Note: The headline of this story was a replica of the American headline, as was the idea itself, but I completely rewrote and modified the tips and the research for this to run in the Chinese magazine. I’ll post the English version here.
Newsweek Select, March 2007
Here in China, we’ve already won part of the environmental battle by cultivating good environmental practices such as taking public transportation and bundling up instead of blasting heaters. Other habits can be just as intuitive, even if slightly awkward to initially adopt. Just remember: being environmentally friendly is always fashionable.
1. Use cloth bags
Every time you buy something that is thrown into a plastic bag, you are contributing to the estimated 1 trillion plastic bags annually used worldwide. These bags, called white pollution here in China, clog waterways, clutter trees endanger animals, and take years to decompose. Find colorful sturdy 100% cotton bags at baidu.com or tougher hemp bags at ebay.com.cn to replace plastic bags whenever possible. Likewise, shake your wet umbrella out and put it back in its cloth case instead of wrapping it up with a plastic bag.
2. Clean up, naturally
You would never pour your household cleaning chemicals into a glass and drink them–you know they’re toxic–so why would you pour them down the drain to make their way back into the water supply? Some common household items, such as white vinegar, baking soda, lemon and cucumber, clean as effectively as their expensive toxic counterparts. For some green cleaning tips, go to at www.bkjp.gov.cn.
3. Air your laundry
Resist the temptation to cave in and buy that discounted dryer. Instead, continue to add color and cleanliness to your neighborhood’s skies by hanging your laundry out to dry. It saves money, is better for your clothes and decreases your yearly carbon dioxide emissions.
4. Bring your own chopsticks
Every year in China, an estimated 25 million trees wind up trashed as 45 billion pairs of disposable chopsticks. Can you stomach your food knowing that you’re adding to the devastation? For fashionable, reusable chopsticks connect with joyo.com to discover stainless steel chopsticks for 12RMB. If you must have wood, buy reusable bamboo chopsticks at www.hlcraft.com. A soft pencil case is perfect for storing them.
5. Ride a bike to work.
With official government predictions of as many as 20 million cars by 2020 and no sun in sight in smoggy Beijing, how long can this go on and do you really not want to contribute to it? As cool as it might be to own your own car, using a bike is more environmentally savvy. Even cooler is that you can rent bikes from bikekingdom.com in Beijing or mtb.com.cn in Shanghai and try out the idea of being a cyclist before you buy.
6. Don’t split with the split pants
Disposable diapers clog waterways and pile up in landfills even more than those plastic bags do. And infants who wear disposable diapers are more prone to outbreaks of diaper rash. Find stylish cloth diapers at niaobu.cn to cover your baby’s bum and start his or her new life out as an earth first kid
7. Recycle your gadgets
Hewlett-Packard’s Planet Partners and NGOs such as Dragon Recycling (dragonrecycling.ngo.cn) recycle computers, copy machines and printers. Also check out 2it.com.cn or chinashou.com to resell your old junk. If nothing else, there’s that crier outside your window.
8. Use both sides
Putting text on both sides of the page is the simplest trick to save the trees.
If you buy recycled paper, you score bonus eco-points. Join students in many cities participating in paper recycling programs through organizations such as Roots and Shoots. (rootsandshoots.org).
9. Take shorter showers
If everyone cut 10 minutes from their 20-minute showers, think of the difference it would make to already over-taxed water supplies.
10. Cut the lights.
You’ll save money and the world by flicking off the lights when you leave the house. Additionally, energy saving bulbs use as much as up to 80% less electricity than regular bulbs. Need more tips to light up your life? Visit lightingchina.com.