April 22 is Earth Day, an annual celebration set up in 1970 in support of environmental protection across the world. Taiwan is an incredibly environment-conscious country and has a big focus on sustainability and green initiatives. So, there’s no better place to get into the Earth Day spirit than right here. Here’s some of the most eco-friendly places on the island and some of the best initiatives the country has to offer to get you into the Earth Day spirit in Taiwan. (You might also like: 8 questions with the creators of Taiwan’s first-ever eco-friendly sky lantern)
Guantian Black Gold (官田烏金)
Guantian down in Tainan is home to one of the largest water chestnut farms in the country. A crop that produces a lot of waste – 90% are discarded and burned after collection – water chestnut farming can be very harmful to the environment. As a result, Neng-tung Yen, executive of Guantian District, found a way of harnessing the waste energy for reuse by turning it into a type of charcoal known as biochar. By modifying the original burning method, the team in Guantian managed to come up with a method that can produce around 6kg of charcoal for every 17kg of water chestnuts burnt. It has incredibly low CO2 emissions and resulted in an annual carbon reduction the equivalent of that absorbed every year by the plant life in Da’an Forest Park, according to NCKU 2030. The biochar itself can be sprayed in the farm’s fields and as a result becomes a source of green energy.
Zhushan (Bamboo Mountain)
An urban township located in Nantou County, Zhushan is a community that thrives off its abundant supply of bamboo. Using its natural resources to promote sustainable products and travel, the township produces many bamboo products such as straws and toothbrushes. One Zhushan local, Atai, sells bamboo products at his store, Yuantai. He is also committed to the environmentally-friendly properties of bamboo. All of his products use water-based ingredients and are 100% biodegradable. (Read more: Sustainable Tourism in Taiwan’s “Bamboo Mountain” Town)
Gongliao rice terraces
The rice terraces in New Taipei City’s Gongliao District have been farmed on for more than 200 years. The Gongliao-Terraced-Paddy-Field Conservation Program has been in operation since 2011 to make sure the area is protected and maintained. The terraces play an integral part in the ecosystem of the local area, connecting neighboring water corridors used by many fish and other aquatic species, as well as helping maintain regional water resources. The area is also a haven for many species of birds and was also the subject of an award-winning National Geographic documentary.
Spring Pool Glass
Spring Pool Glass in Hsinchu focuses on converting limited resources into sustainable materials, including industrial raw materials, building materials and more, with the hope that they can be continuously recycled. A glass recycling business, in 2013, Spring Pool developed a material called “glassstone” – a building material with a variety of uses, such as for setting on walls, swimming pools, public art and more. More recently, the company has found a way of processing waste LCD screens into energy-saving bricks. They also recover around 100,000 tons of waste glass from around the island each year; more than half of the nation’s glass waste.
When visiting the factory, you can have a closer look about how recycled glass is used and also join a workshop of designing yourself a glass cup.
Sustainable fishery in Hsinchu (明發定置漁場)
This sustainable fishery in Hsinchu (明發定置漁場) uses fixed shore traps that allow small fish to escape and only keep hold of mature, bigger fish. They also only make sure to catch fish seasonally in order to not disrupt reproductive cycles and allow the fish to reach maturity. Finally, customers are able to buy the fish directly from the fishermen at the fishery to ensure both freshness and avoid exploitation.
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(Cover photo by Nikola Jovanovic)