NEW ENERGY: A worker in Fengtai County of central Anhui Province installs solar panels to power street lights (CHEN BIN)
In the global fight against climate change, China has always been at the forefront, making pushes into wind and hydropower to offer relief from its reliance on coal to fuel economic growth. Though the heavy investments will take time to pay back, its success with electric car development has already given the country a head start in the global race to a low-carbon economy.
But since households and companies are responsible for a large portion of global carbon emissions, the fate of the world has largely been in their hands.
Indeed, carbon use is embedded in almost all daily consumption, but even the simplest behavioral changes could result in significant improvements. Turning off unused lights, computers and heating, or walking to work instead of driving can substantially minimize energy expenditure while saving money as well.
While an individual's contribution may be only a drop in the carbon ocean, billions of people recognizing the importance of environmental efficiency would be able to make a difference to the global climate. Keeping up with stiff government efforts, many Chinese residences are now riding the global green waves in a warm embrace of a low-carbon life.
Like many environmentally conscious Chinese, Chen Rui, a junior high school math teacher in Shanghai, is curbing her carbon footprint wherever possible. Despite a winter freeze in the coastal city, the 28-year-old and her husband, a marketing manager with a foreign electronics company, have committed to keeping their air conditioner at or below 16 degrees centigrade to save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
In addition, the newly married couple has converted its household light bulbs to low-energy varieties and installed slow-flow showerheads to save water. When shopping, they try to avoid excess plastic packaging and eat less meat and other processed food that takes more time and energy to produce. Instead of using a tumble dryer, Chen and her husband allow the laundry to dry on a clothesline.
"We decided to live a greener life not to make us feel good about ourselves, but because we think it is the right thing to do," said Chen.
An extra benefit to their green living has been a decrease in power bills, Chen said.
"More importantly, tightening our personal pollution belts does not necessarily require living a miserable life," she said. "Small things like saving electricity or refusing to use disposable chopsticks could be a big help."
Chen added that her hardest decision was breaking her dependence on cars. Since last April, after reading that automobiles are the biggest contributor to household emissions, the couple allowed their car to sit idly while they take buses to work. Also, instead of jogging on a treadmill at a fitness center on weekends, they often ride a bike on camping or mountain-climbing trips with friends.