Adjust Your Thermostat
According to Energy Star, as much as half of the energy used in your home every year goes to heating and cooling. To save energy, keep your thermostat above 25°C (77°F) during the summer and below 21°C (69°F) in winter. If you have an HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) system, change your air filter at least every three months; a dirty filter will slow down air flow and make the system work harder.
Buy Air-Purifying Houseplants
According to a NASA study, everyday houseplants have the ability to clean indoor air of toxins like ammonia, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, and benzene. The top ten plants are areca palm (槟榔树), peace lily (和平百合), Boston fern (波士顿蕨), dwarf date palm (矮海枣), dracanea (龙血树), rubber plant (橡胶树), philodendron (蔓绿绒), bamboo palm (雪佛里椰子), ficus alii (亚里垂榕), and lady palm (筋头竹). The NASA study recommended one 15cm plant for approximately every 10sqm. In other words, you would need ten small plants for a 100sqm apartment. Look for them at the Liangma Flower Market.
Invest in an Air Purifier
Air pollution is a major cause of respiratory problems, cardiovascular diseases, and cerebrovascular diseases. Sleep easier by investing in an IQ Air, Blueair, or Alen air purifier. Ranging from RMB 2,052 to more than RMB 10,000 for a single-room model, air purifiers get rid of airborne particles like dust, dust mites, pet dander, mold spores, and pollen. To learn about more air pollution, see Feature.
Buy Sustainable Materials
Ditch conventional cotton and go for more eco-friendly materials for bed linens and drapes. Globally, cotton takes up 2.4 percent of all useable land but requires 16 percent of the world’s pesticides. Choose hemp, bamboo, or organic cotton instead. Unlike cotton, hemp actually improves the soil, is resistant to drought, and can survive in most climates. Bamboo is readily available in China and can be turned into a material that rivals the softness of cashmere. Technically a type of grass, bamboo grows very fast and doesn’t need to be replanted after it is harvested.
Kitchen and Dining Room
Develop a Dishwashing System
Though several factors can skew the results, studies suggest that dishwashers are generally more efficient than hand-washing dishes. If installing a dishwasher is not an option, there are a few things you can do to save water. Wash glassware first, the cleanest dishes next, and the greasy dishes and pots last to keep the water cleaner longer. If you have a sink with two basins, put soapy water in one and clear hot water in the other to rinse; if you have a single basin, gather soapy dishes in a dish rack and rinse them with a sprayer. Fill the sink with only a few inches of water or use an appropriately-sized wash basin.
Cut Down on Meat
Reducing meat consumption can save money, cut carbon emissions, and broaden your culinary horizons. Even if it’s just once a week, cutting down on meat can decrease your risk of heart disease by up to 19 percent, according to a Harvard University study. Beef is the biggest culprit; one kilo of beef requires seven times the amount of land needed to produce a kilo of chicken and 15 the amount of land needed to produce a kilo of pork. However, what you replace the meat with is just as important; incorporate nuts, seeds, and beans, as well as more fruits and vegetables into your routine for a well-balanced diet. To learn more, see Olivia Lee’s column and this month’s health article.
Buy from Local Organic Farms
Order your produce, dairy products, herbs, and meat from one of Beijing’s organic farms. This allows families to support local businesses, reduce their carbon footprint, and avoid harmful pesticides. Some places allow customers to buy into the farm for a fee. For example, God’s Grace Garden Plantation offers their products through a CSA (community-supported agriculture) model; a deposit of RMB 1,000 buys you a membership and can be used towards future purchases. Depending on the season, members can enjoy fresh cherries, peaches, apricots, sweet corn, beans, peas, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, peanuts, and more. For other organic farm options, see p51.
Grow Your Own Herbs
If you’ve got a moderately sunny balcony, skylight, or window sill, you can grow a potted herb garden. For the best soil conditions, mix potting soil with sand and a small amount of lime. Layer the bottom of the pot with gravel for proper drainage; use either a terracotta or wooden pot. Water when the surface of the soil feels dry or pick up the pot and feel how heavy it is. South-facing windows provide the best sunlight; during the warm months, a little time outdoors can give your plants a boost. Good herb combinations include sage (鼠尾草), rosemary (迷迭香), oregano (牛至), and thyme (百里香); lemon balm (蜜蜂花) and basil (罗勒); or parsley (欧芹) and cilantro (香菜). Pick up your supplies from the Liangma Flower Market.
Install Water Filters
Cut out bottled water by installing water filters on taps; bottled water is expensive and wasteful, generating up to 1.5 million tons of plastic per year. According to Food and Water Watch, that much plastic requires about 177.9 million liters of oil to produce. In addition, not all bottled water is safe; last summer, China pulled 31 brands after a random inspection. In one brand – Yiqun – bacteria levels were 9,000 times above safety standards. Fortunately, Aquasana sells quality home water filters for drinking and showering. World Health Store also sells Aquasana products and other water filters.
