What is necessary for comfortable contemporary life is definitely culturally relative.
Case in point: for the past year, I have lived in a country where no one uses a clothes dryer because they are such colossal wastes of energy. Everyone, even fairly wealthy families, hangs up their clothes to dry. Larger items like blankets are sent out to dry cleaners, an insanely cheap luxury here compared to in the States.
And most of the time, despite resenting the fact that it can take three days for a hoodie to dry completely in the winter or missing soft, fluffy towels, I don’t mind it. In just a few months, an object I would have considered essential in America became unnecessary here.
Example #2: a standard sized oven. Ric and I cook on the stovetop or out of a pitifully small toaster oven. I have even made pies and cakes in it. While this is not ideal, especially given my love of baking and baked goods, an oven is something I would have considered a dealbreaker in selecting an American kitchen. Here, given the differences in eating habits and the fact that space is at a premium, it has become a nonessential item, something I definitely don’t need to be happy. We won’t even talk about four burner stoves–they don’t exist here outside of restaurant kitchens.
We have also lived for the past year only turning on our heating and air conditioning systems when we are at home and in the room in question. While this did result in a not entirely cozy winter, we discovered that we don’t need all that central air and heat we use in America. Our hot water heater works in much the same way; we turn it on only when using the hot water for showers or washing dishes.
And the thing that, for me, is the kicker is this: we live in a developed, first world country. In fact, South Korea is the most internet connected country on the planet. The home appliances we do have are more technologically advanced and energy efficient than the best stuff you can buy in the States. A flat screen smart TV was one of the items of essential furniture included in our spartan apartment.
We don’t live in some backwater, Peace Corps hovel in the middle of nowhere. We’re in an ultramodern city of four million people, all who live comfortable lives without all the energy-gobbling extras we consider “essential” in America. As our world in general begins to consider how to be better stewards of our natural resources, perhaps it would do the USA good to take a look at the habits of their “less developed” neighbors, who, by making small sacrifices, have become much more energy efficient than America.
Let me tell you this: a monthly energy bill that averages about twenty American dollars a month for gas and electricity is a pretty sweet deal. Maybe the real green in living green is all the money you save.
Filed under: Uncategorized Tagged: Korea, Living Green, Saving Energy