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February 24, 2010

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Picking up rubbish to keep Mt Mogan beautiful

MT Mogan's Big Litter Pick Up is set for March 15-20 and volunteers can clean up the Zhejiang holiday spot and collect those delicious spring bamboo shoots for Chinese cooking. Sam Riley reports.

Escaping to the beautiful natural surrounds of Mt Mogan in Zhejiang Province in spring can be more than just taking a break - it can be a chance to keep the holiday resort clean and beautiful.

The Big Litter Pick Up 2010 project runs from March 15 to 20. Participants can clean up areas of the mountain, help make lasting improvements to waste management and raise environmental awareness.

This year's event is organized by the newly established Prodigy Outdoor base, a new hostel in the area that organizes outdoor activities such as mountain biking and hiking for its guests.

Prodigy opened its doors in December last year and founder Zhang Linyuan says they have tried to incorporate environmental practices in daily operations and wanted to extend this to their local community.

"We want to be part of the education about living a more eco-friendly lifestyle, so we ask guests to be responsible about water, electricity and waste," Zhang says.

"The litter pickup combines this with our values of community work and we are happy to support it on a cost-basis only to provide a base for the activity."

More tourists have been visiting Mt Mogan in recent years, and rubbish has become a problem in some areas.

Litter in small streams and areas off popular walk ways need to be cleaned up, Zhang says.

Tori Widdowson, an event organizer, says volunteers will pay a small amount to cover expenses. All money raised from the not-for-profit cleanup will be split equally between environmental education and improving waste management in the Houwu Village neighboring Prodigy's base.

Widdowson says the focus will be on separating recyclable waste that currently goes into a landfill and working on a way to transport it to the nearest receivable point in Wukang.

"It's about looking at infrastructure and awareness, not just about buying more bins," Widdowson says.

Half of the proceeds will go toward Greenovate's Gecko program.

The Shanghai-based environmental consultancy runs Gecko, an environmental education program delivered to small schools in cities across China.

Last year the local resort Naked Retreats ran a similar litter drive and up to 40 students from Shanghai's international and local schools donned gloves and grabbed litter to clean up Mt Mogan.

"What we are trying to do is focus on a few areas and get them cleaned up so we can start with a clean slate," says Widdowson.

"Then we can implement some long-term plans around waste removal and provide some education in the hope it might lead to better environmental practices."

Prodigy is encouraging people to make the litter pickup either a day trip or to stay overnight.

It costs 150 yuan (US$22) for a day and 350 yuan for an overnight stay on the weekend.

Prodigy is offering volunteers free accommodation from March 15 to 18.

Typically for weekend visitors, the litter collection would take one and a half to two hours and could be integrated into other activities such as finding the new spring bamboo shoots that are popular in Chinese cooking.

The price includes all meals and covers just the costs associated with the stay, including room cleaning and laundry, explains Widdowson.

Participants must cover their own transport costs.

The organizers are in talks with Shanghai American School and Yew Chung International School, which had students participate in a previous cleanup.

They are seeking university students to join the effort and are partnering with the Shanghai International Studies University's branch of AIESEC, the world's biggest student organization.

Anyone wishing more information about the cleanup and related activities can contact Widdowson


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