Over the recent Chinese National Day break, I took a short holiday back in my second home – Australia. Despite the daily amazing blue skies, sweet-smelling air that I enjoyed while I was there, I was not quite impressed by two things. First, I was offered plastic bags everywhere I shopped, including at supermarkets. Second, a lot of restaurants and food courts still used disposable dining utensils.
I remember being the eccentric laowai who kept saying no to offers of plastic shopping bags when I first came to Beijing three years ago. But things have improved since then. China’s ban on plastic bags 限塑令 in June 2009 (Taiwan introduced a similar ban one year earlier in June 2008) means that now we need to pay for plastic bags in major supermarkets and more and more shops are offering alternatives to plastic bags, such as paper or reusable shopping bags. Also, I’ve been bringing my own dining utensils 环保餐具 whenever I eat out so I was kicking myself for thinking that I didn’t need them on my holiday. I just assumed that Australia must be more ‘progressive’ in all respects concerning the environment. However, my mistake made me stop and wonder what the situation is really like in other developed countries in which both the governments and citizens alike are supposed to have embraced most, if not all, of the environmentally friendly practices available, but haven’t.
On the bright side, Australia has excellent recycling facilities. For example, I have three recycling bins at home – one for garden waste, one for paper and cardboard, and one for bottles and cans. They are all free of charge (given to us by our local council) and collected on a regular basis. Also, getting recycling products such as recycled printing paper and toilet paper is a lot easier and cheaper than getting them in China. I remember going to Jenny Lou’s to check out the prices of recycled products and found that 4 rolls of recycled toilet paper would have set me back 40 kuai. That’s 10 kaui for a roll (compared to 2-3 kuai that you pay for a non-recycled equivalent)!
So I guess what I want to say is that, yes, good environmental practices are happening in many developed countries, but there is definitely room for improvement. Developing countries around the world are playing catch-up and it’d be embarrassing for developed countries to be left behind, who, after all, have had a lot more time to get things right.
You can reduce your ecological footprint by adopting very simple lifestyle changes. This blog post only mentions two, and there are a lot more ways. For example, the recipe to curb climate change as given by Dr Rajendra Pachauri, head of the United Nation’s Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), involves only 3 simple, but crucial, ingredients – don’t eat meat, ride a bike, and be a frugal shopper
. I’ve ticked off the first two and I’m currently working on the third ingredient. However, with the ready availability and dirt cheap prices in Beijing, I find myself accumulating more “stuff” than I’m actually aware of or care to admit (and I’m only made aware of the ridiculous amount of things that I own when I move!). But I believe that every small action counts, and it’s never too late to start. Here a list of ideas
from our website to get you started. So, what are you waiting for?
Photo from flickr by efeb