Aug 15, 2010

Three ways to cleanliness, eco-friendly life style

Anyone visiting India would agree that we folks treat the entire country or city as one big trashcan (dustbin). People of all race, religion, economic status and caste are united when it comes to one thing - throwing trash anywhere and everywhere, often right outside their own houses caring a damn for themselves and their health, let alone neighbours.

Anyone traveling to Singapore would also marvel at its cleanliness that is often compared to a hospital ward. Singapore has achieved it with two distinct measures - one positive and one negative. The positive aspect is that one need not often walk more than 10 feet to find a trashcan. They are everywhere, right under every table in offices and in front of every shop or eating joint and every bus stop, some even providing two of them. So you simply have no excuse not to use them. The other of course, is the famous and ubiquitous 'FINE's advertised by numerous signs and well publicised 'corrective work orders' where offenders don bright orange vests and clean streets with media clicking away to preserve your image for posterity..

But there is a third way - the TAIWAN way. There are no signs threatening financial and emotional ruin to recalcitrants. More importantly, there are NO dustbins or trashcans on the street especially in residential localities, away from city centers and their malls. Often I have walked hundreds of meters, holding a crumpled receipt or used can in my hand, looking for a dustbin, finding none. Finally I have to get back to hotel/residence to trash it. Yes, the streets are still kept clean because the biggest ingredient that matters, without which all other measures fail, is there - it is called decency, civic sense and responsibility.

In many ways, Taiwan shows the way to other Asians. Convenience stores, for years now, don't hand out plastic bags. Even stores selling more expensive stuff life clothing and supermarkets like Carrefour don't. In Singapore we expect plastic bags even for newspapers. In Hong Kong you not only get a plastic bag with your newspaper but also a free packet of white tissues, adding even more trees to the casualty list. People use  fold-able steel chopsticks and often bring their own instead of wooden throwaway ones.

Where there is a will, there is a way...

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