Related News

Home » Feature

Beyond buzzwords: Really living green

BUZZWORDS "green" and "low carbon" are thrown around to market everything from organic vegetables to economic developments that are anything but. Zhang Qian reports.

Lifestyles of health and sustainability, LOHAS, is a recognized "green" market segment in the US, Europe and parts of Asia. It's also a way of living, when it's convenient, for a very small, relatively well-educated and upscale population in China.

Most people know nothing about LOHAS. The few who do consider it trendy tend to think of LOHAS people as those who have the time and money to be picky about their daily life choices.

LOHAS gurus and inspirational speakers at the 3rd China International LOHAS Forum are trying to spread the word and tell people that they don't have to eat expensive organics and wear natural fiber clothes to live a healthy and sustainable life.

It's all about making little, thoughtful, healthy changes, many of them easy. It's about slowing down a bit, enjoying life getting into nature. It's most definitely about consuming less.

The 3rd China International LOHAS Forum is underway in Shanghai, bringing together enthusiasts, gurus, "green" businesses and people who want to start them.

"LOHAS is not about buying but being," said Ted Ning, director of the US LOHAS Conference, who delivered a talk in Shanghai.

Eating organic foods is only a very small part of LOHAS, though many Chinese young people consider it an important part, he said. "You can always be a LOHAS practitioner without spending much money.

"The biggest obstacle keeping Shanghai people from adopting a LOHAS life is not money, but about time. They tend to think more about making money than enjoying life."

Lisa Wang, a 29-year-old office professional, tries to live a healthy and environmentally friendly life. She regularly buys organic fruit, vegetables and other foodstuffs, wears only cotton or linen clothes and frequently spends the weekend with her family at a friend's farm on Chongming Island.

American roots

LOHAS got started in America a decade ago and in the past few years has caught on with a small but increasing number of Chinese, said Dr Shen Li, chairmen of the China International LOHAS Forum.

He got the idea in 2005 and now he buys organic food, spends weekends in the fresh air and sometimes plants his own vegetables.

An increasing number of big city "weekend farmers" are leasing a bit of land in the suburbs, tending it on weekends and enjoying the clean air, and paying a caretaker during the week.

Many young professionals in Shanghai and elsewhere have been inspired by the online story of "Landlord Gao" who, along with his wife, gave up a high-paying job and rented a house in rural Wuyuan in Jiangxi Province. Today they publish their leisure diaries on the Internet, extolling the joys of simple living.

The term "LOHAS" appears more frequently these days in Chinese media and in personal communications, especially for young people.

"Dense population in big cities, terrible transport and unsafe foods push many urban residents with relatively high education and income to a more green and low-carbon life, even though they don't know about LOHAS," said Shen. "But not knowing doesn't stop them. Even in America, where the concept of LOHAS was born, most people don't know about LOHAS, but environmental awareness is high and many people try to live eco-friendly lives."

Ning, head of the US LOHAS Conference, said 13-19 percent of the American population tries for low-carbon living. Most are well-educated, progressive and trendsetters who are among the first to purchase "green" products that they research. They also share information with family and friends.

They are more conscious about their choices, often purchasing products in line with their personal values rather than the price.

For example, they like authentically "green" products and weigh carbon footprints. Many won't purchase a green item trucked hundreds of carbon-heavy miles to store shelves. They will pick up a notebook labeled "made with recycled paper" and then check the producer online to see if the claim is genuine.

High cost

Though a LOHAS life may be safer and more comfortable, the high cost of produce is a big problem for many Chinese consumers.

"Ordinary vegetables in the market cost only about 6 yuan (US$4.50) for 500g, and it's at least double for organic vegetables in a supermarket," said Diana Zhao, a 31-year-old accountant who occasionally buys organic food and considers LOHAS a costly lifestyle.

"People don't have to buy organics to be LOHAS. They should just do the best they can," said Ning, suggesting taking public transport or a bike when possible, turning off the power and tap and simplifying life.

Actually, many Americans unknowingly joined the green vanguard in the economic crisis. As their income shrank or they lost work, they saved on power, rode bikes when possible and saved money by cooking at home instead of eating out. Spending less is a big part of LOHAS.

"Some American prefer organic and environmentally friendly items, but they are not willing to pay more," said Ning. "That also pushes some LOHAS producers to lower the price."

"If there were 20 percent of American living a LOHAS life before the economic crisis, there are maybe 80 percent actually practicing LOHAS ideas to lower the cost," said Ning.

At the forum, many LOHAS advocates expressed concern about unscrupulous marketing practices that use the term "LOHAS" to deceive consumers and raise prices.

"There are things like green fur and eco-friendly coal," said Ning. "But how could that be possible?"


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend