One of my resolutions this year was to become more environmentally friendly than I already am. It happens to be resolution #9 if anyone is curious. Some of the habits I wanted to work on were:
- shorter showers
- less snacks/ take out beverages
- turn off lights
- recycle more
- donate old clothes
- reduce, reuse
I wanted to do a check in with myself as there are many other resolutions that have fallen apart, but this one I still can make progress on every day.
As for shorter showers, in the summer I took very short showers. I’d turn off the water to lather up and then just rinse off. However, now that it is colder and being pregnant I don’t want to keep the water off as there is no heating in my house unless you use the crappy air conditioning or a heating fan. So I tend to take longer showers to make sure my body temperature doesn’t change too much. However, I don’t shower everyday, but every other day. There are times throughout the year where I have gone 2-3 weeks without a shower in my husband’s hometown, because the weather can allow for that. I hope that next year, I can once again focus on taking shorter showers or figuring out away to keep the bathroom warm in the warmer months so I can use less water.
The less snacks or take out beverages was something I felt that I could improve upon as working at multiple schools sometimes my lunch would be on the go and I would stop at a convenience store. Or if I am tired I would go buy some coffee or chocolate to perk me up for the afternoon. This has been a hard habit to change, but slowly I have made progress on it. I don’t go to the store just to buy a drink or a snack most days because it is better for the environment and it saves me money. I hope eventually I will be able to reduce this to just a few occasions per month.
Turning off the lights isn’t really a hard habit for me to improve on as my mom has always been a stickler with electricity since I was young. So, I’ve learned to turn off lights when I exit rooms or not to turn them on at all during the day. Which is why when looking for a place to live I always try to find one with a lot of sunshine so that I don’t need to turn on the lights often. I also don’t turn on the light most of the time when I wake up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, as I can find my way, haha. One thing I think of as a benefit is that I actually hate the glare of lights in houses and prefer natural light so this isn’t a big issue for me. But going forward I can always make sure if I leave my office at work and no one is there to turn off the lights, even if others don’t do it, I should.
Recycling more has been a big priority of mine. Interestingly, having lived in both Korea and China, although Korea was better at sorting trash, China is beginning to implement stricter recycling programs starting this year. There are a lot of trash pickers that will look for plastic, aluminum, and glass containers to collect for money. Cardboard boxes are also a popular recycling for money option. For me, I’ve always tried to separate my trash and recycling and getting my husband on board was a little slow at first, but now he is pretty good at doing it too. Things I can improve upon are washing out all of my recycling before putting it in the bin.
I also need to read up about the new recycling separation program that should be coming to Chengdu in January 2020. China will separate trash into four categories that are to be strictly followed or there will be fees ( at least this is what has been mentioned for Shanghai which was the first city to implement the program this year). The four categories are wet garbage, dry garbage, recyclable waste and hazardous waste. Not sure exactly which goes in which, but pictures of diapers and cigarette butts are also included as items that should be discarded in the appropriate bin. I’m hoping they release a useful pamphlet.
Donate old clothes. Usually women have a lot of clothes, and in general Americans have a lot of clothes. I’ve downsized my wardrobe twice in the last 2 years before moving to China, and I still have a lot of clothes in my opinion though less than many others that I know. My husband on the other hand came with probably 10 pieces of clothing when I first met him. ( He has more now.) Eventually I plan to reassess my clothes and donate the ones I don’t wear or don’t fit to a local charity here as well. I have already donated once this year to them. I always feel like clothes can be hard to part with either because I like them, they are comfy, or remind me of a place or person.
However, I will say that close to 40% of my wardrobe is made up of secondhand clothing. Back home I always like to look at secondhand stores to see what they have, or I am happy to take hand me downs to see what I like and then give the rest away to someone else. My parents also brought over a few new items for the baby as well as many second hand clothing items which I am really thankful for. And I hope that I’ll be able to donate clothes to those around me or hand them on to someone else when the time comes and I no longer need an item. We all need a helping hand in life.
Reducing and Reusing is something I want to try and get better at. Reducing the amount of shit I buy and then reusing it when possible. I try to see if I have what I need before I make a new purchase, or how can I stretch something to last longer. Buying glass containers has been one of my switches. When I look to buy something for cooking or storage I look at glass options as they are more sustainable for the environment, can be reused endlessly, and aren’t harmful to my health. All of my loose spices and tea are stored in glass, my coffee beans are stored in glass. I also have food in plastic storage containers because I felt it was more important to reuse what I have before buying something new, although I may switch them out slowly and then use the plastic containers for storage organization elsewhere.
Stretching products is something I learned a long time ago when I was young and we were poor. Not enough milk for all three kids? Add some water to it and it will work. No more shampoo? Add some water to it. Ran out of shampoo, and laundry detergent? You can use dish detergent for that in a pinch. No toothpaste? Baking soda works in a pinch. Or if you really want to make it stretch you can cut the toothpaste tube open and scrape it out. I add water to my shampoo and dish detergent to make it last a little longer on occasion, I mean does it really need to be that concentrated?
And slowly, I am trying to make switches to more sustainable options, but that is a little harder here in China, the sustainable movement is more established back home. I’ve used natural bars of soap instead of body wash, and I’m hoping to slowly transition that into face wash and eventually shampoo too. Not sure if my husband will be on board with that, but we only go through a bottle of shampoo about every 3 months with the two of us. I recently switched from buying a face lotion from innisfree which I liked to coconut oil. (Bonus points because it came in a glass container.) I asked my husband if he was okay using it, and he has been okay too. So I’m hoping if it works for the two of us it saves a lot of money, can be used as face and body lotion/oil and will moisturize our skin just fine. Changes are best implemented one by one after you use up all of your current products otherwise you are just creating more waste which is worse for the environment.
Something we always do is bring reusable bags to the store to carry our groceries home, though sometimes we end up with plastic bags for fruits and vegetables because everything has to be individually weighed here. Eventually, I hope to find good lightweight reusable produce bags to get rid of that too. Until then I reuse the plastic bags as recycling bags and dispose of my recycling that way. Our garbage bags at walmart are degradable so that is the only one I buy. Living in China it is a necessity to throw out your trash everyday as there are rats and cockroaches in most older buildings and newer if they aren’t kept really clean.
Some things I would love to improve on is finding a loose leaf tea that tastes like apple cinnamon, that might be impossible but I can scroll the internet and see how to make that. I can also try and always remember to carry my water bottle wherever I go, and when going for a coffee I can try to stay in so that I am using a real cup and not a throw away if I stop at a chain and get take out. I always seem to forget my reusable coffee cup. I have a handheld coffee grinder for my beans and I use a french press to make coffee (woohoo no electricity!) which means if I really need coffee everywhere I go it is possible and not a worry. If you are reading this back home and saying what? Just know that coffee isn’t as popular in many parts of the world, especially outside of cities so you are SOL if you are looking for that.
So far, I am proud of my progress this year and I hope that over the coming years I can find more substitutes that work for me and my family as well as for the environment. We all can make a difference with out daily habits one change at a time and those changes are likely to be sustainable for the long run.