I’ve always been terrible at conserving natural resources, for all that I loved my AP Environmental Science class in high school. I’m afraid of the dark, so I always have the lights on, and I love taking long, hot showers.
Transitioning to the much more resource-conscious lifestyle of Spain (and Europe in general) has been interesting, but not as difficult as I first thought. To take a five-minute shower, you just have to cut out things like shaving and save them for one day when you can turn the water on and off (brrr!). Showering has also gotten easier as the weather has warmed, since the tile bathroom can be freezing if the water’s not on. Apparently, Sevilla levies fines on people who use too much water. I’ve learned to turn off lights as much as possible, and my nocturnal eyesight has improved.
Spaniards have a much more energy-efficient transportation infrastructure than in the U.S. Instead of driving everywhere and clogging streets and the air with traffic and pollution, Spaniards take the metro/bus/tram to work. The cars that do exist here are smaller than American trucks and SUVs (although there are fewer Fiats than I expected). According to my host dad, who owns a car, driving usually isn’t worth it because of the lack of parking in Sevilla. I can relate, coming from the land of parking tickets at TCU. Aside from public transportation and cycling, many people just walk most places here. Because it’s a city and everything is closer together, you can walk to most places within the city limits (except UPO).
Since 2007, Sevilla has “instituted a community bike-sharing scheme, a surface tram, an underground metro, two high-speed train links, a pilot electric car programme and . . . the first commercial solar power plant in Europe.” The bike-sharing program, Sevici, is useful because of the various bike locations throughout the city and because of the city’s 120 km of bike lanes. Sevilla takes its bikers’ safety–and the environment–seriously.
Sevilla is also just surprisingly clean. The metro is spotless, and apart from the numerous cigarette butts, the streets outshine big cities like New York and Paris. The air always smells like fresh oranges, and the skies are almost always clear. I often see shopkeepers mopping the street outside their shops, which is something that never seems to happen in the U.S. Clearly, sevillanos take pride in keeping their city clean and beautiful.
My host family thinks recycling and saving natural resources is an important part of Spanish life. They seem unable to imagine the wastefulness of most American households–for one, they don’t even own clothes dryers here. They dry all their clothes by hand outside and hope it doesn’t rain. Raquel especially can’t imagine having to drive everywhere; one of her favorite parts of living near downtown Sevilla is the convenience of being able to walk almost everywhere. I agree, because even though I’ve never lived in a big city with public transportation before, it’s really nice not to worry about parking and traffic. Walking is so much easier.
When I first came to Spain, I thought adjusting to the sustainable lifestyle here would be a challenge. I was surprised to find how natural it has been to fall into step with my host family’s resource conservation, though. I know that even when I return to the U.S., I’ll do my best to keep saving resources and money by taking shorter showers, turning off the lights, and trying to use public transportation or walk more.