The View
from Here:

    Ellen Lampert-Greaux lives in Petite Saline and is the new editor-in-chief of Harbour Magazine, and when she's not organizing the St. Barth Film Festival, or writing for various magazines, she turns her all-seeing eye upon local happenings.

    January '06

    Savings Plans
    On an island that could easily be called INXS (like the rock band), it strikes me as slightly odd that all of a sudden there's a move toward certain environmentally sound ideas. After all, there are people here who use several truckloads of water from the desalinization plant every day to keep their gardens green. Yet at the same time there are signs in many hotel rooms and villas informing clients that water is precious, please use it sparingly. And I think most people understand the scarcity of H20 on this dry rock, and are careful about not wasting it. But what about the idea of saving electricity? Now it seems the island has woken up to the fact that while it not only needs to desalinate the ocean to produce drinking water, it may also have a "current" problem. AC or DC, delta or wye, there is no more power to be had. The local EDF (French electric company) is apparently making all the electricity it can at the plant in Public. You can't get any more. You can no longer up your amps! Too bad if the swimming pool light shorts out when the electric watering system in the garden goes on. Or all the lamps need to be dimmed before you can turn on the microwave. Who would go to the beach or the pool, leaving the sliding glass doors wide open and the air-conditioners on at full tilt? Aware that a lack of electricity is not a very good selling point, the island recently launched an energy saving campaign. Every resident got a coupon in the mail, good for three long-life, energy-saving light bulbs: those odd looking three-part bulbs that stick out of the top of most of our lamps. If you buy them for 12 euros at one of the local participating merchants, the EDF promises to reduce the 12 euros from your next electric bill. But how much energy can three lamps per household actually save when many palm trees are wrapped in strings of lights that stay on all night, along with neon signs, and street lights placed way too close together to do any good at all. And this kind of savings could only be a short-term solution. There are apparently back room discussions about installing a cable to bring electricity from Saint Martin or Sint Maarten, but at what cost? Plastic bags are also under siege at the moment, with a campaign under way to encourage shoppers to use large green fabric bags that are on sale for 1 euro at the supermarket. I have three of them already, although one has been appropriated for my husband's collection of small percussion instruments (that live in the car in case a band strikes up somewhere along the way). I try very hard to remember to take the other ones into the store with me when I go shopping. So while the residents are being encouraged to save water, save electricity, and save the environment from the horrors of plastic bags, it's hard to imagine that people paying anywhere up to $30,000 a week for a luxury villa will pay much attention to these savings plans. But when I see how much water it takes to hose down a large motor yacht after a day at sea, I'd like to find a way to recycle that water directly to my thirsty garden. Fortunately it's been raining a lot lately, and how easily we forget the days of empty cisterns and cloudless skies!

    More to come,
    Ellen Lampert-Greaux
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