October 9, 2010
Is Italy going green? Are Italians changing from la dolce vita to la vita responsabile? Recently, when I was driving out of Sarnano I saw one south-facing hillside that was covered with solar panels rather than the more typical grapevines or sunflowers. And when I was driving to Bolzano two days ago, I saw an enormous bank of solar panels that was lining one side of the autostrada. Sunny Italy has lagged far behind the rest of Europe, even cloudy Germany, when it comes to using “green” energy. But that seems to be changing.
Another indication that the Italians are getting serious about the environment is recycling. Sarnano, as well as other communities, has always provided separate dumpsters for plastic, paper, and glass, but these specialized dumpsters were only located in the center of town. Most denizens, self included, didn’t bother to separate the trash and instead used any of the convenient nearby undifferentiated dumpsters.
But things are changing. Late last month when I stepped outside to check the weather, a city employee waved me over and then gave me a canvas shopping bag filled with different colored plastic bags, large paper bags, a small maroon bucket with a lid, and an instruction booklet on a new program called Porta a Porta (door to door). I jokingly asked him if he had the booklet in English. (Hai questa in Inglese??) Nope. But I was able to figure things out.
On different mornings between 7:00 and 9:00, I am to put out various bags for collection–unrecycleable waste on Monday, plastic on Tuesday, paper on Thursday. The nearby dumpster has been replaced by two smaller units, one for vegetative matter (that you collect in the small maroon bucket) and the other for glass. Monday came and I’m thinking, no way in hell is this going to work. But I decided to play the game anyway and put the right colored bag out for collection. An hour later it was gone. Same drill on Tuesday. When I put the paper bag out for collection on the day I left for the 3B tour, I noticed that everyone else on the block had put their bags out too. This just might work. And “Porta a Porta” sure beats having to walk to the center of town to do any recycling.
This isn’t the first time that I have been amazed by the Italians. A few years back, they passed a law banning smoking in any indoor public area. The passage of the law was not the amazing thing–what was stunning was that the Italians actually stopped smoking in restaurants, bars and offices. I didn’t even hear all that much grumbling. I’m not sure that the law has caused any Italians to stop smoking, but at least you can go to a restaurant without being bothered by secondhand smoke. They are actually ahead of the Germans on this account. When I was in Bonn last month, I was surprised when a group of Germans came into the restaurant where I was eating and half of them promptly lit up. I changed tables. (back)