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More efforts to support sustainable consumption

Updated: 2013-10-22 21:39
By Jiang Xueqing (

By throwing an apple away, people are actually wasting a large amount of water — equal to the amount used by flushing the toilet eight times. Information like this might not sound familiar to general consumers, but more and more efforts have been made to increase public awareness of sustainable consumption in China, according to a group of Chinese and international experts at a forum on sustainable consumption held in Beijing on Tuesday.

"Public awareness is very crucial. If the consumers are seeking high-end products, industrial enterprises will make production plans based on such demands," said Xie Yuhong, deputy secretary-general of the All-China Environment Federation.

"People are irrational creatures who chase after social status even if this is more costly. They do not just consume things, they consume symbols," said Stefanos Fotiou, senior regional coordinator of the United Nations Environment Programme.

A study by Bennett & Williams in 2011 found that 89 percent of Chinese consumers appreciate sustainable lifestyles, but only 75 percent actually adopted such lifestyles. The gap between appreciation and actual behavior was even larger in the US.

But this problem can be solved through a growing number of education sessions and publicity events held by government and non-government organizations, Xie said.

The forum, which was organized by the United Nations Environment Programme and the All-China Environment Federation, emphasized that sustainable production and consumption requires joint efforts of the government, enterprises and consumers. Some experts said the government should play a bigger role by making related laws, standards and financial policies such as reducing taxes or providing subsidies.

"The real obstacle is our mindset. We need to change the business as usual approach and innovate," said Fotiou who added that energy efficiency, food waste and the circular economy are the three biggest challenges for China's sustainable growth.