. Hopefully I can bring more of the habits and Italian way of life and lower energy-consumption home with me! (If only our local government could figure out a better infrastructure for mass transit....what a difference that would make!)

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