Privileged? Wasteful?

wirthby Emily Wirth

My usual routine: wake up, turn on lights, shower, blow dry my hair and start the laundry while the curling iron warms up. Pop something to eat in the microwave, charge my cell phone and electric toothbrush. All this is done whilst casually watching television.

Upon arriving at Via Lapis in Cagli, Italy, I was informed life here would drastically alter my usual habits. Italy does not produce much of its own power, as it is not necessarily safe to do so considering its terrain and the frequency of earthquakes it experiences. As a result, power must often be purchased at a high price from France. Electricity, an already expensive luxury, is even more costly when too much is consumed. When a resident uses more than a certain amount of voltage he or she is charged double, and the power will more than likely shut off.

When these facts combine with a travelling American’s routine, some adjustments must be made. The gas on the stove must be shut off unless in use, and only one burner may be used at a time while cooking. The television cannot be on at the same time as any other electrical equipment, and only one electrical item may be charging at one time. If the washing machine is running you must make sure to turn off the lights and any other frivolous appliances. Lights should never be left on unless one is in the room.

Living this way makes me realize how privileged I am when in the States. I have spent 25 years of my life taking advantage of cheap electricity, always consuming and never considering how wasteful I was. How many times have I cooked in the States while watching television? How man times do I wash a load of laundry while electronically drying another at the same time?

A shocking realization was that Italians find the notion of clothes dryers to be absurd. Wasting so much energy seems impractical when clothes can air dry well enough without the help of machinery. No wonder Americans have such bad reputations regarding wastefulness.

Life in Via Lapis is different that what I am accustomed to. When making dinner I can no longer multitask. It is not feasible to cook pasta noodles and sauce on the stove, while baking bread at the same time. I must plan my wardrobe in advance so jeans will be dry when I need them three days later.

At first I was frustrated with the inefficiency of this system, however, it was surprisingly easy to adjust my habits. I am interested to see how I integrate what I learned in Cagli into my former routine. I wonder if I will notice a change in the electricity bill I am always complaining about.

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