Growing up in a third world country does not provide you the luxury of thinking and living green. You are most likely to ponder long and hard if you will have food in the table, if you can afford to send your children to school, if you have safe water to drink, if you have medical access when you're sick, or if you live long enough to see your grandchildren.
You don't think of separating your garbage, let alone think of cutting your carbon emissions.
So imagine how impressed I am when the Japanese religiously segregate their waste according to a litany of categories: paper/boxes, plastic bottles, cans, broken glasses, ordinary waste, bulbs, broken bicycles, biodegradable waste, electronic stuff, old furniture, etc. And it seemed to me that their minds are programmed to know exactly what day (and time) of the week or month is the garbage collection for these different items. It's a small wonder why Kyoto Protocol was born in this country of 127.4 million people.
If you bring your own recyclable bag and avoid using plastic bags when shopping at grocery stores, you get a point on your stamp card. And you get a small prize according to the number of points you collected. If you're really good, you may even get a food processor for free!
Norway also makes it a serious business to care for the environment. From CO2 taxes to carbon capture & storage technologies, name it and Norway has it. In fact, it has some of the world's strictest environmental standards and measures. And Norwegians had been aware of climate change even before Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth hit the theaters. I guess being close to the arctic circle, having dramatically high mountains, and surrounded by rough seas make them more susceptible to climatic alterations.
Empty cans and plastic bottles, for instance, can be returned to any grocery store in return for a few NOKs. It does pay to be environmentally-friendly. There are of course special bags for the organic waste.
Somehow I learnt to think and act green in my day to day life, in spite of (or owing to?) the fact that I come from a developing country. I rode a bicycle while commuting to work and school in Japan. I try to use public transportation, as opposed to taking taxis or driving a car (this makes it easy since I don't have a car anyway) here in Norway. Or I walk instead. And I started biking to work now that the weather is becoming more and more pleasant.
I must admit I preferred taking cabs while in Thailand. All the smog prevented me from walking, the hordes of people somehow discouraged me from taking the trains, and crazy drivers stopped me from taking the buses.
I turn off the tap while brushing my teeth. I recycle. I turn off the lights at home or work when not in use. I try to use the same towels when staying at hotels. And now I take part in carbon neutral or offset schemes when I fly.
I swap clothes with friends. I don't take bank receipts from ATMs. And I try to buy organic, fair trade and eco-friendly products. I bring my own grocery bag when I shop. I use my own reusable mug at work instead of disposable cups. And where possible, I drink water from the tap.
I'm far from being eco-savvy but at least I'm taking small steps and learning the ABCs of going green.