Chinese students make low-carbon music

by Yuan Quan and Jia Zhao

An empty Ferroro chocolate box doesn’t have much use to most people. But a group of Chinese teens has used the box and other refuse to craft musical instruments, giving their waste a new purpose.

Ming Yue, a student at the Beijing No. 214 Middle School, is one of the students responsible. She and the rest of the students have made dozens of musical instruments out of ordinary trash as part of a class offered at their school.

The chocolate box was used to make a pipa, a traditional Chinese musical instrument. The students combined the box with the leg of a broken chair and some strings to create a functioning string instrument.

Ming’s favorite creation is a clarinet she made out of PVC pipe. “Take a 20-cm PVC pipe, drill holes in its surface and place a whistle inside. That’s the clarinet that I made,” Ming said.

Ming played clarinet for 10 years before making her PVC clarinet in 2011, when she joined the class. The students test and select refuse to use at the beginning of the class, with a teacher helping them craft the collected trash into useable instruments.

Teng Baohua, the teacher responsible for the class, described the process as “transforming trash into treasure.”

“We have created more than twenty kinds of instruments so far, including flutes, drums, guitars and some traditional Chinese instruments,” Teng said.

Because the material used to make the instruments is just ordinary waste, the instruments cost little or nothing to assemble, Teng said.

Teng said that although he initially took the lead in collecting the materials, more students are bringing in their own refuse to use, including chopsticks, plastic bottles and discarded boxes.

The students are gradually learning to reduce and make use of waste on their own initiative, Teng said.

Not satisfied with simply crafting their works, the students are also showing a willingness to learn how to play the environmentally friendly instruments.

They have formed their own band made up of a flute player, an erhu (traditional Chinese string instrument) player, some drums and other portable instruments. The band has visited neighboring communities, companies and campuses to perform.

Although the voices of the self-made instruments may not be as pleasing to the ear as those of their real counterparts, the band’s use of such instruments has brought them great applause, Ming said.

“They are shocked when they realize what we are playing with,” Ming said.

Ming’s band is not the only group to use instruments made out of refuse. The Beijing No. 5 Middle School also has a so-called “low-carbon band.” The band played at an international energy-saving and emission-reduction expo in 2009, where they were encouraged by former President Hu Jintao.

The students’ efforts to promote environmental awareness and reduce their own carbon footprint have been praised online.

“The instruments are both attractive and practical, a perfect combination of art and ‘green’ products. The students are great!” wrote one microblogger on Sina Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter.

Chang Cheng, an environmentalist from the non-government organization Friends of Nature, said transforming waste into musical instruments represents a new way to recycle waste.

“Individual efforts may be small in quantity, but their impact is broad,” Chang said, adding that such efforts will encourage more people to reduce their own impact on the environment.

President Xi Jinping on Tuesday called on China’s youth to protect the environment and live frugal lifestyles while attending a tree-planting activity with other leaders. Enditem

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