Friday, April 18, 2008

Lucca II: A few words about green toilets

Green has been a concern for so long in Europe that it may be showing a little gray. Conservation seems to be a standard operating procedure, even in a city steeped in antiquity, like Lucca, Italy. The evidence can be as close as the nearest bathroom.

Toilets like the ones in our hotel, the San Luca Palace, have a nifty feature that must save a considerable amount of water. The flush mechanism is a two-piece touch plate on the wall. One piece is a smaller oval inset into a larger one. No instructions are given, but when you stop and wonder why the device has two components, the intent becomes apparent quickly: Touch the small oval for a lighter flush. For, um, tougher jobs where more water and flush power are needed, touch the larger part of the plate.

Here's what it looks like:

Bathrooms are not the only component of hotels and restaurants to be retrofitted with high-tech features for the sake of conservation. The hotel where we’re staying, for instance, features an impressive electricity-saving measure. When you enter a guest room, some lights will go on. If you put the card key into a slot by the door, they’ll stay on after the door closes, and you can of course turn on others, or snap on the TV. If the card key is not in the slot when the door closes, all the electricity shuts off. That, of course, means all lights will go off when the guest leaves the room with card key in hand. It’s nearly a failsafe way of guaranteeing the patron snaps off the power when he or she doesn’t need it.

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