This has been a busy month filled with tradeshows for the Dispenser Amenities’ team worldwide. Our first show was the China Cruise Shipping Conference 12 in Sanya, China from November 5th to 7th. The CCSC12 was quickly followed by the Boutique Design New York (BNDY) show from the 12th to 13th.
For over twenty years, Dispenser Amenities has worked very hard to make a real difference in environmental issues, from our core mission of introducing amenity Dispensers aimed at reducing plastic hotel waste to supporting green initiatives such as The Plastic Pollution Coalition. Naturally, we are always on the lookout for projects that strive to implement effective and environmentally sound strategies. The Three-North Shelterbelt Project in China does exactly that.
What is the Three-North Shelterbelt Project?
The problem China faced was increased desertification along China’s northern border with Mongolia due to a combination of dust storms blowing in from the Gobi Desert, and tree removal as a result of mining operations and clearing farmland. The shelterbelt project, also known as “The Great Green Wall,” was started in 1978 to combat this growing issue.
The project consists of a concerted effort to plant a wall of trees along China’s border with the Gobi Desert. Just as the Great Wall historically helped to keep Mongolia’s human invaders at bay, the Great Green Wall promises to keep desertification at bay. Through a combination of cash incentives, aerial seeding, and more, China has managed to plant billions of new trees along its northern border.
Does it Work?
China’s shelterbelt project is not the first of its kind, however it is the largest. Another similar initiative was pioneered in the U.S. from 1934 to 1942. Millions of trees were planted to create the Great Plains Shelterbelt, a project that survives to this day and provides relief from dust storms to farmers and families stretching from Canada to Texas. China’s project represents a massive scaling up of this proven concept.
What Are the Benefits?
By undertaking this project, China is moving to secure a greener future for its citizens. These trees provide a wind break and help to shield the southern territories from sandstorms that blow in from the north. Already, territories within the Great Green Wall region have noticed a reduction and even reversal of the effects of desertification. Leading scientists within China have noted an increase of vegetation within the region and a reduction in dust storms frequency and intensity.
This project is proving to be a highly effective solution to a massive environmental problem. In fact, it represents one of the largest responses by a national government to an environmental threat: something that we at Dispenser Amenities believe more national governments should take note of. It is only through significant collective efforts such as these that we can reduce and even eliminate the environmental damage inflicted on our planet over centuries of neglect.
Taking inspiration from America’s and China’s projects, nations in Africa have taken note of the success and have launched projects called the Great Green Wall of the Sahara and the Sahel Initiative (collectively known as GGWSSI). With efforts such as these, the future is certainly looking a whole lot greener – pun intended.
China is a rising hospitality hotspot. In my recent article about China, I detailed the race that many hospitality corporations are involved in to erect hotels across the country, in order to accommodate the economic boom that the country is experiencing. The growth in the county, unfortunately, has become somewhat of a concern, if not a regional crisis!
The problem is that China depends on coal to provide 80% of its power (Wall Street Journal) and is also the world’s largest coal consumer using almost as much coal per annum as the rest of the world combined (The Guardian). The combination of coal power dependence and several years of rising automobile sales with lenient fuel economy regulations, has led to the situation which has been dubbed the “airpocalypse”. This fearsome amount of pollution is clearly visible from space and is forecasted to cost the citizens of northern China over 2.5 billion years of combined life expectancy according to the NY Times.
The smog we experience in the west, most infamously in Los Angeles, California, is actually very mild compared to what is faced by the Chinese, who have on several occasions recorded air pollution levels that exceed the current measurement scale, and at one time reaching a record level of 755 out of 500 – 30 times the level deemed unsafe by the World Health Organization. The Government frequently has encouraged the population to wear masks outdoors when the weather encourages more harmful air conditions. These masks are a common sight within the country’s major cities, enduring long after the SARS scare when they first became popular.
Aside from the human health concerns of this problem, there is also the environmental impact to look at. The burning of coal in particular has devastating effects on the environment in many different ways. First, at the mining site all vegetation will be completely obliterated and the topography of the area is, in most cases, irrevocably transformed. Secondly, it creates the by-product of fly ash, a hazardous material that must be stored in wet sites, known as ponds. These ponds are classified by the Environmental Protection Agency as potential hazards. Finally, there is also concern that the air-pollution from coal could be affecting wildlife and waterways, mercury emissions from the coal plants are entering the food chain, and greenhouse gases are destroying the ozone layer.
What does all of this mean for travelers that are looking to eliminate their carbon footprint when traveling? Not only when traveling to Metropolitan areas of China will they be exposed to these extremely hazardous air quality issues, they will also be contributing to the problem every time they turn on the lights, make use of air-conditioning, or take a taxi cab.
There is still a light at the end of this tunnel, however. Although the problem is already quite extreme, it has finally been acknowledged with a detailed action plan put in place by the Chinese Government. Vice Commerce Minister Chen Jian reached out to Japan to arrange a “cooperative network to reduce air pollution in China, involves environmental technology and knowhow pooled from about 500 Japanese firms, including Toyota Motor Corp., Electric Power Development Co., Toshiba Corp. and Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd.” (japantimes). They have also put in motion plans to “reduce emissions from heavily polluting industries by 30%, enhance control of PM2.5 Pollution, and publicize the results of air quality testing” (The Guardian Uk).
To answer the question – is eco-travel in China possible? The answer is certainly! The difference in China is you will have to be even more diligent in reducing your energy consumption keeping in mind that it is generated almost completely by coal. Make sure to let the hotelier know that the issue of air pollution is very important, not only to China, but everybody! Opt-in to any sustainability projects they have running. Public transportation or riding a bike while there would be ideal but if you absolutely need a car, be sure to check the fuel efficiency of the vehicle. Refusing disposable items makes a huge difference in helping keep landfills reasonable as well as keeping garbage out of the ocean.