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A son's wish
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"We're a group of young environmental protection volunteers. We're Li Haiyang, Ma Jian, Li Chunyan, Feng Qinghua and Ding Li. We hope you will join our environmental protection group."

One month ago, I attended the "Green Binhai Challenging Activity" held by the Binhai Channel of the Tianjin People's Radio. I was elected as the leader of the project "promoting the use of environmentally-friendly shopping bags". On that night, I wrote my oath in the "environmental protection green angel" blog to call on more volunteers to join in our cause.

In 2000, I went to study in Cyprus. There, the way the locals love their environment and resources impressed me deeply. Usually parents teach their children from early childhood to save energy resources and get close to nature. Because of this they have the habit of showing respect for the environment around them. 

I went back home in 2003 and found the environment around me in China was not very good. "Use-and-throw" plastic bags can be seen everywhere: hanging down the branches of trees along the sidewalks, floating in park lakes. They are unable to decompose naturally and consequently they pile up as waste and make our cities look ugly. Research shows that each year our country wastes more than one million tons of plastics. 

Many countries are campaigning against white pollution -- plastic bags. In Germany, shoppers have to buy plastic bags in the supermarkets. Germans usually go shopping with cloth bags or rattan baskets. And Koreans also use cloth or paper bags to wrap their goods to reduce their usage of plastic bags. 

I took part in this activity and worked together with other volunteers to promote the use of environmentally friendly shopping bags. I spent about 70 percent of my time on this activity. After heated discussions, members of my group quickly took actions separately: some went to seek business sponsorship. A company could print a small size advertisement on environmentally friendly shopping bags for only 300-500 yuan (US$40.01-66.68).Others went to find appropriate factories to produce the environmentally friendly shopping bags at the lowest possible price. 

Later we went to distribute these shopping bags free of charge in supermarkets or around communities. People could get an environmentally friendly shopping bag in exchange for five plastic bags.

We encountered many setbacks during this month-long activity but also gained some unexpected achievements.

Two factories were willing to produce the shopping bags. They produced 3,000 shopping bags at the price of 1.6 yuan (US$0.21) each.  

We had great difficulty finding sponsors. Few companies were willing to give up 500 yuan (US$66.68) to promote environmental protection. We finally got only four sponsors and a 2000 yuan (US$266.73) sponsorship fee. 

To our pleasant surprise many folks were very supportive of our green consumption activity. Mr. Sun Kunlun told me on the phone, "I support your activity. I'll donate 500 yuan (US$66.68) since I'm not very rich." Mr. Wang donated 10,000 yuan (US$1,333.6) to support the promotion of the environmentally friendly shopping bags. Many other folks, including students and people of all ages from all walks of life, signed on to our blog to state their support and encourage our activity.

Many friends asked me how effective this activity really was. I suggested that they read a letter written by Angus Ho, chairman of Hong Kong Green Student Council, to his mother. He joined the environmental protection organization nearly 10 years ago. In 1999 he put forward a proposal to charge of plastic bags. He also organized activities to reduce the use of plastic bags. He and his partners went to communities to hold exhibitions and seek signatures for petitions. Thanks to their relentless efforts, the Hong Kong government decided to levy a tax on plastic bags in 2005. April 15, 2006 became Hong Kong's first "Plastic Bag Free Day". Residents had to pay half of a Hong Kong dollar for each plastic bag.      

In the letter to his mother, he wrote: "Dear Mother, Plastic Free Day is an activity of far-reaching significance. I am taking part in this activity as a volunteer. As the tasks ahead are extremely arduous, I have decided to give up my job in order to devote my whole life to the Plastic Free Day activities. I'm here begging for your understanding. Looking back at the past, despite all the sacrifices and failures, the Plastic Free Day has achieved such a historic success. I think what I have done is meaningful and worthwhile."

( by Zhang Ming'ai, November 5, 2007)

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