TAO Shifen Sky Lantern Cleanup
Cleaning up sky lanterns in Taiwan is unique because you don’t go to the trash, the trash comes to you.
Last week, the TAO family went to Pingxi to help the residents pick up fallen lanterns just outside the well-known Shifen Old Street. The Pingxi area is famous for its sky lanterns that are most popular during the months of February and March. Residents come from around the world to set off lanterns inscribed with hopes for their career, love life, and good health.
Although this is a beautiful tradition that promotes togetherness and unity, most visitors don’t see the other half of this spectacle. Just around the corner and all along the railroad tracks, lanterns were falling every few minutes into the surrounding environment. Trees along the mountainside were littered with lanterns of every color completely out of reach from residents and volunteers alike.
Despite the apparent hopelessness of reaching most of these lanterns, our team was adamant to remove as much rubbish as possible, climbing down slopes, beside rivers, and into dense woods. In the end, we managed to collect over 150kg of lantern material. That’s a lot of paper!
After all the materials were collected, we gave the remnants of the lanterns to the residents of the town. The government compensates the residents for the lanterns collected with either food or money depending on the amount of lantern rings and paper gathered. Although this is a great effort from the government, many of the residents who go into the mountains to get the lanterns are very old and are in no condition to do these tasks. Because of this, we were happy to contribute.
The tradition of setting off lanterns isn’t one that needs to stop, but it does need more awareness. There are several, more environmentally friendly alternatives to traditional lanterns. And next time, if you decide to set off a traditional lantern, try following it to see where it goes.
See you at the next cleanup!