Celebrate a green and low-carbon spring festival
Happy Lunar New Year
The Lunar New Year is approaching, and the YICODE team would like to wish everyone a happy new year of the ox.
We hope every new year of happiness, and we have to strive for it with actual actions. Under global changes such as the warming climate, we need to redefine happiness by adopting a green way of living. We could start from these little bits in daily life to lower our carbon and water footprint. This is also in alignment of our tradition of being hard-working and thrifty. Let’s make a responsible and low-carbon Spring Festival a new fashion.
The Covid pandemic is still raging and with increased travel of people and goods, so is the risk of exposure. To celebrate a happy and healthy Spring Festival, we encourage people to celebrate it locally or via the internet to avoid gathering. Walking or cycling might be a better choice for short distance travelling, as they are low-carbon, help social distancing, and are good workouts. Killing three birds with one stone, isn’t it?
If you have to travel, we encourage people to take trains instead of flights. The carbon dioxide (CO2) emission from transport accounts for more than one fifth of the global total, and is expected to double by 2050 if no measure to taken. Among all means of transport, road transport takes the lion share of emission, with aviation following its lead. However, the latter is projected to increase very quickly (Creutzig et al., 2015). 91% of flights departing China are domestic ones, accounting for 70% of the emission from China’s civil aviation (Graver, Zhang and Rutherford, 2019).
High-speed trains are seen as an important way for carbon neutrality of the transport sector (IEA, 2017). Their high efficiency in energy consumption is making a great contribution to China’s low-carbon economy and environment-friendly society. The boom of high speed trains in China in recent years also sees improved coverage and service.
Wasting less food
Spring Festival is a tradition for family reunion and a big feast when excessive food waste is often produced. Some families prepare too much food for the holiday and allow too much to go to the trash bin. According to the MOST Handbook for Saving Energy and Cutting Emission, wasting every 0.5 kg of rice, for example, creates 0.47 kg of CO2emission. If each of the 1.4 billion of us avoid the waste of 0.5 kg rice, we could cut the emission by 658,000 tons.
Meat-based food is our important source of energy and nutrition, yet taking too much of that is neither healthy for ourselves or good for the environment (Godfray et al., 2018). The production of animal based food accounts for a large share of the emission from the food industry (ibid). According to a life cycle assessment of plant and animal based food in China, mutton has the highest carbon footprint and reddish the lowest among the studied food, with the former being almost 600 times higher than the latter (Xu and Lan, 2016). Another global model study shows that, while complying with standards of healthy dietary, consuming more plant-based food lowers mortality rate by 6-10% and 29-70% of emission from the food industry (Springmann et al., 2016).
From farm to fork, feed production and husbandry contribute to the majority of the carbon footprint of animal-based food, but we cannot ignore the emission from transporting and storing food (Nijdam, Rood and Westhoek, 2012). Therefore, we would like to encourage everyone to not only eat more vegetables and less meat, but also more local and seasonal food.
It’s a tradition for us to wear new clothes for the Spring Festival. While we are happily dressing ourselves up, we usually neglect the true cost and pollution of the fashion industry, which is the second largest polluting sector (Brenot et al., 2019). The fashion industry produces 20% of waste water and 10% of carbon emission globally (UNEP, 2018). Though the textile industry is one pillar of China’s economy, its environmental costs are also high. For example 70% of Southeast China’s water is polluted by the industry (Brenot et al., 2019). Producing one T-shirt consumes 2,700 litres of water, but that number rises to 3,700 for a pair of jeans (Aivazidou and Tsolakis, 2019). Moreover, supply chains of fast fashion are usually supported by intensive labour, which makes them susceptible to exploitation of disadvantaged workers or even child labour, raising global concerns and debates (Perry and Towers, 2013).
Therefore we would like to encourage everyone to adopt a way of low-carbon clothing, like avoid purchasing unnecessary garments, reduce cleaning, do more hand washing instead of using washing machines, and recycle unwanted items.
Using appliances wisely
The Spring Festival often sees peaks of energy consumption. 16-50% of global energy use is consumed in residential areas (Saidur, Masjuki and Jamaluddin, 2007), and the proportion is increasing (Allouhi et al., 2015). Because of global warming, air conditioning is expected to consume more energy, especially for the purpose of cooling (Zhou et al., 2016). However, the reduced heating demand could hardly offset the energy consumption for cooling (Davis and Gertler, 2015). Research shows that high uptake of energy saving measures among US people, without evidently impacting life quality, reduces emission by 7.4% (Dietz et al., 2009). Another study in Hangzhou, China shows that improved use of domestic appliances saves 14% of energy consumption (Ouyang and Hokao, 2009).
Therefore using appliances wisely during the holidays, including lowering your heater by one degree, turning off lights when you leave the room, using stairs instead of elevators, and disconnecting devices from the sockets after use, could contribute to lowering your carbon footprint.
Recycle and reuse
Recycling has been enlisted by China as an emerging industry with strategic importance. Recycle and reuse are crucial for protecting the environment, saving energy and cutting costs. To enable recycle and reuse, waste sorting is a crucial precedent. Among municipal wastes from daily life, organic wastes make up a majority, and other recyclable matters are often paper and plastic (Xiao et al., 2018). However, some of them, like delivery packaging and food containers are often difficult to recycle through market mechanism because of their “widespread use, low weight and added value, and high costs” (MOC, 2019) and therefore needs extensive public participation for recycling and reusing these valuable resources.
The Spring Festival often marks a peak in the production of municipal wastes. We need to take part in recycling as usual to not only contribute to sustainability but also fight the pandemic. From 1 November 2020, it has become compulsory in Nanjing to sort through your wastes before disposal. During the holidays, why not spend a few minutes reading through the rules and make recycling a life habit. This avoids further contamination of the environment and makes our lives more sustainable.
Telling more people about this
We think every little step counts, and believe that our joint efforts will become a tremendous power to drive the engine of sustainable development.