As I discussed in the first part of this environmental comparison overview (found here), a reformation of electrical energy production is, at this point, overdue, and the strides made in renewable energy by the Germans should be used as guidance. There are lesser ways that the Germans reduce their carbon footprint and resource usage without sacrificing their quality of life. These small differences make significant impacts because they can be applied by essentially everyone that lives in modern countries.
Cars have long been the pride of the Germans. The modern car was invented by Karl Benz, a German native. Germany is home to Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz, two of the finest automobile manufactures the world has to offer. With this in mind, you would expect the German people to use their cars as symbols of their individual wealth, like the American tendency. However, this is not the case. Nearly all of the cars that you see zipping along the German roadways are small, compact sedans, many of which are either hybrid or fully electric. In fact, the German government actively discourages the usage of large vehicles with a tax based on the car’s engine size and its CO2 emissions. The Smart Car has gained some traction in Germany. It’s reassuring because I know that if I happen to get hit by a car here, there’s a good chance it is just a Smart Car. In such a situation, I would probably do more damage to the car than it would do to me. The Smart Car offers unbeatable gas mileage as well as an all-electric version of the vehicle.
Equally important to the decrease in carbon emissions is the careful allocation of natural resources. We are constantly reminded by the media that, as Americans, we are gifted with clean water sources and the technology to filter dirty water. It is particularly easy to use an excess of water. We drink it, we fill our pools with it, we water our plants with it. Although it is difficult to scale back our water usage in those instances, water is heavily wasted at other times. For instance, toilets deceivingly use quite a bit of water. Old toilets used anywhere between 3.5 and 7 gallons of water with each flush. New regulations limit toilets to 1.6 gallons per flush but further improvement can be made. The norm in Germany is to install water-saving toilets which use a certain amount of water based on the type of waste you…excreted. These toilets offer two buttons for flushing, one larger than the other. The size of the buttons corresponds to the amount of water used when pressed. Back in the States, these toilets are harder to find than a hydrodynamic spatula with port and starboard attachments and turbo drive. They are complete anomalies in the United States, but their practicality is undeniable. To top it off, they lower monthly utility bills.
Germans are avid recyclers. This is just another display of their commitment to saving resources. When I first moved into Jacobs University for my semester abroad, a student volunteer showed me to my room and gave me a litany of paperwork regarding the lifestyle on campus. A certain paper regarding the recycling process apparently needed an accompanying verbal threat from the girl. Essentially, she assured me that I would find myself in a “bad situation” if I didn’t sort and recycle my paper, plastics, and cardboard. After I flashed the Tommy Gun under my overcoat she eased off a little. Regardless, Jacobs University’s recycling setup is impressive, offering any type of recycling accommodation I know of along with compost. It confounds me that, even among very intelligent Americans, recycling is considered a farce. It is only logical that for every soup can that is recycled, we need to mine less aluminum and use less energy making that unrefined aluminum into a new can. I hope that recycling becomes a more widespread practice among households within years to come.
Thank you for sticking with me on this incredibly long analysis and comparison of Germany and America’s approach towards environmental awareness. The takeaway that I intend from these two posts is that average Americans do not need to alter their lifestyles or sacrifice certain luxuries in the name of saving the planet. Environmentally-aware reforms of large, nationwide institutions, like electricity generation, will have a more significant and enduring effect on global climate change. In this way, America should take the lead, using the German institutions for reference. In the meantime, please, keep taking showers and doing your laundry. You’re worth the water.
If you would like to see my sources, let me know. Make sure to check out my past posts at the following link: http://voices.lafayette.edu/category/james-onorevole/
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