Mountain volunteers

Leave no Trace: The Environmental Costs of Nature Tourism in China

As urban nature-lovers head outdoor, rural communities struggle with the ecological impact

Living in “Beijing’s Most Beautiful Village” is a blessing and curse for Wang Junqing. The 63-year-old party secretary starts off each day by worrying about the growing piles of plastic trash left everywhere in the mountainous Xiangtun village, in the capital’s Yanqing district. “Plastic bags, disposable cartons, and other white trash have been found more and more, thrown here and there in our village, and it’s mostly from travelers coming in.”

Ironically, this problem began after Xiangtun joined the government’s “Beautiful Village” rural tourism development project in 2007, attracting a growing number of outdoor-lovers to explore the area’s picturesque valleys, streams, and Great Wall ruins.

To Xiangtun’s 100 residents (mostly chestnut farmers), “trash” used to refer to organic scraps they could feed their pigs, chickens, and other livestock. But as the number of visitors climbed, Wang has had to dispatch locals to patrol the village and the nearby mountain three times a week to report litterers and collect waste. Sanitation staff hired by the district go up the mountain once a week collecting litter and emptying overflowing bins, transporting them to a landfill 30 kilometers away.

This is subscriber exclusive content

Become a subscriber to continue reading

Leave no Trace: The Environmental Costs of Nature Tourism in China is a story from our issue, “Call of the Wild.” To read the entire issue, become a subscriber and receive the full magazine. Alternatively, you can purchase the digital version from the App Store.


author Yang Tingting (杨婷婷)

Yang Tingting is a Chinese editor at The World of Chinese. Interested in telling Chinese stories, she writes mainly about culture, language, and society.

Related Articles