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Banqueter Zhou Turns Lean Green

Clara Mak – Updated on Jun 21, 2008 – SCMP

Actress Zhou Xun, who starred in Banquet, has become an eco-activist and is urging others to join her in fighting climate change.

“If only everyone on the planet were to contribute a little, the world would become a much better place to live,” she said. “Every day we see the sun, we hear birds humming, we feel the natural breeze. These are the things that are given to us by the Earth but unfortunately, our Earth is really sick now.”

Zhou said she had long been aware of the issue of climate change, having witnessed the series of sandstorms – caused by pollution – that hit the mainland in recent years, but had not felt strongly enough to take action.

However, one night, about a year ago, while channel-flipping to see what was on, she discovered a film that was to be her wake-up call – the award-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth, made by former US vice-president Al Gore in 2006. Zhou said she was horrified to learn that the planet’s future is at stake.

“The film shows how global warming can result in serious problems such as natural disasters, disease epidemics, extinction of plants and animals and so on. It also warns that we only have another 50 years to act. Fifty years is a very short period of time, 30 years [of my life] have already gone by in a blink,” the 31-year-old actress said.

Since then, Zhou is committed to setting a good example to encourage others to live a simple lifestyle. She admits that in the past, she used to buy clothes that were very similar in style. Now she asks herself first: “Do I already have this dress? Yes. Do I have a lot of these dresses already? Yes. Do I still want to buy it? No. Then I walk away from the shop.”

She also takes her own chopsticks to a restaurant, uses her own mugs and carries her own toiletries when she checks into a hotel. But her landmark decision was to give up taking the baths that she adored.

“I met Jackie Chan during relief activity for victims of the Sichuan earthquake and he told me he had been carrying around with him the same bar of soap he had picked up from the first hotel he checked into and that it had travelled with him to at least five different countries. I was amazed.

“Now, when I hear or think of anything that can save the planet, I jot it down so I will remember it. I understand it’s very difficult to ask people to change certain habits overnight and I don’t oppose people taking baths but I will suggest that they fully utilise that bathtub of water, maybe to flush the toilet or to clean other things.”

Zhou has encouraged her film crew to ban the use of disposable chopsticks and rice boxes. “Every crew consists of at least 30 people and we have three meals a day on set. If each person uses three pairs of disposable chopsticks, that adds up to 90 pairs in total each day. A film project usually takes at least two months to complete. I am not good at maths but I understand that 90 pairs times 60 days is a very large number.”

In April, Zhou was appointed a national goodwill ambassador for the UN Development Programme to promote environmental sustainability. Other ambassadors include footballer Ronaldo, tennis star Maria Sharapova and Japanese actress Misako Kono.

Zhou receives the princely sum of US$1 a year from the UN but money is the least of her concerns. “If we can make the Earth a better place to live, that’s priceless,” she said.

Watch the Video To watch highlights of actress Zhou Xun talking about her concern for green issues, visit

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