10 Easy Things A Peace Corps Volunteer Can Do For The Environment in Thailand

Shawn Green and Counterpart Ajahn Teeraporn (Kwan)

My first contribution to Sticky Rice- yay!* Two disclaimers; one, this article is based on and limited by my knowledge and experience in very rural Ging Amphur Pho Tak, Nong Khai. Second, many points in the article obviously also apply to life in the U.S. Enjoy  🙂

ทิ้ง ขยะ ลง ใน ถัง ขยะ
Ting Kaya Lohng Nye Tang Kaya
Throw garbage down in garbage can.
When you see students or children litter, you can use this sentence to teach them to toss it in the can.

ไม่ เอา  ถุง  ครับ/ ค่ะ
Mi ow toong krap/ka
“Don’t want a bag.”

Refuse A Bag!! Most Thai merchants seem to think everything, even a sucking candy, must go in a plastic bag before they give it to you. You could throw in a “ประหยัด ๆ” (Bprayat, Bprayat), which means “Save, be thrifty, economical,” and is a virtue in Thailand. Alternatively, if you want to give the villagers a good laugh, bring bags with you from home. In fact, in the not-to-distant past Thai people brought baskets (ตะกร้า- dtakrah) with them and wrapped food in banana leaves (ใบตอง-bai dtawng).

ขี่ จักรยาน ได้ ออก กำลัง กาย แล้ว ไม่ มี มลพิษ ด้วย
Kee jakrayan, dai awk gamlang gai, laew, mi me molapit duay
Ride a bicycle, get exercise as well as no pollution, also.”

The Revolution Will Not Be Motorized! Just kidding, but it really bugs me seeing the 5th and 6th graders zipping around town on loud motorcycles. Besides safety and air pollution, are motorcycles really suitable for 11 year olds? Kids are supposed to ride bicycles! That’s what they’re supposed to do!

คุณ คิด ว่า อย่างไร ครับ
Khun khit wah yangrye krap
“What do you think?”

Talk to Thai people about the environment and nature. Teach them AND learn from them- exchange– isn’t that what Peace Corps is all about?!

Here’s some key vocab. to help you out:

  • อนุรักษ์ ธรรมชาติ/สิ่งแวดล้อม
    Anurak thammachaat/ singwaetlawm
    “Conserve nature/ environment.”
    thai recycle
  • ใน เมือง ไทย มี ปัญหา เกี่ยว กับ สิ่งแวดล้อม อะไร บ้าง
    Ny meaung Thai mee bpanha geow gap singwaetlawm arai bahng 
    “In Thailand, what environmental problems are there?”
  • มลพิษ ทาง อากาศ/น้ำ/ดิน/เสียง; ตัด ต้นไม้ ทำ ลาย ป่า
    Molapit tahng agaht/nam/din/seang; dtat dtonmai tahm lie bpah
    “pollution air/water/land/noise; deforestation (cut trees destroy forest).”
  • อัน นี้ ย่อย สลาย ได้ / ไม่ ต้อง เผา/ มัน จะ เป็น ปุ๋ย
    Ahn nee yawy salai dai / mi dtawng pao/ man ja bpen bpuay
    “This is biodegradable/ You don’t have to burn it/ It will be compost.”
  • นำ กลับ มา ใช้ ใหม่/ ซ่อมแซม/ ปฏิเสธ/ ลด ปริมาณ ลง
    Nahm glap ma chai mai/ sawm saem/ bpatiseht/ lot bparimahn lohng 
    “Reuse/ repair/ reject/ reduce(lower the quantity).”
  • ยา ฆ่า แมลง/ อาหาร ปลอด สาร พิษ
    Yah kah malaeng/ ahaan bplawt sahn pit 
    “Pesticides(medicine kill flies)/ organic food(food safe from poison).”
  • ฉัน สนใจ เกี่ยว กับ สิ่งแวดล้อม ศึกษา
    Chan sonjai geow gap singwaetlawm seuksa
    “I am interested about environmental education.”Many people know the following words in English: Greenhouse Effect, CFC, Foam, Plastic, Recycle

    Incorporate environmental issues into your work.

