Camille Owen

A Green Revolution for China: Sustainable Living

Have you ever heard of EF’s core values? One of these is “cost-consciousness”. Upon first glance, this may seem like an uncomplicated one but let’s expand our idea of what ‘cost’ means. It could be a time cost, a money cost or an environmental cost. The latter is what I’m going to address here: our responsibility to the planet.

If you’re considering a move to China, you might be surprised at how easy it can be to live ‘greener’– particularly in the larger cities!

In a recent post, we talked about lowering your personal waste and consumption while being an international teacher with EF. Building on that, here are a couple of low-effort ways to live your best China life while keeping the environment in mind.

Get Around Smartly

Most Chinese cities have amazing and cheap public transport systems! Try to opt for buses and trains over taxis and Didi. And even if you are hiring a car, some cities like Shenzhen (where I’m based) have fully electric fleets of taxis and buses which is amazing – you can’t really go wrong. Of course, walking and cycling are also great choices. Usinig a shared bike app (such as Mobike) is a convenient transport option that also incorporates a little extra fitness into your commute.


This is an area that is constantly evolving in China. As I write this in mid-2020, some Tier 1 cities have started introducing new and sophisticated recycling rules. The important bit here is to know how to sort your waste appropriately – so check with your apartment complex or landlord when disposing of rubbish. In other cities, there are neighborhood ‘recycling depots’ where you can take glass, paper, aluminum and even old clothes to the bins. Ask people who live nearby where the closest one is, and you’ll easily be able to make the trip once in a while (I do this on my way to work).


It’s all about finding creative ways to utilize things you might’ve otherwise tossed out. Think plastic, cardboard or glass packaging – you might be surprised to find how many inventive solutions people have come up with! Glass jars/bottles are great for storage, I even have a friend who uses these to grow tiny plants in their home. If you’re a teacher of young learners (i.e. EF Kids & Teens) the opportunities for DIY projects are endless, so hit up Pinterest, start saving those cardboard tubes/boxes and get crafty in your classes.

Shop, Cook, Eat

I won’t say you should subscribe to a certain eating plan, as anyone with dietary requirements will tell you: this isn’t always straightforward in China. Nonetheless, we can all consume more plants and less meat (if suitable for your situation of course). Shop at local markets and stores – do watch your food hygiene though – and only buy what you need. Some places have bulk food sections, where you can bring a container and purchase snacks or dry goods by weight. It also pays off in the long run to learn to cook with foods that are readily available to you in your Chinese city, as you may find it difficult to pick up certain “western” ingredients.

Remember that actions speak the loudest, but most importantly, you don’t have to be perfect! Making a few eco-friendly changes in your day-to-day life doesn’t have to be a big political statement or your whole identity. Instead, it’s something that everyone can do to spread an awareness of sustainable living. 加油 / jiā yóu!v

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