Lingling - Treat everything you have well

Lingling makes it possible for more of us to consume consciously by raising awareness about the link between overconsumption and the environmental challenges we face. She founded the NGO, Bluesky4Children in 2014 to help find solutions through clothing donation and educational programs aimed at helping consumers live better lives with less. Read on to find out more about her story and thoughts on minimalism and sustainability.

Where are you from? What brought you to Shanghai?

I was born in Shanghai and lived here until I was 24. I then moved to the UK and lived there for 10 years before coming back. I came back in September 2014 with my child, who was two years old at the time. We really enjoyed the weather until the air pollution got really bad in November 2014. I got so fed up with the environment and decided to set up Bluesky4Children as an environmental NGO.

I thought to myself ‘we have to do something about the environment, it’s not livable!’ We don’t know what the long-term effects will be on our children. That single point got us crowd funded. I didn’t have any experience in running an environmental NGO at that time. There were so many areas we could work on, but we had to find something to focus on. We did a lot of research and found that the clothing industry is the 2nd most pollutant industry in the world. The average consumption of clothes has increased sharply in recent decades. Everyone needs to wear clothes so it’s a good area to focus on and we are able to use some of our common sense to start with.

At first, we collected used clothes and tried to make better use of it. We’d clean it, pack it up and send it to poor areas. That’s the most straight-forward thing to do, but we found that a lot of clothes donated to us still had tags on. Helping people donate their clothes isn’t enough. Gradually we received too many clothes, too many to donate. People buy too much so we decided to design a course to help people to buy less, chose well and make them last. We’re in the process of restructuring the course based on feedback from a trail we did last year.

What does sustainability mean to you?

Sustainability is a lifestyle. We live in a heavily populated world and resources are limited. To keep the population flourishing we all need to consume as little as possible in order to leave enough for future generations. Sustainability is about only buying and consuming things that are essential.

What are you passionate about?

I’m passionate about helping BlueSky4Children survive and last for as long as possible, to make it work, and to make more people environmentally conscious.

How do you do to consume consciously?

I don’t consume much now. There’s a principle I follow, I try to buy things that disappear, clothes, for example, don’t disappear, it’s best to buy as few (and quality ones) as possible. I also try not to buy anything unnecessary.

When did you become aware of the need to consume minimally?

It started when Bluesky4Children had a campaign about minimalism, to help people minimise what they buy. Before that, I wasn’t that environmentally conscious myself. To start with, I threw away unnecessary things and after a while, I didn’t feel the need to buy as much anymore. I changed my lifestyle, relying much less on material stuff. The more I do in this area, the more I become aware of what I need to do personally. One can’t talk about the environmental problems we face and still over-consume resources.

Nowadays it feels like we’re living in a big shopping mall, especially in big cities like Shanghai. People shouldn’t live like that. We want to improve the course we started developing last year to help people live on less.

How would more people becoming conscious of what they consume change the world?

More resources would be saved which would leave more for future generations. People would start to lead less stressful lives. People think the possession of things brings a sense of security but in fact, the opposite is true. You feel more secure and less stressed when you rely less on consumption.

Living on less also helps people find their passion. It happens naturally when your focus isn’t on material things. In addition, when people become more conscious of what they consume they shop less and have more time to participate in the things they’re passionate about.

What’s the easiest part of consuming consciously?

Initially, people only care about their personal well-being. People care about their food, water and the air they breathe, but that’s the first step towards becoming environmentally aware. Taking care of the environment is easier when you’ve been educated about the environment from a younger age. Unfortunately, most Chinese people haven’t been educated about environment protection while growing up. We’re now living in an environmental crisis. The first time people have to face it is when it affects their personal wellbeing, that’s when they’ll naturally start to consume consciously.

What’s the hardest part of consuming consciously?

The hardest part is changing your habits. Once you get to a certain age people don’t want to change their habits. We’ve missed the chance to educate people at a young age. We need to combine personal welfare with care for the environment. With minimalism, there’s a link between your own welfare and the environment.

What are your top 3 practical changes?

  • Before you buy new clothes, make sure you know what you already have.
  • Get rid of unnecessary things in one go and start to lead a much simpler lifestyle.
  • Buy less, chose well and make it last. It’s will help you live a better, happier life.

What are the biggest challenges we face today?

People have to find a balance between the economy and the environment. That’s how we’ll find a sustainable future. We have to compromise in order to save the environment.

If the whole world was listening, what would you say?

Treat everything you have well.

What do you do?

I’m the founder of Bluesky4Children

Follow Bluesky4Children on WeChat: baobeiailantian