Here, recycling and conservation is often seen as a “bunch of green people” and many don’t realize the major importance of these measures. While my family always practiced these behaviors out of habit, I didn’t quite understand the importance of recycling and conserving water and electricity concepts that were always thrown at me. The major impact of waste hit me during one of my visits to my hometown in China.
Outside, litter was scattered along the edges of the streets and sidewalks. There were also people that dug plastic bottles out of trash cans for survival. (In China, you can sell them back for about 5 cents apiece) At many street shops, there’s a small discount for drinks sold in glass bottles if you leave the bottles when you finish – or an extra charge if you take the bottle away. In addition, there were no clouds nor blue skies.
Inside, I noticed that all my cousin’s textbooks were paperback, and most were hardly larger than the size of a novel, although the page size was slightly larger than that of a novel. In addition, the quality of paper was lower – thinner – in both books and other items, such as tissues. They didn’t use the air conditioning unless it was needed.
Usually windows were simply left open. Old cloths and clothes were used as rags. Everything was used and reused.
One day, I was outside with my grandmother, and there was a leak in a hose with the water was running onto the street. My grandmother said, “That’s such a waste of water. So many people could drink that.”
It was then that I realized that this is what we in the United States might face someday. Right now, we only see our water and energy bills when looking at usage, but not at the effects on our environment.
We are fortunate not to have to deal with more dire circumstances right now, but if we don’t start taking more care in how we use our natural resources, we will end up in similar circumstances to those I had seen in China – pollution, overall quality decrease, and possibly greater costs for our enjoyment. We may even lose what we have always taken for granted – white clouds and blue skies.
(Smith & Perkins E-Rep for Fall 2012)