Recently Natasha and I have been talking a lot about that thing everyone else is talking about – personal responsibility in the face of global warming, carbon footprints and the trashing of our Mother Earth. Each and every time we get into this conversation we remind ourselves of what we saw and experienced in Vietnam over our winter break. As our Mekong Delta guide Mr. Hai told and demonstrated to us, the Vietnamese don't waste anything. As we in the progressive and civilized Western world wave our banners and create awareness while climbing aboard the green washed bandwagon, the Vietnamese quietly do what they do best, re-appropriate, reuse and recycle.
Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of examples of poor ecological practices in Vietnam such as burning leaves and garbage in the early morning, garbage that includes plastic and god knows what else. But in Vietnam there is a rich tradition of conservation that stems from necessity as much as it does for respect and knowledge of the land. Good lord, I may be smelling a series of posts on this subject! Oh the pressure.
Anyway, here is just a small example of what I am talking about. Like the English used to wrap fish 'n' chips in old newspaper, the Vietnamese won't hesitate to wrap their street food in any old paper they find lying around. Of course this type of reuse wouldn't fly in the United States of Purell, where everything is sealed and sanitized for your protection. But in practice, there is nothing that soaks up the oil of deep fried corn and sweet potato fritters of Hanoi like an old receipt or page from a magazine. At the end of the day you can even use the oil drenched paper as a torch as you find your way to the outhouse.