Less Flow & Less Glow

Almost all modern toilettes here have two buttons: one small, one larger. Each one gives you less or more flush for your buck, respectively. This makes for an interesting little game each time you use it, as you get to assess whether or not your recent “activity” demands only a quiet ushering down into the pipes, or conversely more of a stout, shoving cascade. I don’t always guess right either. I suppose that’s my burden to bear.

But alas, this isn’t a bowel movement post, rather some examples of what the toilet situation illustrates: France’s honorable attempts at energy conservation. The small toilet button is a way to save water during times when you really don’t need a whole lot to get the job done. Also noted:

Light bulbs. Or rather lack thereof. In the US you have the choice to spend the big bucks for energy-saving florescent bulbs, but those old fashioned filament ones are still alive and kickin. Here, a recent trip to Castorama (the Home Depot of France) shows that our options are limited. As in there are none. An entire 30-foot wall of bulbs and not a single old-style one, which is apparently a no-brainer to French brains. But my brain wasn’t made in France, so I threw a mini fit right there in the lighting department as I tried to make sense of it: “What? They don’t even give you a choice! You’re forced to pay more to light up your house? Where’s the closest US Embassy, I must speak to someone!” I’ve never thought of myself as an ultra patriotic American, although for about 45 seconds I was ready to fight tooth and nail for the amendment of people’s right to bear filaments.

But then we moved to the gardening aisle and I got over it.

Other electricity-saving concepts include our building’s lights. In the entry way, hallways, and even the trash room downstairs, every light is on a timer, so you get a minute or two of light when you need it but the rest of the day and night, the hallway stays unlit. Plus the electric company charges less for electricity after 10pm, so that’s when most people opt to run their laundry machines, and it’s when our hot water heater is programmed to heat up our little reservoir. All these things add up to a nation seemingly more conscious of how and when their natural resources are being used.

Another example is how the major supermarkets refuse to give you bags for your groceries. Three options here: bring your own reusable bags, buy one from the checkout for a small fee, or carry multiple armfuls of random items out to your parking spot. No doubt an effort to save trees and keep penguins from gagging on plastic. Again my first instinct is to resist this notion of limited freedoms.

But alas, we push our cart into the pastry section, and I’ve moved on.

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