The green, the brown, and the ugly

Those of you who know me well, surely know that I am fully addicted to thrift stores and have a definite aversion to buying new clothes and household items. Unfortunately for me, the Taiwanese are all about new and shiny. They love new things so much that every year at the Lunar New Year, they throw all of their old things in the trash, and go out and buy new ones. While this particular ritual is rooted in tradition and the idea of starting fresh, I think that, in general, part of this throwaway culture stems from the fact that things are incredibly cheap here. It’s not financially ruinous to buy new things often, and those new things don’t really last too long.

Well, I tend to get down on this aspect of Taiwanese culture, as it goes against all of my core beliefs about reusing, not wasting things, and keeping consumerism at arms length. However, I do have to step back and give the Taiwanese some credit because what they lack in the thrift store department, they make up for in other pretty amazing ways. First of all, it is possible to recycle just about anything here. There is also no shortage of little old men and women pedaling around on bicycles with giant trailers filled to the brim with recyclables. They will happily allow you to add anything to the pile. Also, most people ride bicycles (zero gasoline!) or scooters (little gasoline), which is pretty dang redeeming, if you ask me.

All of these earth-friendly practices are great, but my favorite one of all is that the Taiwanese have figured out how to make any bit of unused land into a place to grow fruit or vegetables. Even in the middle of the city, rooftop gardens are standard, and green-spaces abound. I absolutely love it. Our apartment is situated on a busy highway, and across the street from a little farm that grows fruit and veg galore.


Part of our neighboring farm

Little spaces like this are everywhere.


Just outside the frame of this picture is a busy road lined with a military base and a little further down, a garbage dump. The point being that while some areas may not be the most aesthetically appealing nor environmentally inclined, there will always be something nearby to bring some beauty to the area.

Not only do the Taiwanese seem to plant everywhere, but they will also plant in anything. A practice that speaks straight to my heart. Give me some container-shaped garbage, I will most likely try to plant something in it.


Plants in broken pots and an old bathtub.

I love the ingenuity and resourcefulness. It’s adding little bits of life and beauty wherever possible. I also think all of this is really inspiring for us, especially in the US, where urban gardening is really making its way. Sometimes it seems difficult to find the space in the city to plant a garden, but take it from the Taiwanese, it can be done. You can dig up that 3-square-foot patch of dead grass in front of your place, and plant some greens there, and next time you are ready to throw out an old pair of boots, don’t. Plant some flowers in them instead.


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