TIANJIN, April 28, Xinhua -- Though summer is approaching, Niu Guirong has no plans to install an air conditioner. The electricity-hogging appliances don't fit well with her frugal lifestyle.
The retiree's pension is higher than the average in Xuchang County, central China's Henan Province. Still, Niu, 61, and her husband try to save every penny they can.
They use energy-saving light bulbs, try to squeeze every last bit of toothpaste out of a tube, and are reluctant to throw away decades-old clothes.
"What we called 'thrifty' is now called a 'low carbon' lifestyle," she said with a smile.
China signed the Paris Agreement on climate change on Friday and will ratify it before September. To fulfill its commitment to the climate pact, China has promised to hit peak carbon emissions by 2030 and plans to cut its carbon emissions per unit of GDP by 18 percent in the next five years. While the government has a big role, ordinary Chinese people are also helping through their everyday habits.
"There is nothing bad about being frugal. It not only saves money, but also helps cut the country's emissions," said Niu.
China has a long tradition of thrift. Both Confucianism and Taoism teach frugality.
Traces of these values are found in the ancient architecture of Pingyao City in north China's Shanxi Province. In the old town of Pingyao, all of the traditional houses, about 500 in number, were designed with single-sided eaves so that rainwater could be collected inside the courtyard for daily use.
"The design shows our ancestors' energy saving intentions," said Wang Baodong, who works with the ancient town, a World Cultural Heritage site.
Shanxi's Pinglu County, where many live in dwellings dug out of the ground, reflects similar wisdom. The pit houses, about 10 meters deep, stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
"Terms like 'emissions cuts' didn't exist back then, but our ancestors' energy-saving intent is obvious," said local farmer Wang Shouxian.
The pit house Wang lives in was built 500 years ago. He said the house saves on timber and bricks and has never needed a heater or air conditioner. There are around 500 pit houses in the county today.
However, with a rising standard of living along with the country's opening up and reform drive, many younger people raised as only children were spoiled by parents who wanted to offer them the best. The public has criticized these young people for flaunting their wealth and extravagant lifestyles.
Wang Jinshan, a sociologist with Henan University of Economics and Law, said China's tradition of frugality is being challenged as education on these values has faded for young people born in and after the 1990s.
Wang urged official promotion of these values as the country develops a sustainable economy to tackle global climate change.
"Frugal habits will promote energy saving and emissions cuts, as individual efforts add up," said Wang.