Plastic bags are not free at most grocery stores. They usually cost a Yuan each. Therefore many people bring reusable bags.
People usually line-dry their clothes. Nobody owns dryers. Some people do not own washers either and hand-wash everything. It is rare to see an apartment without clothes hanging out of the window or balcony. Usually if there are no clothes It means the apartment is unoccupied at the moment.
In my uncle’s home, hot water has to be turned on by a switch in the bathroom. At my grandparents’, the hot water heater is powered by solar panels from the roof.
There is usually no central air conditioning system. Many people use electric fans. My uncle is lucky to have individual ac units in each room. This system still saves energy because it does not waste power heating or cooling unnecessary areas of the home.
Public transportation is accessible and affordable. There are various types of buses, subway systems, and trains. Other people ride bikes or walk. Sometimes in cities it simply isn’t practical to own a car. In spite of this, air pollution is prevalent in most cities simply because of large population.
Recycling is becoming more popular now. However, most people seem to have no qualms about tossing a plastic bottle into the trash. Likewise, I have seen people just throw trash onto ground in public areas and spit onto the sidewalk without a second glance.
This leads me to believe that the environmentally-friendly ways of most Chinese citizens is not caused mainly by a concern for nature, but out of necessity and habit. There is not enough energy to go around for everyone to have washers and dryers. There is not enough space on the roads for everyone to own a car. There have been enough hard times in the past for my grandparents to still not want to waste a drop of water or a bit of food.
Still, as more and more people discover and demand a higher, western-style standard of living (personal cars, washing machines), China will experience a huge environmental strain and energy crisis. Therefore it is imperative that the country’s leaders figure out a solution that recognizes both citizens’ legitimate wishes and the environmental ramifications of a new age of economic prosperity.