Take Shorter Showers
A 30-minute shower requires almost 300L of water, with an average flow of 10L of water per minute. Limit showers to five or ten minutes, by using a timer. Control humidity in your bathroom by running the fan during your shower and 15 minutes after. Better yet, install a low-flow showerhead to save both money and electricity.
Switch to Solar Power
If you’re in for the long haul, consider switching to a solar-powered water heater. In the future, the Beijing municipal government will make it mandatory for new buildings to install a solar water-heating system. According to Vice-Minister of Housing and Urban-Rural Development Qiu Baoxing, China could save 20 million tons of coal and reduce its CO2 emissions by 40 million tons per year by making the switch to solar-water heating.
Wash Full Loads of Laundry
To save water, wash only full loads of laundry in cold water; if you must do a partial load, use the appropriate setting on the machine to reduce water usage. Washing full loads can save more than 12,870L per year – the equivalent of about 68 standard bathtubs. Hot water heating accounts for about 90 percent of the energy used to wash clothes; the rest is electricity used by the washer motor. Switch to laundry detergents formulated especially for cold water washes or use all-natural soapnuts instead. Soapnuts are available at Mrs. Shanen’s Bagels and World Health Store.
Outdoors and On the Go
Minimize waste by reusing containers. According to the municipal government, Beijing residents generate 18,000 tons of waste per day – which is 7,000 tons more than local disposal plants can take. To do your part, take your own plastic containers to the restaurant for leftovers, use a travel mug for your morning coffee, and use a stainless steel bottle for water. When ordering for delivery, ask the restaurant to leave plastic utensils behind: Qǐng búyào dài cānjù.
Pack Light and Fly Cheap
Ditch the bulging suitcase when traveling by air; planes flying with excess baggage use more fuel. Penny pinchers rejoice: Over long distances, flying economy class leaves a smaller carbon footprint because it maximizes the number of passengers on a flight. From a view of maximizing capacity, flying first-class on a British Airways Boeing 747 plane leaves a carbon footprint 5.5 times larger than that of an economy passenger, while a business seat leaves a carbon footprint 3.5 times larger than its economy counterpart.
Start a Compost Heap
With a bit of effort, it is possible to start composting in Beijing – even if you live in an apartment. Composting bins can be made from opaque plastic containers with a lid. You’ll also need a draining pan, a power drill, about 250g of worms (available at Dongjiao Market), black potting soil, and some starter organic matter like newspaper. Find step-by-step instructions on setting up your own compost bin at Suluku.com, a Beijing-based blog on healthy living. Recycle Now’s website also has a helpful guide on composting in yards.
Use Cloth Diapers
Consider using eco-friendly cloth diapers for your baby. They can be cleaned in a washing machine, and come in both flat and pre-fitted models. Some require waterproof shells that are sold separately; others are all-in-one. Modern cloth diapering systems have biodegradable liners that can catch poop and be flushed down the toilet. Cloth diapers are available at BabyGro, Counting Sheep and Mothercare (flat diapers only).
Dispose Properly of Used Batteries
Dispose safely of used batteries, which contain dangerous chemicals like cadmium – a known carcinogen that can affect kidney and lung function. In the US alone, the majority of the 750 million alkaline batteries sold annually end up in landfills and incinerators. To address the issue, Beijing has installed slotted battery collection boxes (废弃电池回收箱) in public areas, but compliance rates remain as low as 5 percent. There are also private battery collection services, which provide a significant source of income to rural families and scrap collectors. A quick search on Baidu.com will turn up millions of results, but you’ll have to speak decent Chinese to deal with them directly. Otherwise, try asking your compound’s management office for help; some might even run their own battery collection initiatives.
Unplug Appliances and Chargers
When not in use, unplug small appliances and chargers for electronic devices. Standby power (also known as “vampire power”) is electricity consumed by objects that are turned off or in sleep mode. Despite being “turned off,” a device still uses energy. Reduce this power leakage by consolidating cables into a single power strip, then turning it off and on as needed. Though figures vary, “standby power” accounts for 5 to 10 percent of total residential electricity use in most developed countries.
Use Energy-Efficient Lighting
Lighting is one of the easiest ways to start saving energy. Replace incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs), which use 75 percent less energy and last six to ten times longer. Alternatively, replace your lights with longer-lived – but significantly more expensive – LED bulbs. Either way, don’t forget to turn all the lights off when leaving a room. Ikea sells a range of energy-saving light bulbs.
