Why kicking the plastic habit is good for the environment

No More Plastic

No More Plastic

At food stalls and in supermarkets in Chiang Mai, Thailand’s second largest city, plastics of all shapes and sizes are dolled out like confetti when you make a purchase of items. The fascination with plastic is so amazing that with a single purchase of several items you can end up with over five plastic bags when less could do.

What is surprising is the plastic bags come at no cost, so customers gladly accept the packaging.

There is no doubt that the plastic bags which are probably handed out in their millions throughout Chiang Mai, and other parts of Thailand come at a great cost to the environment.

In Thailand, as in many parts of the world, the use of plastics is at epidemic levels with serious consequences for the environment. According to www.reusable.com, a website that promotes fighting the massive over-consumption of plastic shopping bags, the world has consumed over 276 billion plastics this year and the number is rising by the second.

Kicking the addiction to plastic bags is one of the single most important positive things that individuals can do to both protect and keep the environment clean. But it appears that it will take the world a long time to rid itself of the plastic habit because there are too many financial interests vested into the continued production of plastic.

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In Chiang Mai, Social Attitudes Crush Bicycling Prospects

In Chiang Mai, Thailand’s second largest city, you bicycle at your risk in spite of the clear advantages to the environment and physical health.


Crushed Bike


Next to the pedestrian, the bicycle is regarded as the lowest in the mode of transportation chain.


Chiang Mai’s roads team with vehicles of all sorts and ubiquitous motorcycles that screech, hoot and zig-zag through the traffic.


If anything, the undefined movement of the motorcycles poses the biggest threat to bicyclists. They are forced to stay on the edge of the road where they can potentially ram into the curb. The absence of bicycle tracks on many roads further worsens the situation.

Apart from this practical life and death consideration about bicycling, this mode of transport in Chiang Mai, like in many developing country cities, is regarded with disdain because it supposedly reveals low economic status.Many people are reluctant to turn to bicycles because of the social attitudes that demean human powered modes of transportation, including walking.

But there is an additional problem that it is intolerable to bicycle under the hot and sometimes humid weather conditions that prevail in Chiang Mai city. A bicycle ride of anything more than two kilometers can leave the rider practically drenched in sweat.


That prospect is highly undesirable especially for professionals. A way to resolve this issue, at least, for professionals would be for workplaces to provide shower places for their workers who opt to cycle.


In addition, the overall design of the bicycle will have to be improved to make bicycling easier, less demanding on physical energy, and protected from the elements of the earth.


As it is, bicycling in Chiang Mai is largely a preserve for tourists, a hangout or weekend pastime.

Bicycling, compared to other forms of transportation can absolutely play a major role in cutting the emissions from vehicular traffic.


In order for cycling to become an everyday reality in this city, the society will have to undergo major paradigm shifts at the attitudinal, city planning and policy making levels.


To make bicycling safe and easy, city planners have a key role to play in designing bicycle tracks and parking spaces.


Educating the public about the benefits of bicycling, particularly the physical benefits, is also essential. But, as the old adage says, it is difficult to teach old dogs new tricks.


What that means is that efforts must be targeted at young people to ensure a greater return on investment in awareness raising of the advantages of bicycling.


At government level, policy makers must provide incentives for people that choose to bicycle. In the absence of perceived incentives, it will be difficult to get a critical mass of people taking up this form of human powered transportation.


Whatever the case, bicycling can certainly improve physical health, reduce energy consumption and the associated degradation of the environment, and has a part to play in resolving one of the major problems facing humanity today: climate change.


Image credit: bcballard at Flickr