For green travelers, taking a trip to China can be a little worrisome. While many parts of the world are already banning single-use plastic and embracing eco-friendliness, China is not quite there yet. However, with a few tweaks to your everyday habits, you can have a green and sustainable China adventure. Here’s how:
Stay in Eco-friendly Accommodation
Before you even start your trip, you will need to book accommodation. Thanks to very informative hotel websites, you can find accommodation that practices certain green habits. For instance, you can opt for a hotel that serves organic foods, supports sustainable agriculture and chooses locally produced foods. There are also places that undertaking water conservation measures like using recycled/grey water and installing low-flush toilets and low-flow showerheads. When you arrive, you can take shorter showers and choose to reuse your linen and towels. It’s good to know that lux resorts make extra effort to be green and sustainable, so if you have the money to afford to stay there, it might be a good idea.
Use Public Transport
China’s megacities like Beijing, Shanghai or Guangzhou are truly huge and there’s no way you will get to go everywhere on foot. In that case, you will love China’s public transport. Subway stations are very clean, well-equipped with ATMs and toilets and air-conditioned both in summer and winter. Taxis sure are practical, but they create a lot of pollution.
For decades, people tried to battle pollution in China with no good results. While the situation is getting better in the last few years, changes can be seen mainly in richer areas of the country. So, what you can do is ditch taxis and opt for practical public transport no matter where you are. There are apps that can help you with subway navigation (Explore Beijing and Explore Shanghai) and you will reduce pollution, avoid getting stuck in traffic and not risk getting ripped off.
Some products tend to be grossly overpacked. Protective packing materials around fruit and veggies, an extra layer of plastic around products, boxes inside boxes—all of these are just some examples of how much China likes to overwrap its goods. What you can do to reduce waste is hit local markets. You will not only support smaller producers and get high-quality products but also avoid all that plastic involved in packing. If you want some fresh fruits and veggies, your neighborhood market will offer all sorts of goodies wrapped very lightly. And if you show your reusable bag, the seller will understand not to give you a plastic bag.
While China has McDonald’s and other western fast-food restaurants, it’s best if you choose to eat local foods. This is a great way to support small businesses and the local community, but it also reduces the carbon footprint of your meal. Produce you get at big chain restaurants is usually not seasonal which means more transport, more water waste and more pesticides. Eating locally will ensure fresh yet seasonal produce which will result in lower pollution and better-tasting food.
Eat local. Not only does this support local communities, but it also reduces the carbon footprint of your food and will more often than not be seasonal produce.”
Bring Your Reusable Bottle
Drinking tap water in China is not recommended. However, if that doesn’t worry you, it’s good to know that many places like airports and train stations have free water stations where you can top of your reusable bottle. Also, many local people hit cafés and restaurants to get a refill, so don’t be shy to ask the staff. If you’re not comfortable with drinking water straight from the tap, you can try boiling. If your accommodation has a kitchen, you can easily boil tap water, let it cool and use it for drinking and cooking. So, make sure to pack a reusable bottle for every member of your group and you will always have something to drink without all that waste.
Learn Some Phrases
Knowing some ‘green phrases’ in Mandarin will prevent any mistakes. Leaning things like ‘no straw’ or ‘no bag’ will ensure your server knows exactly what you want.
Being a green traveler in China isn’t as hard as it might seem. As long as you stay mindful and learn a few tricks, you will be able to have a comfortable and fun trip without leaving a huge carbon footprint behind.