The Garden Beneath The Garbage

Dongguan is more than just an industrial city, there are plenty of beautiful spaces for us to admire. However, teamwork is essential to protect our environment.

We live in a beautiful city. Surprisingly so for those not from Dongguan. Our beloved city is known as a manufacturing hub with exports being a driving force in its economy since its birth. Most people hear “Dongguan” and think of factories and pollution. Those in Dongguan, especially it’s downtown areas, know better.

If you are looking for a nice day outdoors you can simply stop off at the Qifeng Park metro station and enjoy a climb up the mountain and various hidden trails around it that can last for hours. Those who are especially energetic can walk directly from Qifeng into Huying with its miles and miles of trails around its many lakes and hills. Even the most adventurous can be satisfied by spending a day scaling Yinping Mountain or heading over to Daling Mountain for a night of camping and fun.

As locals and tourists explore these parks and nature spots, especially those close to the center, many are surprised to find just how well maintained everything is. Often, litter is cleaned up within the hour and grassy areas are blocked off after seeding to protect their growth. Diverse flora is brought in to help enliven the scenery with little tags informing passersby’s exactly what types of plant life are there. Along the side of lakes are little wooden row boats that the staff use to collect trash floating in the water throughout the day and night. Local washrooms remain clean and functional. There are places inside and outside of China that have received a bad reputation for not caring about the environment, but Dongguan’s local authorities and residents are intent on making sure their city is not one of them.

As an American who spent a lot of time in nature growing up, I really appreciate the effort being put into keeping Dongguan beautiful. The people of Dongguan really seem to have a similar mindset. Having moved to Dongguan just eight months ago, the amount of people littering without a second thought is significantly less than where I moved from. There’s something in human nature that seeks to keep beauty beautiful.

Suffice it to say there is no logical justification for littering.

Yet not everyone understands the significance of keeping the environment clean yet. Few would argue the importance of keeping their own homes and property clean and maintained, but for some the mental shift of embracing responsibility for the cleanliness of areas outside of their personal ownership seems absurd. Why not throw it on the ground when I know someone will pick it up in the morning? I’m creating jobs. Why would I carry an empty bottle for 5 KM to a trash can when I can just throw it in the trees? I mean I won’t be back here anytime soon. I won’t go into ethical arguments against such reasoning. Suffice it to say there is no logical justification for littering.

However, the process of getting everyone on board takes time and will not happen naturally. Keeping all of Dongguan beautiful must be a team effort. It requires every person acting out of compassionate disinterest for the benefit of others. It’s a bit uncomfortable at first, but in a city of over 8 million everyone doing just a little makes a huge difference.

I’m inspired by people like Adam who founded and leads Beautiful Dongguan. It’s an organization devoted to picking up trash and keeping the environment clean and beautiful in areas of Dongguan where staff are limited. Beautiful Dongguan doesn’t only pick up trash but educates the community throughout each event. Often there is little disagreement about the necessity of keeping our parks free of trash, but it takes a bold group of people to take that first step for others to follow. Beautiful Dongguan is helping lead the way, you can too!

To get involved with Beautiful Dongguan or other environmental volunteer groups, scan the QR on the page to the left.