Living The Green Life In Shanghai

By Siobhan Brown 2019-06-24 16:46:10

The importance of encouraging your children into a greener and healthier life


The other day I was spring cleaning. While in the closet wiping down shelvers, my 6 year old son wandered in, took one look at the spray bottle I was holding before asking (in a somewhat accusatory tone I may add) “Is that Eco-Friendly?!” To my embarrassment it wasn’t. I then had to explain to my primary child that mommy had chosen price and perceived effectiveness over supporting a clean environment. Children as young as nursery school are learning about the importance of caring for our earth, an indisputably important part of any school curriculum as the population continues to rise and natural resources continue to decline. Never has it been more important to raise and educate our children to be environmentally conscious citizens, cognizant of the resources they are using and the waste they are producing. The key to making a positive and meaningful impact is knowing how to get started. Even the smallest changes can make a huge difference. Now that warmer weather is upon us, let’s look at some simple changes we can make as a family, to help contribute to a cleaner environment both inside and outside the home.


Increase Your Steps, Decrease your Footprint:

Many expat families in Shanghai rely on public transportation to get around this vast city. The system is both simple and affordable, and signs and announcements are in both English and Chinese. With stations located every few blocks, there is no reason not to take the metro. For those of you with drivers, think about leaving the car at home for shorter trips now that the weather is nicer. It’s the perfect time to get outside and walk or take a bike. If you don’t own a bike consider downloading an app like Mobike, or similar bicycle sharing system. The bikes are inexpensive to rent and can be picked up and dropped off all over the city. If you have further to go or the weather is not cooperating, think about sharing a DiDi, taxi with a friend or utilize the ride share feature.


Get Out And Grow

The garden is a great place to start that composting project you’ve been putting off till the warmer months. According to the website Family, Food & Garden ( “Every year, US landfills and trash incinerators receive up to 167 million tons of garbage. Approximately 50% of typical municipal garbage set out at the curb is compostable.” Many families are unaware of which items can be composted, from the foliage raked up in the yard (leaves, grass) to food wastes and various papers and cardboards. Food and organic materials can be put into the compost where it will later decompose into a rich fertilizer you can use in your garden. Proper meal planning can also help reduce the amount of food waste that is generated if future lunches and dinners can be made out of the leftovers.


Gardening is another great activity in the warmer months. By growing your own vegetables and herbs, you can reduce the amount your family purchases at the grocery store and the packaging that comes with it. You don’t need a lot of space to grow enough vegetables and herbs to put a delicious salad on the table. By growing your own food your family will become acutely aware of what they are putting in their mouth, and you will be able to control the amount of chemicals and pesticides they ingest. If you don’t have a yard think about planting some small boxes on your balcony or at the side of your home. You don’t need a lot of knowledge or real estate to grow a garden.


Beat the Heat

With the weather getting more hot and humid think about ways to cool off in Shanghai without flipping on the air conditioning. On cooler days open the windows and doors to let in a breeze and turn on the ceiling and floor fans. On the especially hot days close the drapes during the day and hit the local pool.


The Younger the Better:

One of the best ways to teach children about caring for nature, is to immerse them in nature and to do it early. Young children are sponges and the experiences you give them today will benefit them for their lifetime. If getting outdoors is part of their expected routine, it will provide them with endless opportunities to explore and make connections with their natural surroundings.The weather is gorgeous in Shanghai so get the kids outside for a trip to the zoo or park, scavenger hunt, picnic, bike ride or just enjoy a simple walk or game of hide and go seek. Think about enrolling your children in the local Boy and Girl Scouts where they will learn about nature through hands on activities like hiking and camping. Teach children how to reduce consumption and waste in their own homes and choose a school that incorporates this as part of their curriculum. According to Ruth Schlotman, primary school teacher at Western International School of Shanghai (WISS) “It is important to foster a love and appreciation for Earth as our home and all it provides us. Having these conversations and teaching Earth-friendly practices within the curriculum reinforces its importance. If it is receiving attention both at home and in school, students see that it matters, and the love and value they have for Earth is deepened” By showing our children that we care about consumption and waste, we become good role models and shape more conscience citizens who will protect earth’s resources in the future.


Buy Friendly Products:

The concept of “Going Green” has really taken off and companies that want to target environmentally conscience consumers have launched entire marketing platforms based on these key concepts and ideas. When back in Canada each summer, I am amazed at how many products have adopted packaging that reflects green labelling or key words like “Eco” and “Friendly.” Think about using green products that are kinder to the environment, reduce allergens, and produce less toxins. Also reach for reusable cloths instead of paper towel when cleaning so as to reduce waste and decrease deforestation.


Reduce, Reuse, Recycle:

This should be an essential mantra in every household and there are plenty of ways to put these concepts into practice.”The 3 R's (Recycle, reduce, and reuse) are easy for young children to remember and nicely encapsulate the principles that can guide them in being Earth-friendly. It is important to help them understand that although one action may seem insignificant, each one can add up to have a great impact. Recycling, reducing, and reusing may take discussion and application at first, but once children understand, they are so happy to do it!  When you instill these values in your children, you never know just how far-reaching their learning and action can be.”Wise words from Schlotman on the importance of getting children involved early. And there are many ways to do this. Think about reducing the amount of money you pay on water and gas by reducing the amount of time your family spends in the shower (have quick showers instead of baths) select a shorter cold cycle for washing clothes, limit the amount of toilet flushes per person (save it for number two if possible) and start washing dishes instead of using the dishwasher.


Think about reducing the amount of waste you use by reusing every day items. Spend the extra money to purchase reusable Items. Straws, containers, bottles and bags can all be reused. Decorations can be reused or shared with friends and fabric gift bags can be used more than once or make a thoughtful gift for others. Clothing that is no longer being used can be passed down to others, given to charity or repurposed. For those items that cannot be reused make sure they are being recycled correctly by following the guidelines laid out in the Expats Guide to Recycling in Shanghai ( Another “R” word according to the site Less Waste World is “Refuse.” Say no to plastic bags, paper napkins, plastic utensils, sugar packets, receipts and wet wipes for example. Decline to receive paper bills and sign up to pay online reducing the amount of mail in your postal box. Go through your closets and drawers and look at all the items you are no longer using or are just creating clutter in your home. Think about donating or recycling the item and saying not to items in the future that you truly don’t need or won’t use. After all, we could all be a little more like Kondo Marie (Book: Tidying Up With Marie Kondo) by only keeping the items we use and that truly bring us joy:)


We Are All Guests Here

With Climate Change looming, rampant deforestation, chemicals and pesticides in our foods, and plastics clogging our oceans, there has never been a better time to chart an eco-conscious path than now. We are all guests on earth for a short period of time. How rewarding to spend those decades creating a safer and cleaner home for future generations by living with intention and a sense of gratitude as opposed to indulging in our whims and desires, overbuying, overusing and over-consuming. Our children will thank us for making smart choices and for teaching them habits that inspire them to be grateful with what they have, content to consume less, and inspired to make positive changes that benefit us all.

Good To Know

Expats Guide To Recycling in Shanghai

Eco & More Natural Cleaning Products

Mobike Bike APP

Shanghai Metro System

Less Waste World




I love this!

2019-06-27 16:34:05