In the northern port of Keelung, volunteers split into teams to collect litter in areas all over the city. One team headed to the Badouzi coast -- not to enjoy the beautiful ocean waves but to scour the rocks for garbage and encourage those enjoying the beach not to litter. “We have to pay attention to the environment on the coastline,” said volunteer Wang Wang. “As well as taking care of our homes, we have to get outside.” Zhang Jixiang, 80 years old, is an eager participant. “If someone calls, we will come out. If we know about it, we will come to help. Doing environmental work is very good. It cleans up the planet.” The volunteers urged people to use environmental cups and chopsticks. “We should not use paper cups,” said Lin Hezhen. “Paper cups get thrown all over the ground, which is very wasteful. This environmental cup is very convenient. You can take it with you when you go out and it does not take up space.” Liao Qingtian, a member of the public, was impressed. “If we cut back a lot every day, the earth will be a better place.”
In two districts of Taipei, the capital, nearly 300 volunteers were out on the streets, to promote the ‘five good deeds a day’: these are eating vegetarian food, saving water, saving power and using environmentally friendly chopsticks and transportation. In the Neihu district, 100 volunteers equipped themselves with masks, gloves, tongs and garbage bags; they combed the streets, collecting bottles, bags, fallen leaves, dead plants and CDs. “We found a whole plastic basin thrown under a tree,” said volunteer Chen Liqin. “It will not decompose and would create pollution, so we dug it up and cleared it away.” The team also went to the Great Love vegetable ground in Neihu; they repaired the drains and tended to the vegetables. In the Xinzhuang district, 170 volunteers went out to promote the ‘five good deeds’. They encouraged members of the public to sign up by writing their names on pieces of a puzzle. In all, they completed 12 puzzles, mobilizing 1,200 people to help in the environmental mission.
Volunteers in the Sanxia district of Taipei country organized a cycling event which ended at the branch where they sold scarves and clothes made from recycled bottles. They called the event a ‘bike-a-thon’, with the theme ‘hand-in-hand, cycle for the planet’. Participants of all ages and backgrounds eagerly got on their bicycles, to welcome Earth Day in a carbon-free way. The procession of cyclists rode through the rain. One was an 83-year-old grandmother: “doing recycling work makes me happy every day. It is like exercise. Let us do it together because that will definitely make our day.” The event attracted many people to the foundation’s branch in Sanxia. Among them were students from National Taipei University, who were moved to see the volunteers putting into practice every day the principles of environmental protection. “Schools hold a lot of campaigns but often they are empty slogans for the students,” said NTU student Wang Yanqiao. “I came here today and feel so much love from the people around me. I am very moved and want to be part of all this, to give something to the earth.” Wang and his fellow students learnt that every day was Earth Day and that they should do everything with the planet in mind.
In Hualien, the Tzu Chi College of Technology held its annual bicycle auction, to encourage teachers and students to use them instead of polluting motorcycles and scooters. They find used bicycles left behind by those who have graduated or on the scrap heap. “We round up unwanted bicycles every year,” said Huang Zhengli, a member of the college staff. “It is just a waste to throw them away. We know some of our students are looking for bicycles. So we collect these used bikes and hold this auction every year. It is well attended.” This was the fifth year of the auction. The bidding always begins at US$3, which attracts many people. The final price was usually less than US$6. After repairs, the bicycles can hit the road again – a green way to travel. “Reducing carbon emissions is a global initiative,” said student Chen Hongwu. “Owning a bike can make a contribution. If we need to buy something, we do not need to ride our motorcycles but our bicycles instead. It is convenient.” Members of the college staff also bought the cheap bicycles. Staff and students work together, to make a cleaner world.
Tzu Chi’s environmental mission involves tens of thousands of volunteers across Taiwan, many of them elderly people who throw their energy to the task and go to their local recycling station several days a week. One good example is the station in the fishing village of Kunshen, where four volunteers have between them a combined age of over 300; the oldest, Wu Haiqing, is 90. They are known as the ‘four jewels’ because of their dedication. Wu walks every day for 50 minutes and arrives at the station bright and early. “I have been coming here for 10 years already. One year after another, I feel that my days get better and better.” Arriving at the same time in the morning is Cai Yumei, another one of the four. Each morning, before leaving the house, she pays her respects to Master Cheng Yen: “Dear Master, my name is Cai Yumei. Bless me with the strength, spirit and wisdow to fulfill my environmental duty.” Then she cycles 40 minutes to the recycling station and starts work. “I am very happy doing this,” she said. “I come every day. And every day there are many people. I like it.” The other two are Chen Qing and Lin Jinzhi. “Recycling frees my mind of worries and I feel healthier,” said Chen. “I am not tired at all,” said Lin. “I tell myself that time is money so that I have to do more.” The ‘four jewels’ are an inspiration to everyone; they are the heart and soul of the centre.
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