This is fantastic! Last week, I visited Chiang Mai and took a walk along the walking street from Tha Pae gate to Wat Pra Sing. Of course, I had a lot of hope, but not for buying things, but for something I really admired – citizen action!

Wat Pan Oan is one of several Buddhist temples along the street that are surrounded by hundreds of food stalls where people stop to eat. No styrofoam allowed here! A large sign hung from a tree that read “no foam for food project” (sponsored by a businessman who wants to encourage the market for green products – his name escapes me). There is a waste segregation station where young volunteers assist people in sorting their own food waste into the appropriate slot. Food waste, including leftover liquid beverages, will be disposed of in a single large bin. This is critical because people appear to enjoy both eating and shopping.

Zero Waste Station

I forgot to ask the young volunteer boy in charge of the waste station where all of this stuff goes. In terms of informal waste management practises, all food waste will be composted, all recyclables will be recycled, and other items will be reused or reprocessed. Because styrofoam is no longer permitted, waste management becomes more promising.

This is fantastic! Small steps that will eventually have an impact on the larger systems to which we are linked. Helping to reduce consumption of unsustainable products like “styrofoam” is a good place to start in order to help transform the country’s overall waste management system.

If you have the opportunity to walk, shop, and eat along Chiang Mai’s walking street, you can do your part by assisting the man at the waste separation station at Wat Pan Oan and enjoying yourself. Every time you design a small part of our lives to reduce your impact, support good causes, and make your life more comfortable, beautiful, and exciting, you send a powerful message to everyone around you.