An electric bike and car sharing program, bicycle paths and pedestrian zones, an entire festival dedicated to bicycle lovers, and a pedal powered concert are just a few of the events and initiatives Naples has planned for European Mobility Week. Introducing the city’s latest innovations in sustainable mobility to the community, the city hopes to encourage people to give up their cars and choose more environmentally friendly and sustainable modes of transportation.
We made the switch nearly seven years ago and it wasn’t nearly as painful as I would have thought. Of course I’d like to say we did it by choice, or because it was the right thing to do, but it was actually because our beloved Smart car was stolen. I can say however, that we chose not to buy another one, albeit for matters of economics and convenience, not because we were trying to go green.
Cars are expensive to run, park, and insure in the city. A monthly bus pass only costs €40,00. It’s easier to get around the city by foot than by car. And oh yeah, I HATE to drive.
While it seemed like a big change at first, we quickly adapted. We have our feet to get us around our neighbourhood. The bus, metro and funiculari to get us around the city. And trains and boats to take us beyond.
More convenient, more economical, and dare I say, whether by accident or design, more green.
If you knew us 10 years ago, the poster children for American conspicuous consumption, you’d know we didn’t have a green bone in our collective bodies. We spent more time in our cars than we did with each other. We had a garage full of lawn and garden implements, enough furniture to fill three houses and every appliance known to man. And there wasn’t a landfill within 100 miles we couldn’t do our part to help fill. Oh, and yes, let’s not forget that 365 days of the year, the house remained optimally, climatically controlled. So much so that the seasons came and went, and if not for the walk from the house to the car and back again, we wouldn’t have been able to tell you if it was winter, spring, summer, or fall.
But that was then.
Somewhere between America and Italy and suburban life and life in the city, it turns out that we’ve gone green. And wouldn’t you know it, we didn’t even know it.
It was actually the ever observant and environmentally conscious Gillian, author of Gillian’s Lists and the Rome For Expats App that pointed it out to me a few months back. Talking about our respective lives in our respective Italian cities she said “Damn, you guys are greener then most people I know who are trying to be green!”
We weren’t looking to go green. In fact, it was the furthest thing from our minds. But a funny thing happened on the way to forum.
In our quest to simplify our lives. To remove the physical, mental and emotional clutter. To carve out a more balanced life, where more time is spent doing things rather than caring for and cleaning things, we also went green.
Of course now that I think about it, it makes total sense. Simpler living equates to greener living and its as simple as that.
Moving into the city simplified our lives on many levels and though it may seem to be the antithesis, life in the city can actually be a very green way to live.
Obviously, car ownership becomes a matter of choice rather than a requirement. There are mass transit systems to get you to and fro and city neighbourhoods are designed for mixed residential and commercial use. Whatever we need, we can typically find it within walking distance. More importantly, our salumeria, macelleria, pescheria, pastecerria, fruttivendolo, and two grocery stores are within a stone’s throw of our door. We shop local, we shop daily, and we cook and eat what’s in season.
These simple conveniences of daily life in the city it turns out, are very environmentally friendly.
But there’s more.
Real estate in the city is scarce and expensive, especially in a city like Naples that is completely built out. And that means scaling down. In the last seven years we’ve reduced our living space by 80%. One can only assume a proportional reduction in energy consumption. And that’s without taking into account that we have no space for a clothes dryer, use a tankless water heater, and being cocooned in an alley with 3 foot thick walls, the apartment stays warm in the winter and relatively cool in the summer.
Living in a small space also means less stuff, less consumption, less waste. There is literally no room at the Inn, so if something new comes in, something old must go out. And since getting rid of anything bigger than a bread basket in this city is next to impossible, if we can’t sell it or give it away, it doesn’t get replaced.
Our dependence on electronic devices, we’ve not been able to break, but I can say that it has helped us become virtually paper free. Books, newspapers, magazines, music, and videos, if we can’t download them, we don’t buy them.
And what of the stuff we do throw away. Well I never thought I’d say this, but we have finally become recyclers. Loving the city the way that we do it, it was the only moral choice we could make, and the only change we made that was not a matter of economics or convenience.
We didn’t set out to go green, but Green in the City is how we seem to be living, though surely there are a zillion other ways we could be better eco-citizens. For now though, we are content in knowing that we consume less, waste less, and have drastically reduced our carbon footprint on the world.
And in the end, we gave up nothing we didn’t want or need and we gained two of the most precious resources of all. Time and peace of mind.