Sustainability in Spain

Posted by Julia Leef

In honor of the annual Skidmore Unplugged competition, I thought I'd take this time to talk about some of the efforts that the people of Spain undertake on a daily basis to conserve energy in their homes.

Spain, like most of Europe, currently suffers from a severe economic crisis that has persisted for the past five years. The crisis has produced high unemployment rates (24.4% as of March 2012, with a 50% rate of unemployment for youths under 25 years old), and a growing need to conserve resources. As such, one must abide by rules and limits to help lower the use of these resources, especially water and electricity.

Showers are limited to five to ten minutes here, and host families can be very strict about abiding by this rule, since the longer showers that many of us might be used to in the United States would waste a great amount of water.

Lights are also important to keep track of here. Whenever you leave a room, lights must go off, no matter your location in the house. In my apartment complex, lights in the main stairwell and lobby are turned off unless someone activates a switch on one of the floors, which will later turn off again after a certain amount of time. This way, no light is kept on unnecessarily when no one is around.

Many Spanish homes, especially apartments,, don't have dishwashers or dryers. People wash dishes by hand and hang clothes to dry on a terrace or line. While air-drying clothes is efficient in warmer weather, the method can take several hours to most of the day to dry.

The one exception to this energy conservation process seems to be watching television. People turn on the television at dinner and leave it on for most of the night, even when people are not actually watching it. My host mother, for instance, will often take the television into the bedroom with her to watch as she falls asleep.

In many families, watching the television serves as a social event and form of relaxation, even if it is not exactly an environmentally friendly one. If this is the one exception to the rule it still leaves the household in fairly good shape.

While the typical Skidmore student may not be able to invest in some of these energy-saving methods (hanging clothes outside to dry in Saratoga weather, for example, would only result in frozen laundry), he or she can switch off the lights during the day if it's light enough outside, or wash a few dishes instead of running the dishwasher.

Good luck in this year's competition, and don't be afraid to continue practicing those energy-saving habits after it's over!

Un abrazo,

Julia Leef is a junior at Skidmore currently studying abroad in Spain. She worked for the Skidmore News as Editor in Chief in the fall and is a contributing columnist this semester. 

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