Business / Talking Business

Green steps can pave the way for bluer skies

By LAN LAN (China Daily) Updated: 2015-07-01 09:01

The air pollution index, which measures the atmospheric PM 2.5 concentration, once again moved into the unhealthy territory for a few days last week. The inclement weather and the all-enveloping haze made me nostalgic for the white clouds that engulfed the city's skyline two weeks ago.

But watching clouds is something of a luxury in Beijing, a city that boasts of world-class capabilities in skyscrapers, restaurants, talents etc, with clean water and air being the sole exceptions.

Even as the orange hue descended on me, I could not help wondering as to how many individuals actually consider the environment when they make individual choices like purchasing a car. Not surprisingly, automotive exhaust is the main culprit for air pollution and exceeds even the emissions from burning coal.

Driving a greener car or driving less perhaps is the easiest thing we can do to mitigate the city's pollution from a personal angle. However, until recently, a luxury car was always seen as a status symbol for Chinese consumers.

Some international luxury car producers even launched stretched wheelbase versions of their sedans specifically for Chinese consumers and they earned lots of money in the past decade. Fortunately, the lure of owning luxury vehicles is fast fading, as there are several applications like Uber which offer luxury vehicle pick-up services at affordable rates.

A colleague who bought a domestically made electric car gave me a pleasant ride last week. It was so quiet inside the car due to the lack of engine noise, while the interactive screen and the latest navigation technology made it a dream ride.

She said that it takes eight hours for her to fully charge the car at the charging station in her garage. The full charge enables her to drive for 200 kilometers, more than enough for her daily commute.

Electric cars are also exempted from the regulation that requires all cars to stay off the road for at least one day of the week in Beijing to reduce traffic jam and emission.

While it may take a long time and more government incentives for drivers to switch to electric cars, the city's automobile exhaust can be largely reduced, if city officials can provide an even distribution of public services such as education, medical care and shopping.

Meanwhile, concerted public policies and individual efforts can also work in other areas for a cleaner and nicer world.

Last week I went to an event themed "Beijing blue, my action" that aims to raise public awareness of environment protection. It calls for the public to change their lifestyle and save energy and resources.

Here are some tips: The optimum temperature to conserve energy when using an air conditioner is to set the temperature to 26 degrees Celsius; traveling with your own toiletries such as slippers and trying to reduce use of disposables; buying things with simple packaging and using energy-saving household appliances.

But some things are difficult to practice. For instance, it advises people using washing machines to use the rinse mode only when washing and then dry by airing, as the spin-off step will emit more carbon dioxide.

I think most people are unwilling to make a change like that at the cost of sacrificing efficiency or comfort. Many consumers are already model energy and resource savers. Chinese housewives or househusbands share lots of chores that dishwashing machines do in many Western families.

The average home energy use in China is much lower than in Western countries. Electricity use per person in China only accounts for half the world average and less than one-tenth of that in the United States, according to a survey by Beijing's Renmin University of China.

Public awareness is important, but clearly policymakers can do more to bring back the blue skies. In addition to shutting factories and cutting use of coal, Beijing faces an urgent need to improve its overall urban planning.

Hot Topics

Editor's Picks