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A British Perspective

July 16, 2010

I have been traveling a lot lately, and last week I spent my week in the UK.  Since I was there over the 4th of July I was obliged to ask the hotel clerk where I could see the fireworks (she was not amused).  My poor humor aside, while in the UK I tired to get a feel of how their society differed from the US in regards to energy and sustainability.  I noticed several subtle differences:

  1. Business Concern – I was in the UK attending a technical conference on a certain type of manufacturing equipment.  As I listened to the presenters, it was interesting to see contant references to carbon footprint and energy usage.  For many of the companies present, these energy issues were totally integrated into the way they did business.  These topics were not a separate slide at the end, they were woven into every aspect of how the machines performed.  This is in contrast to many of my american clients who are just beginning to ask “So what is this carbon stuff all about.” 
  2. Roofing – I spent quite a bit of time traversing the country by train.  As the towns flew by, I noticed that you don’t see asphalt shingles on any of the houses.  Now this certainly is influenced by the fact that many of the buildings have been around for centuries. However, even the newer buildings I saw had either slate or ceramic roofing tiles.  I think this illustrates a society that is willing to pay a little more cost up front in order to have a roof that doesn’t have to be thrown away every 20 years.  Again sustainability is more ingrained in UK’s society than here in the US.
  3. Hotel Keys – Every hotel I stayed in required that your room key be deposited in a receptacle in the room before you could use any electrical device.  Lights, air conditioning, etc could only be turned on if your room key was deposited in the reciptical.  This forces everyone to turn off everything before leaving the room. Again a small sublte requirement drives reduced energy usage.  How much power could we save if every US hotel had the same requirement?

Posted by Mark Norfolk
Image: Simon Howden / FreeDigitalPhotos.net