Environmental protection is truly a collective effort, with 1,400 members of one of the largest religious groups in the country — the Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation — together saving 15,600kg in carbon emissions in just five days, or the equivalent of the emissions of 2,000 idling cars, the foundation told a press conference yesterday.
“Each year, we host a five-day conference for our regional leaders in Hualien, where Tzu Chi was founded,” said Josephine Lee (李憶慧), a foundation senior volunteer.
However, this year, because the conference theme was carbon reduction, all 1,400 members — upon flying into Taiwan from 26 countries — stayed in Taipei to cut down on unnecessary travel, Lee said.
“In addition, all of the conference attendees brought their own microwaveable bowls and chopsticks, ate vegetarian meals and received electronic copies of the conference handbook,” she said.
The area where most carbon was saved — at a huge 10,580kg — was from the eating utensils the members brought themselves, she said.
“Each time a person eats out, about 0.54kg of carbon is emitted through the use of disposable utensils: A paper lunchbox causes 0.48kg of carbon, a paper cup generates 0.011kg and disposable chopsticks 0.05kg,” she said.
Another 4,564kg of carbon was saved because all 1,400 participants ate vegetarian meals for the duration of the conference, she said.
The conference was not the Tzu Chi Foundation’s first attempt to contribute to the environment, foundation volunteer Luo Mei-chu (羅美珠) said.
“I can proudly say that Tzu Chi greatly contributed to the fact that Taiwan has the No. 1 recycling rate in the world,” Luo said.
Since 1991, all Tzu Chi members have been taught to promote cherish resources and promote the idea of environmental protection to their friends and family, Luo said, adding that some 50,000 members around the country are Tzu Chi environmental protection volunteers.
“Each Thursday, members gather at Tzu Chi community outlets to sort local garbage, or discuss how to better promote the idea of garbage sorting and recycling,” she said.
After the Sichuan earthquake in China last month, the foundation handed out more than 40,000 polyester blankets to disaster victims, with each blanket made of recycled material from 70 PET bottles the volunteers had collected, Luo said.
“With global warming, what [founder] Master Cheng Yen (證嚴) told us to do 17 years ago now seems even more relevant to our lives. I feel that by conserving resources, we are not just saving the earth, we are saving ourselves,” she said.
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