Eco Observations From Italy

Dec 2014

I’ve been wondering a lot recently about different countries and their eco habits.  Do individuals start out more sustainably oriented because of necessity and as they acquire more wealth loose their motivation? Is it nature, nurture or a combination of both? I know the question is incredibly complex, but as I try and inspire others to renovate their lifestyles in eco-friendly ways – to become Green With Renvy – I am frequently searching for the answer. From the most primitive villages in India to sophisticated hotels in Italy, I regularly observe a much more obvious effort being put into an eco-friendly way of life in other parts of the world. Some of my eco observations from Italy illustrate this point.

I realize that Italy is smaller than the US; eco-friendly ideas might be easier to implement.  However, the observations I made were more the result of lifestyle decisions, and not some government mandate.  Choices were set in motion by individuals, or companies, and as a result, have an effect on the environment. The benefits impact all Italians and their lifestyle choices reflect this sustainable mentality.

xitaly label dual flush
Every hotel we stayed in had dual flush toilets.  This was from the big city to small villages.  It seems to be the norm in hotels. Installing a dual flush kit is quite easy and can reduce water consumption by as much as 60%.  Check out these simple steps for a $24.00  DIY installation.  Italians personal consumption of water is approx. 1243/cubic meters/year, as opposed to our excessive 2500 cubic meters. {figures from}

xitaly label farmers

Everyone seems to be focused on fresh and local.  The menus reflect what is currently in the marketplace and consumers shop more frequently for their groceries. Think of all the meals you have eaten when traveling. Have you ever had a bad meal in Italy?


 Agriturismos, while initially introduced to help farms survive, are alive and well in Italy. WWOOF provides opportunities for work/stay on organic farms and there are many Bed and Breakfast establishments throughout Italy where you can sojourn and enjoy the products from local agriculture. The agriturismo above is located in the Chianti area, between Siena and the medieval fortress in Monteriggioni, on a hill surrounded by olive groves and overlooking a picturesque landscape. Strategically located for visiting cities and art enclaves in the area, the complex is a true oasis. The organic farm provides ingredients for menus and the nature reserve is a host of activity for birds and wildlife.

xitaly label  plastic

Like many, I did my fair share of shopping while in Italy. Packaging for everything we bought was either in biodegradable plastic bags, or wrapped in recyclable paper. A simple change that will have huge impact in landfills.

xitaly label solar 

I have been encouraged by an increase in solar panels I’ve seen around New England in recent years. maybe the US is slowly coming around. Our train ride from Rome to Florence turned up solar panels on everything from small family run farms to large olive and wine groves.  It was a remarkable thing to see.  Italy recently completed the construction of 10 new solar farms, efficiently bringing them on line in just two months.  This new grid supplies the energy needs equal to 4,000 households.  The largest photo voltaic solar plant in Europe is in Rovigo, Italy.
And the cars…don’t get me started on our gas guzzling autos…

Why do you think the Italians are more focused on environmentally friendly solutions then we are here in America?

  1. I’m amazed at the solar panels, not something that you might expect in Italy, but of course with all that sunshine it makes perfect sense. When I was in South Tyrol in northern Italy, I interviewed the founder of Re-bello a fashion brand that is all about sustainability.

  2. I don’t think it’s the case that more wealth results in a loss of motivation. In fact, I’d say that in the hospitality industry, often the opposite can be true…. I know of many luxury hotels and resorts (not necessarily specific to Italy) that really do their bit on the eco front, going above and beyond what many might expect.

    • alison says:

      I agree with your comment Paul, luxury resorts are making remarkable strides with sustainable practices. I was speaking more about individuals. I am constantly amazed at the conspicuous consumption and waste I see by upper income folks who act with complete disregard for the environment.

  3. Lee says:

    It does appear that Italy is ahead of the United States in this area. We need to step up in being more eco-friendly. There have been some advances in this area, but much more is needed.
    Thanks for the information about what they are doing in Italy.