Green Travel: Environmentally-Friendly Venice

Water, everywhere.

VENICE
PHOTO BECKY CHAO

Water, everywhere. It’s right next to the stone buildings, its waves creeping up slowly and splashing against the side, eroding the solid rock, trying to bring disaster onto this city. It’s no wonder, with such a constant threat of destruction, that Venice is so environmentally conscious. Venice is full of quaint houses, all done in the same style: solid, light-colored paint juxtaposed with huge windows baring dark green shutters that open occasionally to a balcony – my own room was, disappointedly, among those that did not.

These dark green shutters served more than just an aesthetic purpose: Venice is remarkably humid, so much so that you will often find yourself dripping a constant stream of sweat and such endearing shutters help make the city more efficient by allowing inhabitants to cover their windows during the day as to keep the heat out of their rooms and to open them up at night to keep cool. This tip came in especially handy for me, as I stayed in a government-owned building (where the use of air-conditioning was, by law, prohibited until the 15th of June each year). Perhaps other countries around the world can all learn from Venice to incorporate something as culturally distinct as these shutters into their environmental conservation efforts.

VENICE
PHOTO BECKY CHAO

On the other hand, there are some contradicting customs that befuddle me. Tap water in Venice is potable, contrary to the popular belief that the water comes from the canals (whose water is so muddy you cannot see beyond the first two inches or so of the surface). Yet, restaurants in Venice will never serve tap water, or if they do, they claim that it’s tap water undergone a rigorous, expensive filter process performed by the restaurant itself. That’s why a liter of acqua naturale will cost close to three euros. This water is usually served in glass bottles that restaurants will not let you take with you, because they reuse them in the filtering process. Other times, however, restaurants will simply serve pre-packaged water in a plastic bottle, which is not considered environmentally-friendly. Why the inconsistency? If it’s an issue of money, why not just serve tap water, especially since it’s potable and free?

There are the little things: the keycard holder in your room that is the key to all electricity (if there’s no card in the holder, then everything in your room shuts down,) a nice way to conserve energy when nobody’s in the room. There are the gondolas that rely on manpower, not the use of motors, unlike bigger boats whose motors are known to help erode the foundations of vulnerable buildings along the canals. There are plastic bags that will cost seven cents each at supermarkets, encouraging the use of reusable totes carried by every native Venetians. There are also lines of laundry hanging outside their windows, in the little campos outside of houses, as Venetians do not believe in using dryers (its warm weather proves very effective in drying clothes within a day.) It also makes for a cute and cozy atmosphere, making Venice truly feel homey.

All these things may make one grateful for the customs back home, wherever that may be. I know some of my fellow Americans were definitely missing free plastic bags, as much of a hazard they are to the environment. But I know these customs made me more conscious of our excessively luxurious habits. Venetians are all about moderation, I feel, especially when it comes to such an awareness, and I truly appreciated this mentality. After all, if we don’t help to preserve the earth and all the wonderful places it houses, it might not be here anymore, and this message rings particularly true for Venice.

VENICE
PHOTO BECKY CHAO

Becky Chao

A graduate from Duke University, Becky lived in Venice for several months. She traveled throughout Italy, Barcelona and other countries in Europe.

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