Bamboos live long and stay strong. But if we ignore and don’t take care of it, it will die. So the environment.
At some point in my life environment suddenly became an important issue that I felt I needed to do something for it. It wasn’t that long time ago since the realization hit my mind. It was during my private Korean lesson the teacher let me choose a topic and out of many I chose environment. During our course I got an idea what to do to help our Earth. Few weeks later a Korean speech contest was announced with the same topic. I applied as I had the vocabulary needed for it.
Since then protecting our environment became an important issue for me. In addition to this, all the horrible videos and pictures circulating on social media about the condition of our Earth hit me even stronger. Even if I cannot do a lot, I’m still trying my best to do as much as I can.
At home I seperate papers, plastics waste into its own trashbin. I don’t let the light on when I’m not in the room. As for my old clothes, I donate it to orphanage or homeless shelters. The unneccessary books, I bring it to the library. Since we have water purifying machine I use water bottle instead of buying plastic bottles in the shop. Beside this during travels I also pay attention to what a country do to protect its environment.
How Koreans help the environment
In Korea what impressed me the most was that they separate food everywhere. At the hotels, hostels especially where you can make your own food, there is a separate bag for only food. The rest of the bins are for vinyl, plastic, paper, aluminium. They separate it everywhere.
On the street there is no trashbin. It might sound strange but once I asked this from a Korean person and he said “When there were trashbins on the street, there were a lot of trash on the street as well. Since there were no trashbins, the streets became cleaner.” I also heard another reasons for this, but this one definitely works. Korean’s streets have only a few trash. But that is also insignificant. It might be uncomfortable to carry your own rubbish around but people really do it. They keep it until they arrive home and then they throw it. Therefore the streets are clean. If the shops or households dump their trash, they leave the trash bags that are already separatated outside their place and the trash car collects it.
The best example is the mountain. Climbing the mountain is a tradition of the Korean people especially among the elders. When Asians hike they always bring proper food like ramen, kimbap, water and even hot water. They hike then they stop and have their proper lunch. Normally people would think if they pack so many food, then the mountain must be covered with trash and leftovers. But in reality NO. The most interesting part of my hiking was that the mountain was extremely clean. No bottles, no cigarettes butts, no plastic bag, no food leftover. It felt like no one has ever touched it. After all I can say Koreans are disciplined in terms of handling the trash and protecting the environment.
Before changing the world, every individual should change first
In Vietnam what impressed me was that they changed the straws to be a biodegradable one. In Hue city at the Vincom hotel’s rooftop bar they use paperstraw with the cocktails. In Saigon’s restaurant they use a straw made from a sort of plant that the moment I bit, it broke.
I acknowledge that Vietnam is still behind many countries in terms of environmental consciousness. But I also believe that it would change. However for it to change it takes the whole nation to change its mindset. We, as a human, should be aware that the whole country, actually the whole world, is our home where we live. Without the Earth where would we live? (OK, I know there are other planets. But to be honest, scientist, astronauts should spend their energy and time to solve the environmental problems, instead of moving people to another planet.) Our physical house is just a part where we are staying. But even that house is also a part of the Earth, of our environment. There is no use to keep our own house clean, but the outside area dirty, as it also affects us.
This mentality should be emphasized and taught everywhere especially for the kids at school. Throwing the candy’s paper, the tissue, the food leftover to the ground or into the river is not OK. Bringing them home or holding it until the trashcan IS. In order for the children to learn this, the adults should show an example.
Luckily there are countries who are changing this situation. In the Philippines the kids have to plant trees to graduate. In India children can bring plastics to school as a tuition fee. Some professional people also figured out a way to clean the lake, to replace the plastic bag to be a biodegradable one. A girl from Zanzibar even use glass to make bricks from which they can build up a house. Or in Sri Lanka people even use the elephant’s poop to make paper. To be honest if these methods of using already existing materials become popular and people use it properly, it’s not just the environment that is saved; but the animals would stay alive, people would be more healthy and richer, the economy would grow, the employment rate would increase and the whole world would find back its balance. It’s a sustainable effective circle.
These methods need to go viral and countries should take them as an example to change. It’s not only the government’s duty to start so, but the individuals’ mindset needs to change as well. When people figure out the importance of saving the Earth, it’s a huge power to make it come true. You don’t have to become a professional to make something significant. A lot of small will become big. You can start with simple things like not throwing trash on the street. Separate your trash. Before you buy something think carefully if you really need it or not. Because if you don’t need then why buying it? If you buy something, consider if after usage that product is biodegradable or not.
Help environment while traveling
Me, as a traveller, I always try to do something that can help the environment. When I travel, I only buy something if I really need it. Therefore I don’t have a lot of physical souvenirs, except magnets.
Many times I don’t feel like going out to eat but would just rather order delivery then I realized how many plastics they had to use only for one meal. Therefore I decided to go out and eat. I only order when it’s dark, late and there is no restaurant nearby. I’m working hard on reducing ordering delivery. In Korea they also do this differently. They bring the food in a bowl (not plastic) and when the customer finish it, they call and the delivery man comes back for the dirty dish. I think this one is much more effective, but of course not everywhere is like this.
As for the water, I also avoid buying plastic bottles. Instead I always have my own water bottle and I always search for water fountain or machine to get water from it. Not to mention, in Korea there is water machine everywhere so you can always fill your bottle.
As for the plastic bags. I’m trying to remind myself to buy the reusable bag when I go shopping, so I don’t have to use plastic bags that the sellers give to hold the products. This one is still in progress of changing.
New things that I decided to do more regularly from now on. Few months ago #trashtag challenge became trendy and many people posted before-after picture of a full of rubbish area. How full of trash it was before and how it looked like after they cleaned it up. This became viral and many people followed it in many countries.
This time during my travels in Vietnam, I also did it. I asked the hotel’s housekeeper to give me a trashbag and I went down to the beach to collect the trash there. One is of course not enough, but I believe that if everyone who goes to the beach collects one bag of trash, the beaches would be much cleaner. (Of course what would make a bigger change is not to litter at all.)
Environmental issue is becoming more and more severe, but luckily people are more and more aware of it, so they are taking actions. But only that few people are not enough. Everyone should join and make an effort in it. I hope that after reading this, you will also do something for the environment, let it be in your hometown or when you travel. Let it be separating the trash, simply throw it into the trash can or using water bottle and reusable bags. A lot of small act will become big. The most important part is that we need to know that it matters. When everyone is aware of their act and pay attention to the environment, our Earth will be clean and we don’t have to move to another planet.
Even the smallest act matters. Make a change. Help the place where we live in.