Energy Star is an international standard for energy-efficient consumer products. Created by the US government, its website offers tips to make your home more energy-efficient.
Liangma Flower Market 亮马花卉市场
This market stocks a wide variety of house plants, fresh flowers, and home decoration supplies.
Daily 8.30am-6.30pm. 758 Dongsanhuan Beilu, Chaoyang District (6504 2446) 朝阳区东三环北路758号
God’s Grace Garden Plantation 天福园有机农庄
Founded in 2001, God’s Grace Garden Plantation offers fruits, vegetables, eggs, and meat through a flexible, membership-based system.
Jiang Village, Liangxiang Town, Fangshan District (6033 4957, 137 0127 7398, firstname.lastname@example.org) www.youjinongzhuang.com
In addition to affordable home furnishings, Ikea sells waste sorting bins, kitchen compost bins, energy-efficient light bulbs, and house plants.
Daily 10am-10pm. 1 Taiyang Gonglu, Dongbahe (northwest corner of Siyuan Qiao), Chaoyang District (800 810 5679) www.ikea.com.cn 朝阳区东坝河太阳宫路1号（四元桥西北角）
US-based Aquasana sells imported water filtration systems, including drinking water filters, shower filters, whole house filters, and replacement cartridges.
Bldg C-649, Zhongguancun E World Building, Haidian District (400 000 8320 Chinese, 136 5128 5157 English, email@example.com) www.aquasana-china.com 海淀区中关村大街11号E世界财富中心C座649室
World Health Store 维衡生
This chain stocks environmentally-friendly products like soap nuts, organic foods, natural house cleaners, air filters, masks, and more.
1) Mon-Fri 10am-8pm, Sat-Sun 10am-7.30pm. Rm 2152, North Tower, SOHO Shangdu, 8 Dongda Qiao Lu, Chaoyang District (5900 2209) www.worldhealthstore.com.cn朝阳区东大桥路尚都国际北塔2152室; 2) Sun-Thu 10am-8pm, Fri-Sat 10.30am-8.30am. Rm 9A, LB1, Euro Plaza, 99 Yuxiang Lu, Tianzhu, Shunyi District (8046 2524) www.worldhealthstore.com.cn 顺义区天竺镇裕翔路99号欧陆广场地下一层09A
Dongjiao Market 东郊市场
A favorite among locals, this wholesale market sells everything from food to flowers, plants, birds, hammers, fire extinguishers, worms, and more. Be prepared to haggle.
Daily 8am-5pm. Xidawang Lu (south of SOHO New Town), Chaoyang District (6774 7864) 朝阳区西大望路（SOHO现代城南边）
Suluku is the blog of US native Tayler Cox, a graduate in human biology and health policy. She writes about healthy eating and green living in China. www.suluku.com
Recycle Now is the UK’s official recycling campaign, with easy-to-follow instructions on sorting waste and home composting. www.recyclenow.com
The brainchild of Australian mom Johanna Selth, BabyGro offers hand-picked maternity and baby products at its two stores and on its website.
1) Mon-Fri 10am-7pm, Sat-Sun 10am-6pm. Rm 105B, Bldg 9, Central Park, 6 Chaowai Dajie, Chaoyang District (6597 0717, firstname.lastname@example.org) www.babygro.com.cn 朝阳区朝外大街6号新城国际公寓9号楼首层商铺105B; 2) Wed-Sat 10am-5pm. Cathay View, 2 Xiangjiang Beilu, Chaoyang District (8470 1690, email@example.com) www.babygro.com.cn 朝阳区香江北路甲2号观唐广场二期商铺
Counting Sheep 洋洋宝宝店
Counting Sheep stocks cloth diapers, maternity clothes, baby furniture, shower gifts, party items, and more.
Daily 10am-8pm. 17 Gongti Beilu (across from the north gate of Worker’s Stadium), Chaoyang District (6417 7622, firstname.lastname@example.org) www.countingsheepboutique.com 朝阳区工体北路17号（工体北门对面）
This acclaimed UK chain specializes in products for expecting moms, babies, and young children. Find maternity clothes, strollers, bedding, car seats, playpens, flat diapers, and more.
1) Daily 11am-10pm. Rm VDM-09, Solana Lifestyle Shopping Park, 6 Chaoyang Gongyuan Lu, Chaoyang District (5905 6134) 朝阳区朝阳公园路6号蓝色港湾国际商区SMM-42单元; 2) Daily 10am-10pm. 5/F, Wangfujing Department Store, 255 Wangfujing Dajie, Dongcheng District (8529 1777) 北京市东城区王府井大街255号王府井百货5层
See Directory under Shopping for more locations.