They say everything is bigger in the United States. Cars, food portions, the list goes on. In many ways, these are true statements.
One thing that has really stood out to me over the last week here in Ireland, is how much bigger and better environmental technology seems to be. Especially compared to the US. As good as we are, at so many things, we also seem to lag behind many other countries in areas I would expect us to be better.
Here are some examples of prevalent environmental tech across the Emerald Isle.
Automobiles – By and large, they are smaller than in the US. Given how narrow some of the roads are, this is not a bad thing at all. However, more so than their size, it’s their environmental features that stand out. Most vehicles are diesel and diesel is generally less expensive. You find it at every petrol station. What I find most impressive is that the Diesel engine shuts down whenever you stop, saving fuel and emissions. As soon as you take your foot off the brake, the engine starts. It makes a ton of sense.
Hot Water – Hot water systems in many houses and apartments are optimized for utilization. For example, at the apartment we are presently staying in, the hot water system heats overnight so it’s ready for hot showers in the morning. It’s calibrated to deliver two hot showers a day. If there are more than two showers needed, you simply press a “boost” button to deliver enough hot water for one or more additional showers. It’s far more efficient than keeping a water tank continually heated 24×7.
Wind Farms – Many of the power plants I have seen also have wind farms on their grounds. Makes it hard to make the argument that the wind turbines are unsightly when they are standing alongside the large buildings and stacks of a traditional power station. I have also seen a number of free standing wind farms and they don’t look at all out of place or imposing.
Switchable Outlets – Every wall outlet I have seen has a switch adjacent to it. When you plug something in to an outlet, you have to also switch the outlet on for it to deliver power to what’s plugged in. This helps conserve power by stopping the trickle effect where most devices draw even a small amount of power when plugged in, even if the device itself is off.
Solar – Many buildings have small solar panels on them to help reduce their reliance on the traditional electric grid. This is an area we are doing considerably better with in the US as well.
Food and Agriculture – Ireland has a rich farming history and that history has laid a strong foundation for continued local sourcing for the food supply. What I noticed, almost immediately, is that chicken is quite different from at home. My son loves wings and orders them whenever he can. The wings in Ireland are like they were when I was young, not the enlarged ones we see in the US now. That’s because these are truly free range chickens and there is considerably less fat and less waste because the portions make sense.
Air Quality – Other countries are generally considered to be far more accepting of smoking than the US, but I would contend that is not the case in Ireland. Smoking is clearly prohibited in nearly every building, private and public. Coupled with other initiatives around emissions and other air quality concerns, Ireland is a leader, not a follower.
Water Conservation – Most of the toilets in Ireland have two flush settings. One that uses less water, for when there is only liquid waste to flush and second setting to use more water, when flushing solid waste. I have seen this in the US, but very sparingly. It’s fairly widespread in Ireland and keeps water conservation front and center and for everyone.
Advancing environmental technology is a national priority in Ireland. All aspects of technology seem to be front and center in terms of educational opportunity as well. I have seen numerous advertisements that encourage students to pursue technology education. Ireland seems to be doing a much better job training their workforce in technologies for today and the future. As an example, I came across this government statement that seems to capture he national call to action: “The Government’s Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation (SSTI) has set out a vision to make Ireland internationally renowned for the excellence of its research and to be a leader in using new knowledge for economic and social progress.”
I’d say that’s not just an impressive vision, it’s a reality taking shape in a small country on an Emerald Isle that has called upon the entire world to embrace green technologies for a better future. Well done Éire!