Government, NGOs, promote greener consumption
Civil Society | Environment
While the adverse impacts of industrial production and pollution are receiving ever more public attention in China, new government and NGO initiatives are also emphasising the difference that consumers, including government agencies, can make to the local and global environment.
In November, China issued a green products inventory for government procurement, ordering local governments to give priority to environment-friendly products.
The purchase list, issued with a joint circular by State Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and Ministry of Finance, includes 856 products in 14 categories ranging from cars to construction materials that have been labelled Green Products by an Environmental Certification Centre under SEPA.
Starting from January 1, 2007, central and provincial governments are expected to shop from the list, and the practice will extend to all levels of government in 2008.
In 2005, government purchased goods worth a total of CNY 292.76 billion (USD 36.6 billion), an increase of 37 per cent on the previous year. Accounting for nearly 2% of GDP, government’s purchasing has a big influence on other consumers. Dell computers, for example, made little progress in the Chinese market until they won a government contract.
The new move, according to SEPA official Zhao Yingjie (赵英杰), aims to make government take a lead on green consumption. “The government’s green procurement policy can increase the environment awareness of enterprises . . . It will also have a positive impact on vendors,” he told reporters at a press conference. He added that the green procurement guidelines are also expected to encourage new shopping patterns among general public.
Environmental NGOs in China have also promoted greener consumption through means such as a joint “26o campaign” to reduce excessive use of summer air conditioning.
In June, a website encouraging environment-friendly consumption was launched by two NGOs—Friends of Nature and Global Village of Beijing—together with the SEPA-backed China Environment and Sustainable Development Reference and Research Centre.
Called “Green Choice”, the site (www.greenchoice.cn) provides information enabling consumers to make greener choices and thus reduce their impact on the environment.
The bi-lingual site discusses how consumption can harm the environment and human health. More importantly, it offers a number of green and easy-to-follow tips that can be applied to people’s everyday life in different circumstances, such as work, home decoration, transport etc.
As well as introducing green labels certified by authorities, the website also sends volunteers to markets and farms to check the availability and authenticity of “green products.”
They have also extended their campaign offline to streets and universities.
With support from Germany’s Heinrich Boell Foundation, Green Choice teamed up with China Bicycle Association to organise a “Beijing for Bikes Week” in September. This included a bicycle photo exhibition at the National Library of China, which later toured several universities. They also organised a bike rally from Chaoyang Park through the city centre and to the National Library of China, which drew some 60 participants and wide media coverage.
In November, Green Choice launched a “No Plastics Campaign” in universities to encourage students and supermarkets to reduce their packaging.
However, as an initiative mainly dependent on volunteers, Green Choice only has the resources to provide practical shopping guidelines—including not just general advice but specific recommendations on where to buy greener goods—for people living in Beijing.
One of the website co-ordinators, Tanja Ploetz, says that they welcome people in other parts of China borrow their ideas and create their own green choice website.
She hopes that users of the Beijing site will help to add more comprehensive and practical information. There are also plans to print for a green choice guidebook for consumers.
These efforts, she says, will “give people more choices to live a more sustainable life,” recalling the website slogan, “Life is a choice, make it a green choice.”
Report by Chang Tianle, December 5, 2006