Eco Design Fair

Source:Global Times Published: 2017/11/15 18:08:40

Ecologically friendly businesses and organizations gather in Shanghai

This past weekend, tens of millions of people across China were captivated by the myriad of special deals and sales promoted as part of China's so-called Singles' Day sales celebration on November 11, aka 11-11, or Double 11.

This e-commerce extravaganza gave those who do not have a romantic partner the chance to compensate for their loneliness by buying stuff. Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce giant, saw its record-breaking sales exceeding $25 billion in just 24 hours.

Amidst the blur of blind consumerism, a quiet neighborhood in outlying Shanghai, at the very end of Metro Line 10, saw several hundred concerned citizens spend their Singles' Day differently. They were there to attend the ninth annual Eco Design Fair, held at the aptly named Knowledge and Innovation Community (KIC) Plaza.

The event, which took place over three days, hosted 100 eco-friendly businesses and organizations under the theme of "go plantopia!" in order to highlight trends in plant-based lifestyles and inspire visitors to think about how the choices they make in their daily lives affect the environment.

Vendors offered plant-based alternatives to plastics and other synthetic materials, while forums and workshops aimed to educate others about the benefits of leading an eco-friendly lifestyle. Through these workshops, lectures and classes, participants had the opportunity to learn about topics ranging from the ethics of consuming animals to "acroyoga," an innovative combination of acrobatics and yoga.

The fair also included a vegan market and food stalls encouraging sustainable methods of serving meals by giving discounts to those who brought their own reusable containers and utensils - a stark contrast to all the cardboard and packaging waste caused by Double 11 retailers over the weekend.

Ecological canopy

As part of Saturday's Eco Forum, Professor Li Yifei of NYU Shanghai gave a presentation titled Nature For All: Inclusive Environmentalism From Local Food to Planetary Solidarity, in which he discussed the emerging concept of an ecological canopy.

This canopy takes the idea of the cosmopolitan canopy first suggested by sociologist Elijah Anderson in his book The Cosmopolitan Canopy: Race and Civility in Every Day Life and applies it to the modern environmental movement.

Pointing to public spaces such as Philadelphia's Reading Terminal Market as an example, Anderson described cosmopolitan canopies as spaces where people feel more comfortable talking to each other, breaking down barriers that normally exist in society and giving people the ability to negotiate their relationships with each other.

Professor Li suggests that this idea can be expanded into an ecological canopy, of which the Eco Design Fair might be a good example.

"Nature means very different things to different people, we attach very specific meanings to nature and often we attach very different meanings. The person sitting next to you may think about nature in a very different fashion than you do," said Li.

The sector is based on innovation in technology and design. It is an industry where everyone and everything is moving quickly and everyone is working on their own small part of the puzzle. They might be focused just on finding new ways to reuse old clothing, or trying to perfect the ultimate vegan crepe recipe. On a day-to-day basis, the accomplishments of the larger movement get lost.

Diverse participants

Thus, the Eco Design Fair has become an important part of Shanghai's new green movement. The event gives eco-conscious individuals a chance to meet other like-minded citizens, share perspectives and break down barriers within the movement itself.

The most striking feature of the event, however, was the broad range of ideas represented there in that quite neighborhood, from multinational organizations to local businesses.

Spanning a variety of disciplines including sustainable fashion companies like FINCH Designs and Wobabybasics, environmentally conscious consulting firm PureLiving, and Vegans of Shanghai and Zero Waste Shanghai, which aims to bring awareness to environmental issues in the city.

The attendees themselves were also quite diverse, from expat children participating in tailored workshops to local seniors sitting in on informational lectures to millennial urbanites sampling organic wines. The inclusion of events for attendees of all ages highlights the Eco Design Fair's commitment to educating youth about eco-friendly lifestyles.

After all, children and millennials are the ones who will benefit most from China's new pro-environmental movement.

The story was written by Katie Kelly.

Visitors at the fair Saturday Photo: Katie Kelly


A girl watches a vendor making food at the event. Photo: Katie Kelly



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