December 14, 2011

Ratna's Story

Ratna’s Chicken Supplier

This week, Ratna shares her experience with Zero Waste in China. I always enjoy getting a point of view from far, far away;) Thanks for sharing with us, Ratna!
"I am from Bali but have been living in Beijing for almost 12 years. I have seen how bicycles are replaced by cars, aluminum containers by plastic ones, water thermos by bottle water, home style cooking by McDonald, traditional snacks by packaged biscuits, reusable chopsticks by disposable wood ones, traditional market by Carrefour, saving food by wasting food and early morning Tai Chi by late noon hangover. I have also read about the rise of diabetes, cholesterol, obesity, heart attacks and other life style related illness. In Bali I have seen the river and beaches filled by plastic, more of them every year.
Then I came across you in Second Act and I thought wow… that is kind of extreme. I have always thought that our household is quite environmental conscious. We only take the car for groceries shopping to the market and one of the days on the weekend to take the 3 kids to their gymnastic class. During the financial crisis we had to forgo the taxi (privilege 1 in Beijing) and it is normal now to take the bus and subway or simply walk. We are never keen on shopping, which is limited at the change of season if the kids outgrown their clothes or when ours are getting too discolored (from black to grey). What 10 years old girls can wear we try to pass to our 5 years old son the rest we donate. We always take our bags to the market, our part time helper (privilege 2) cooks most meals. We limit boxed fruit juice and cookies, we don’t eat canned food. We only fly twice a year to visit family (in France and Bali) I fly more for more work. I thought that was pretty good.
After I watched your video and checked on your blog via VPN (all blogs are banned in China) I started to look at what we already do and try to do better. So for the course of a few months now we have gone back to soap bar for washing but still have shampoo & conditioner bottles, toothpaste, deodorant and cosmetics (for work only). I started to take my Tupper ware that are usually sitting in the cabinet to the market and put the meat as well as cheese, bacon, croissant from deli/bakery in them. I made clothes bag from old Halloween costume for the rice, egg (carefully) and beans. I use the Nutella jars for the nuts. Kids refuse to forgo Nutella for now, but we agree to limit the amount we consume monthly, let me know if you have the recipe. Clothes that are no longer appropriate to be donated became rag to clean floors and counters. I am using soap nut when I do the laundry on the weekend, I still can’t convince my helper to do so during the week days. I am now checking on how to make jam as we have a lot of jars from those strawberries and blackberries jam and getting those spray bottles for green cleaning solutions.
My husband and I are taking it one step at the time; we change a few of small habits and make sure the new one is becoming a habit instead of an effort. I can’t for now commit time to jar tomatoes, making jams and other things as I am working full time, but I am making an effort to bake more cookies on the weekend, kids are having fun and love the taste.
There are a lot of obstacles to do zero waste in Beijing as it is embracing consumerism. Second hand clothes shops are uncommon (and not allowed by government), buying in bulk for vinegar, soy sauce and liquid things is not easy. Dry ingredients are easier to buy in bulk. As we are not sure of the quality of the milk, we have to stick to milk in bottles or brick. We can’t refill our wine bottles, so have to recycle them. We still have lot of paper, books, crayons etc, but we are committed not to buy anymore crayon until they are all done with. It is a process and we are trying.
I just came out of the closet to my friends here, received a lot of surprises face and comments like “See how long you gonna last”. I am hoping that by showing that reducing waste is not that painful maybe they will follow suit. The other day in the market some of the other shoppers took notice of my container and said, “ That is a very good idea, we should bring ours too’. Thank you for your weekly story, they remind me on the goal and keep me motivated."