By Abigail Lin
So far, one of the most palpable disparities between Europe and the United States that I’ve noticed is in its’ citizens environmental consciousness. How many bags did you last use in your trip to Shaws, 10? While they have plastic bags for purchase in Paris, each one costs the equivalent of four cents. While it seems like chump change, obviously it adds up. Personally, to avoid the charges, I’ve been seen juggling a jug of milk, a block of cheese, cookies, and oranges back to my apartment from the supermarket. I’ve gotten the infamous Parisian snobbish stink-eye multiple times, but as long as I get back to the apartment with all my goods, it’s worth it.
I didn’t notice the types of bags offered to carry purchases from clothing stores at first, but my host mom pointed out that Gap— an American company— uses plastic bags rather than the customary paper bags provided by most other fashion companies. The French don’t see themselves as being especially “green,” rather, the cognizance of conservation is engrained in their culture. This is speculation on my part— but the French take short showers since water is especially expensive, so perhaps that’s why there’s a stereotype that they smell? (Read: a joke).
In my apartment building and in most other buildings in Paris, all the lights are off for most of the day, by default. They aren’t motion-detection sensored, and require the good ol’ use of effort to manually turn them on. They stay on for a pre-determined fraction of time, before they shut off again.
One night, as I closed the door, I pressed the button for the light in my corridor’s hallway. I took an unusually long time to lock the door, and as I stepped four steps down the marble spiral staircase, I was met with debilitating darkness as the lights clicked off. I grappled my way over to the stair rail, fending for myself in a cold, dark world; I imagined slipping and faceplanting mere yards away from my front door. Surely the embarrassment alone would kill me. As I navigated my way blindly down each successive step, I finally hit the third floor. As I shuffled over, one cautious foot in front of the other, I got to the light switch, and began my carefree descent. Another small victory in ma vie quotidienne Parisien.