Monday, June 3, 2013

Why Germany’s Carbon Footprint is only 60% of the U.S.' Footprint

During the course of our time in Germany it was easy to see first hand exactly why Germany’s carbon footprint is about three fifths the one for the U.S.A. (this is after correction for difference in population). The key words here: small scale spaces,  extreme attention to conservation and rigorous ecology. All of these are directed towards a sustainable living environment.

In terms of space scale, the average American would likely be shocked by the size of our room at the Art Hotel in Munich. Offhand, I would estimate it at roughly one half the size of a typical Days Inn room, and a bathroom perhaps one third the size of the Days Inn bathroom. Our room, indeed, had barely enough extra space by which to walk around the bed and the storage space (say for shelves, drawers, closet)  bordered on nil. We had to keep most of our clothing in suitcases, and only take out what we’d actually be wearing. The room was also furnished with only one small desk and chair, so the other person either had to sit on a bed –say to watch TV news or read the papers or go to the lobby to do it.

Air conditioning: All the hotels we stayed in whether in Germany or Austria advertised a/c. However, the dirty little secret is two fold: 1) the a/c would not work if the indoor temperature was even a half degree cooler than outside and 2) the a/c typically shut off automatically at night. This meant that for those like us, who desired cool temperatures to sleep (and non-stuffy rooms) we kept the windows open. Fortunately, this was possible even in cities like Munich and Innsbruck and there were no screams issuing from street corners…..say as I used to hear when I had an apt on Canal Street in New Orleans in 1967.

Conservation: is a big issue with both Germans and Austrians and they therefore don’t waste energy like we do in the States. If a supermarket is only a half mile a way you therefore “laufen” or walk to it, you don’t drive. Driving would be considered a minor crime. They also make large cloth handbags to carry groceries. Others use bicycles, and I’d say bikes easily out numbered autos in some parts of Munich and Innsbruck. Special bike lanes are provided on wide sidewalks and bicyclists speed up and down them easily. Using bikes or walking saves on petrol which is already extremely expensive because Germans, Austrians pay gasoline-fuel taxes unlike spoiled Americans.

Water is also rigorously conserved, and the toilets themselves are designed for minimal water use: e.g. on one side above the bowl  the flush button when pushed  releases 1 gal. for urine. On the other – the alternative button released 2 gals. This is compared to 4-6 gals. for the typical U.S. toilet flush. A scrub brush is thoughtfully provided in a corner bucket because, of course with such minimal water for flushing solid waste,  there's almost always a likelihood some residue adheres to the bowl. So ….you scrub it away! (No one in his right mind in Germany expected the maids to do this, btw!)

Oh, by the way, another observation: public 'WCs' (rest rooms) are available in most cities, e.g. Munich, Salzburg (Austria) , but one must pay a half euro (about 75 cents) to use them.

Re: watering lawns-  people must pay much more for the privilege. Lavish green, water -sucking lawns such as common in much of the U.S are rare.

Rigorous ecology-management: In a drive acompanying Reinhart and Elli to Schloss Linderhof, I commented at the enormous amount of dandelions in the fields including on the well-kept grounds of the Schloss. At one point I asked Reinhart: "Wait! Don't the grounds keepers spray these weeds, these dandelions and get rid of them?"

"Ach! Nein! Nein! These 'weeds' we call Löwenblumen and we love them for our yards and fields! Also they can be eaten (in salats) and the farmers let their herds feed on them!"

Wow! What a difference between two nations! Here in the U.S. I believe my neighbors are nearly ready to lynch me because after even a short absence dandelions have taken over the yard! Maybe I suggest people come over and pick them for unique salads!

Reinhart also noted that in Germany massive "spritzing" -spraying with weedicides and chemicals is verboten. No more than 11% of major grounds, such as at Schloss Linderhof for example, can have actual chemicals applied. The rest of the area must be managed using natural means, or manually. (Which, interestingly, is the method used in Boulder, Colo.)

On the issue of GMO foods, Germany saw massive demonstrations which made major headlines in the press - unlike here in the USA where the corporate media titans kept all news of global protests under wraps. Meanwhile, a new bill before the Reichstag will formally consider demanding labels on all GMO-foods, which 90% of Germans demand. In the USA, meanwhile, our Senate recently approved a despicable piece of legislation such that - if someone should become ill or diseased or harmed by a GMO-food, Monsanto can't be held accountable.

Did I once say this was a corporatocracy? You had better believe it!

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