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Living Green Begins with a Little Greening a Day

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In front of the entrance to the building of Taiwan’s Environmental Protection Administration is a unique water dispenser with a counting device on top of it. The red number in the device is incredibly eye-catching, blinking from time to time. The device displays the number of water bottles with a 600 c.c. volume that would have otherwise been used. So far, this water dispenser has quenched the thirst of passers-by in need with the equivalent of nearly 34,000 bottles of water. In the meantime, there are 7,900 water refill stations just like this one across Taiwan.

Visitor registration to the EPA has been wholly digitized at the entrance, requiring scanning an onsite QR Code with a smartphone. The COVID-19 pandemic has slightly eased; 80% of the EPA's meetings are conducted online. Energy conservation and plastic reduction are practiced here. All water dispensers inside the building are temporarily shut down at 8 pm every night and not resumed until 6 am the next day. There is an area at every entrance and exit with heavy foot traffic, providing communal reusable bags to visitors. No plastic bags are allowed inside the building and stopped by the security staff at the entrance.

Heading toward the top floor, visitors are greeted with a section of bright and green space on the roof with cherries, allamanda, ferns, tortoise-shell bamboos, and various citrus orchards. Around Tomb-Sweeping Day, Spiranthes blossoms are sprawling across the lawns. It is one of Taiwan's rare native orchid species, with pinkish flowers arranged in a spiral around the central stem.

Using crisis as an opportunity to facilitate living green

The EPA building is a premise where living green is practiced from inside out.

When the pandemic intensified in March 2020, EPA-certified venues and environmental education facilities began facing a drastic drop of visitors and hence profits. It was then that EPA Minister Chang Tzi-Chin mentioned the concept of “living green” for the first time, explaining that “now is the best time to promote living green since the virus will change many existing habits in people’s daily lives.”

Living green is a lifestyle friendly to the environment. With the imperatives of “using locally produced”, “conserving resources”, and “protecting the environment” as its policy cores, the EPA promotes the “National Green Life Movement" with the following four strategies: enhanced collaboration between the public and private sectors; the integration of environmental education resources; events linking media and marketing, and; promotion of online platforms. The three ultimate aims are an environmentally friendly lifestyle, support for local industries, and the development of green industries.

Aligning with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the “National Green Life Movement" is further divided into five categories, namely: green diet, green travel, green consumption, green offices, and green households.

Green diet: Ordering only what is needed and choosing local ingredients

The EPA's statistics show that in 2019 over 490,000 metric tons of food waste was collected in Taiwan. If all were put in standard food waste barrels and stacked on top of each other, the height would be equivalent to 11,300 Taipei 101 buildings stacked atop each other. The waste of food creates tremendous economic loss and leads to many environmental problems such as unused leftovers to dispose and greenhouse gas emissions, increasing the burden on the overall environment.

For a green diet, the EPA advocates source reduction, awareness of no-waste, and use of local ingredients. It also promotes no-waste environmental education by working with enterprises and schools on editing teaching materials and organizing summer camps. Moreover, central authorities, county and city governments, and restaurants have been brought in to facilitate the certification of Green Restaurants, which provides environmentally friendly, low-carbon safe meals and dining spaces. As of the end of October 2021, there were 859 Green Restaurants and 216 stores promoting the no-waste principle.

Lowering the use of plastic water bottles by bringing cups or reusable bottles is at the heart of source reduction. Beginning in popular spots like Hsiaoliuqiu and Penghu, the EPA has worked with 39 local beverage shops to provide cup rental services, renting out 168,000 cups between 2019 and 2020. Night markets are another focus of Green Life. Currently, 22 night markets and business districts across 21 counties and cities serve as demonstration sites, all of whose efforts lead to a reduction of the use of 137,000 disposable tableware items per day.

Green travel: Environmentally friendly tourist spots, dining places, and accommodations

Green travel is tourism in which a traveler plans environmentally friendly trips mindful of environmental protection and low emissions. For example, travelers would choose to visit natural scenic places that perfectly blends with local ecosystems and experience more in-depth and authentic local cultures and lifestyles.

