Bagging a Greenie

Saturday, 7 March 2009

How large is your eco footprint?

It’s not easy being green. Especially when you live in Beijing where everything is gray. This is, however, changing rapidly. Three years ago, my green fabric shopping bags drew questionable [style-challenging] stares, as did my Crocs shoes, but that’s another story. Sure, they may not be the prettiest shopping bag on the Beijing block, but they are strong and they hold a lot. Many a shopkeeper has oohed and ahhed with envy over these bags. But the most important thing they do, of course, is eliminate my need for plastic bags – a common blight on our planet’s increasingly frail ecosystem.

Yes, the world’s oceans have become plastic soup, and we need to start fishing for shopping bags. Go to The Green Guide to find out what you can do.

I’m probably not alone when I say I was delighted to find Jenny Lou’s and April Gourmet jump on the green bandwagon with their self-promoting sacks. Olé supermarkets have also followed suit, although, you do have to purchase your family’s body-weight in groceries before you qualify for a freebie. Other spots providing fabric bags upon purchase are WalMart, Carrefour, Nick’s and the Big and Little Bookshop at Lido, VanGuard supermarkets and NU2YU baby shop.

Swapping bags are not the only thing that will make Beijing greener. Of course, each one of us can make a difference, and yes yes – even the little things count. The sooner we teach our kids about the impact of their eco footprint, the better. Huddle around the computer with the kids and take this eco footprint test, then talk about what changes you can make as a family. Refusing plastic bags is only one way you can add to the eco challenge, but at least it’s a start. If we all changed one small thing in our family’s lives, we’d make an impact Mother Nature herself would feel.

China has a long way to go before turning Green – the environmental atrocities I witness daily have always sort of put the kybosh on making a personal effort. After all – it’s 1.3 billion to 4. How could one little family make enough Green impact to make a difference here in Beijing, let alone in China?

Living a temporary, expat life, it’s easy to get caught in the “surreal-life” trap. Living here carries a certain dreamlike quality – that you’re not living a Real Life and that all the old rules don’t necessarily apply. Along with culture changes and major shifts in the way things are done (a lot of it taken out of our hands), it’s easy to forget about Real Life. But with the glut of Going Green programmes surrounding Earth Day on 22 April this year, my guilt levels began to rise. Why wasn’t I making an effort any more? Why was I being so slack? Why wasn’t I encouraging my children to heed the Green call that I am so gung-ho about when living in Australia?

Well, it’s time to make a stand. I have procrastinated long enough and this old-time Greenie is back on the wagon. My Green shopping bags are poised by the front door. I no longer accept plastic bags and if I forget my green bags whilst shopping, I buy a new one and absorb the cost. I turn off lights and remind the kids to the do same. I am blasting the house with a shot of aircon, then turning it off and waiting until it’s unbearably warm to repeat the same. The fridge is pulled out from the wall so it runs more efficiently, my microwave is used more than the oven, and the kettle only boils enough water for one or two cups. We have switched to energy-efficient light bulbs, are buying organic, local food, and are trying to eat with the seasons. We are eating less meat, more vegetables. We are buying less, reusing more. We are sorting items into our building’s recycling and educating ayi to do the same.

It’s working. My seven-year-old daughter is now reminding me to turn off the tap when brushing my teeth. My husband is finally remembering to turn off the energy-efficient light bulbs we’ve installed. Even my five-year-old son is dumping stuff in the recycle.

What are you doing to turn your family green?

First published on the City Weekend Beijing website.

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