Daily lives getting greener
By Li Jing (China Daily)
Updated: 2008-11-10 15:13

Since free plastic shopping bags were banned in China about five months ago, some consumers have turned to traditional woven baskets, or the more fashionable eco-friendly cloth bags.

Those who do pay for plastic bags are trying to buy as few as possible, reversing an old mindset prevalent before the ban.

With improved environmental awareness, Chinese people are changing their behavior patterns to lead greener lives.

A recent survey released by the Climate Group, a British-based not-for- profit environmental organization, and Beijing Consumers Association, shows that up to 69 percent of Chinese consumers are willing to change their lifestyles in order to help with global efforts to combat climate change.

The survey, conducted by TNS, a market research company, and Lippincott, a consulting firm on branding strategy, interviewed about 1,000 consumers in 14 major Chinese cities, including Beijing and Shanghai.

About 99 percent of consumers interviewed said they are aware of the threat the world is facing as a result of the global warming.

"With the rapid development of China's economy and improvement of people's living standards, Chinese consumers have become more concerned about their behaviors' impact on the environment," says Zhang Ming, general secretary of Beijing Consumers Association.

Climate change is ranked as the fourth global problem that concerns Chinese consumers most, following social unrest and violence, stability of the global economy and natural disasters.

About 50 percent of the consumers interviewed said they are willing to spend more time in the efforts to fight the global warming, and 29 percent say they would like to pay more.

The results from the United States and the United Kingdom are much lower on these indexes, which shows that Chinese consumers are more willing to carry out concrete actions on climate change than their counterparts in the US and the UK, the Climate Group's China office says.

Among all the measurements, energy saving is one of the key solutions consumers could think of, the survey shows.

Consumers say they would like to do as much as they can to save energy through changing their commuting methods, for instance, avoiding using private cars and relying more on public transportation.

Changing habits in using household electricity and heating to save more energy are also feasible choices for them to address the global warming issue.

The government is also working to promote green purchasing.

Earlier this year, the Ministry of Finance and the National Development and Reform Commission jointly launched a nationwide program to subsidize the use of 150 million energy-efficient lighting products.

Beijing is taking the lead in this nationwide energy-saving campaign and will promote the use of 5 million energy-efficient lighting products by 2010.

Financed by government subsidies, residents in Beijing can buy energy-saving bulbs at a 90-percent discount. As a result, a 5-watt or 10-watt energy-saving bulb is sold at only one yuan.

In the past three years, Beijing has promoted the use of 1.8 million energy-efficient light bulbs, which equals the reduction of power consumption by 39 million kW.

The country is also setting up a "green label" system that identifies all the energy-saving and environmental friendly materials and goods to promote the use of such products.

However, consumers are not sure what choices could help to cut the greenhouse gas emissions when it comes to purchasing groceries and food.

Long Yi, a college student majoring in environment engineering says that she is aware how global warming is impacting the planet, and she pays attention to details, for instance, turning off lights when leaving a room and using as much public transportation as possible.

"But if there is a detailed guide of how to behave more climate friendly, I can do better," Long says, "for example, I cannot tell which kind of foods sold at the supermarkets are greener than others."

The survey also examined the consumers' attitudes toward products and service from two high carbon emission industries - real estate and auto - and two industries with lower carbon emission - finance and retailing.

Results show that products with new and clean technologies are more attractive for consumers, for instance, the hybrid car engine, and a new cooling system without using electricity.

Jia Feng, director of China Environmental Awareness Program, says that consumers' preference for climate friendly products will influence the manufacturing enterprises and facilitate them to join the efforts on combating climate change.

The Climate Group, according to Wu Changhua, president of the organization's China office, will launch a low carbon program in China earlier next year, aiming to provide inexpensive products and service for the consumers through cooperating with leading brands in the market.

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