At first, the EPA encouraged travel agencies to design green itineraries that combine environmentally friendly tourist spots and restaurants and hotels or hostels with Green Marks, based on the number of traveling days. Once all information passes the review, the itineraries will be posted on the EPA's Living Green website. Afterward, even local governments answered the EPA's call and joined in the National Green Life Movement. County and city environmental bureaus, transportation, restaurants, and accommodation industries all actively worked together, learning to make their products or services friendlier to the environment while discovering more authentic and unique local businesses and scenic places. By the end of October 2021, a total of 72 travel agencies had participated, rolling out 523 environmentally friendly group travel itineraries. In addition, local governments proposed 69 green routes for independent travelers. Both of the above have become win-win solutions for people cooped up on the island, enabling them to better explore Taiwan in a manner that respects and preserves the environment.

Green Consumption: Collaboration between private and public sectors to establish an environment-friendly consumption model

Green consumption is based on an environment-friendly model in which a product’s environmental impact is of top concern. Shoppers would strive toward cutting down pollution to the environment via waste reduction, pursuit of practicality and natural and healthy products, as well as reduced use of plastics and chemicals.

  Since as early as the 2000’s, the EPA had started practicing green procurement before other government agencies by choosing products certified with the Green Mark, Carbon Footprint Label, or MIT Smile LOGOs. Other top choices include local produce and agricultural products that receive the Certified Agricultural Standards (CAS) certification or are certified organic or Traceable Agricultural Products (TAP). Such actions help create a circular economic model and bring outstanding environmental benefits.

Years of promotion has resulted in green procurement by government agencies, private corporations and organizations, and the general public. Green procurement in 2020 had a combined profit of NT115.2 billion, a 15% growth compared to 2019. Other results include the conservation of 260.029 million KWHs, which is sufficient power for 590,000 households and equivalent to the amount of power used by 22% of households in New Taipei City for a month. A total of 15.4 million kilograms of virgin pulp was spared, and 307,975 trees, equivalent to 10.3 times the number of trees in Daan Forest Park, were prevented from being chopped down.

Green Offices and Households: Living in harmony with the environment

Every day nearly half of Taiwan's population is working. This means that building sustainable workplaces with appropriate plants and raising awareness of resource conservation and waste reduction in people’s daily working habits can have a massive effect on improving the overall environment.

Since April 2020, the EPA has formulated 35 measures that fall under the following five indicators: energy conservation, source reduction, green procurement, environmental beautification, and campaigns and promotions. Government offices and civil organizations are qualified for certification when they reach a 70% compliance rate. One thousand five hundred eighty-nine government offices, enterprises, schools, and organizations have joined the efforts to create green offices by mid-October 2021. Next July, the EPA will study the current certification systems in other countries and establish its own certification system for green workplaces.

Finally, the most important and intimate space in a life of living green is one's home. Everything ranging from indoor air, noises, household cleaning agents, recycling and reuse, food waste collection, and indoor plants/green walls can all affect the environment and human health. For this, the EPA will reference policies for green offices, list actionable measures for households, and hold promotional campaigns before reviewing the results from the public's participation in creating green home environments.

Nearly 80% of the public satisfied with the promotion of National Green Life Movement

The idea of Green Life is an integration of the EPA’s policies, elevating them to a new height. In June 2020, the EPA held a press conference, which pledged to promote the National Green Life Movement with full force. Three months later, a survey indicated that only 40% of the interviewees were aware of such a policy. But in 2021, that figure rose to 70% thanks to continuous promotion. And 79.8% of interviewees are satisfied with the policy achievements.

From only mandatory implementation in the past, policies now are designed to serve more as guidance that leads to communication. These measures include reducing burning joss paper and incense, regular cleanup of air conditioning filters, recycling, and returning special medicines to pharmacies and hospitals for recycling. Now policies are even carried out with the help of digital technology, such as commonly used cellphone apps like Water Refill, Environmental Info Push, and Green Points. Ultimately, the EPA hopes to make everyone's life better and friendlier to the environment by taking just one extra step or adding a small part to one’s daily routines.

Excerpt from Major Environmental Policies, December 2021

Ministry of Environment