Secondhand doesn’t mean second best

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From left: A member of the Dejia Environmental Protection School crafts flower pots and incense holders using leftover wood. Interior view of the first zero-waste environmental centre on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, showcasing furniture and decor sourced from secondhand items and traditional artefacts. Pachuk Tsering, project leader for the Dejia Zero-waste Community, holds a plant specimen that he crafted. PHOTOS PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY
From left: A member of the Dejia Environmental Protection School crafts flower pots and incense holders using leftover wood. Interior view of the first zero-waste environmental centre on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, showcasing furniture and decor sourced from secondhand items and traditional artefacts. Pachuk Tsering, project leader for the Dejia Zero-waste Community, holds a plant specimen that he crafted. PHOTOS PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Published: Mon 11 Dec 2023, 11:58 AM

Wu Yuxi has rented a home in Shanghai for years, but she has rarely bought furniture because she has either found it or been given it secondhand.

By WANG YUTING

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The approach of Wu, 29, who works in financial investment, is in line with the changing choices and tastes of many young people in China who are integrating principles of sustainability into their lifestyles. Through concrete actions they raise awareness about environmental protection, refine technologies and strive for a balance between economic prosperity and societal well-being. “For young people there’s no single fashionable way of living,” Wu says. “The pleasure and sense of achievement from consumption can also be derived through recycling old items. Whether at a personal level, reducing life expenses and emotional stress, or at a societal level, practising low-carbon and environmentally friendly behaviour, it’s all positive.” Chen Jiaorong, 27, an internet influencer, learned from overseas bloggers of the concept of so-called stooping, which involves picking up discarded items and refurbishing and repurposing them.

Chen was among the first to introduce the idea to Chinese social media, and she reckons that as a result people’s lives have been improved to an extent far beyond what anyone could have imagined. “Stooping enhances my observation of things around me and helps me with internal struggles. I’ve realised that even when I lack resources I can achieve my goals by picking up and collecting things.”

Now Chen operates a social media account with about 50,000 followers dedicated to stooping and to recycling old items.

With participation from thousands of people, she says, active communities related to these topics are alerting more and more people to the possibilities of the circular economy and sustainable living. Su Yige, 25, one of the first Chinese video bloggers to promote sustainable living, sums up the ethos underlying all this thus: “Leave the least trace on Earth and as many stories as possible.”

At university Su stumbled on an image of a small glass jar filled with trash, representing eight years of waste generated while practising a zero-waste lifestyle.

Su quickly developed an interest in zero-waste living and committed to it for three years. Through extensive learning, contemplation and practical experience in environmental knowledge Su introduced the concept of traceless living. The idea is to enjoy life while leaving as little trace as possible, aiming to be users of Earth’s resources rather than plunderers. Her concept of traceless living found realisation in Jianzuo village in Nangqen county, Qinghai province. With invaluable natural landscape and biodiversity, the village is located in the source area of the mighty Lancang-Mekong River. This region is one of the most sensitive globally in terms of climate change.

In 2016, realising that casually discarding rubbish was threatening the natural environment and wildlife in the Lancang River source area, Jamyang Sherab, a local Buddhist scholar, organised villagers to establish the Dejia Environmental Protection School. The goal was to guide herders to return to a healthier lifestyle. Under the guidance of three goals — zero waste, altruism and organic food — the herders gradually eliminated the use of plastic and disposable items, consumed only locally produced organic food and successfully established the first truly zero-waste community on the plateau after a year of effort. Pachuk Tsering, 26, ventured out of Jianzuo village to pursue higher education and, on graduating, chose to return to his hometown as the project leader for the Dejia Zero-waste Community. His primary responsibilities include monitoring water sources, wildlife and phenological phenomena, as well as providing explanations to tourists.

Working alongside Pachuk are numerous young volunteers from across the country. “I’m delighted by the sincerity and environmental awareness of today’s youth,” he says. “They provide me with great motivation.”

Regarding the community’s future, Pachuk aspires to explore business conversion points within environmental protection, such as developing eco-friendly products and improving ecological tourism. These initiatives aim to create a stable source of income for the community, fostering sustainable development.


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