  • Teach integrated English/ Environment lessons
    booranagan pasa angrit gap singwaetlawn
    I have a few lessons I could share with you if you’re interested.monkrecycle

  • ทำ สวน ผัก
    tahm suan pak
    Plant a vegetable garden

  •  ค่ายสิ่งแวดล้อม
    Kahy singwaetlawm
    Organize an Environmental Camp or integrated Environmental/English Camp

  • จัด ชุมนุม สิ่งแวดล้อม
    Jat Choom Noom Singwaetlawm
    Organize an environment club
    *Many schools already have clubs (after-school or one period). Clubs are not new to them and they will be excited to add this one!

  • สำนักงาน มี อุปกรณ์ การเรียน การสอน เกี่ยว กับ สิ่งแวดล้อม ไหม คะ
    Sahm-nak-ngaan me upagawn ganrien gansawn geow gap singwaetlawm mi ka
    “Does the office have teaching materials about the environment?”

  • แล้ว แต่ เธอ
    Laew dtae ter 
    It’s up to you

cans recycled


Ride the wave!
Don’t think you are starting a trend or anything new by talking/teaching about the environment. Thai people are very conscious of environmental issues and have incredible knowledge of nature, agriculture, and herbs.

For example- Upon hearing that I was interested in environmental education, my PooChuay whipped out a video and a CD-ROM about environmental education that had been collecting dust in his desk for years.

  • I have seen a handful of Thai people ‘refuse a bag’.
  • Schools constantly telling students to throw their garbage in the can and having students collect litter (why they also collect twigs and leaves to burn is beyond the scope of the article;-)
  • Buddhist monks ordaining trees.
  • I have been criticized by three Thai people for a sculpture made of sea shells in my house. “You’re interfering with nature!” they say. “But someone bought it for me,” I pout in protest.
  • Some schools have environment clubs.
  • There was a government carpool campaign a few years ago
    ทาง เดียว กัน ไป ด้วย กัน
    Tang diow gan by duay gan
    Same path, go together.
  • Many cities have recycling programs.
  • 10% of Thailand is protected by national parks or wildlife sanctuaries.
  • Check out the Peace Corps library or ask Khun Grace for amazing environmental resources, many in Thai as well as English.
  • School supply stores have posters (teaching aids) about environ. ed.- 15 Baht each.
  • Countless Govt. agencies, NGOs, and other organizations working on environmental issues. (ex. Magic Eyes)

แยก ขยะ ตาม ประเภท
Yaek kaya dtam prapeht
“Separate garbage according to category.”

Many of you already know that you can recycle glass, plastic, paper, and iron at your house. I didn’t know how this would happen exactly, but kept repeating this mantra- “If I separate it, they will come.” Eventually, a guy came to pick up the stuff. He then resells it again for a profit. Turns out my neighbor tipped him off- they know our every move. Because everything we do is so carefully observed by Thai people, this is a good opportunity for campaigning without saying a word.

recycleใส่ ถุง ได้ ไหม คะ
Sy toong dai mi ka
“Put it in a bag”

Huh? You just said “mi ow toong.” What I mean is, if you are going to get the food to go, and Mae Kah is going to put it in a foam box, you can use this phrase to ask her to put it in a bag instead of foam. Although they know already, throw in a โฟม ไม่ ดี ต่อ สิ่งแวดล้อม for effect(Foam mi dee dtaw singwaetlawm- Foam isn’t good for the environment). For the นักอนุรักษ์ ที่ เคร่งครัด out there (Nak anurak tee krehng krat- strict environmentalist), bring Tupperware.

สนับ สนุน เศรษฐกิจ ท้องถิ่น
Sanap sanoon sehtagit tawng tin
“Support economy local” Shop close to home.

Thai people will often drive their motorcycles or trucks 30-60 kilo. looking for a discount in a large town or city. Buying locally is always environmentally friendly. I believe buying locally is one of the most important things you can do to support local economy and contribute to a stable community (choom chon kem kaeng) and a secure economy (sehtagit man kong).

ปลูก ต้นไม้ ที่ บ้าน
Bplook dton mai tee bahn
Plant trees at your house

Don’t know what to do with all that free time? Do like Jean and plant banana and papaya trees. Or like Anne who planted sunflowers. Or Loni who had a vegetable garden. Or Ajahn Teeraporn who grows herbs. Don’t know how? I’ve heard that ALL your neighbors, especially the Kun Yais, will come to help.*

ผม อยาก ไป ตลาด จตุจักร; ขึ้น รถ สาย ไหน ครับ
Pom yaak by dtalaht jatujak; kheun rot sahy nye
“I want to go to Jatujak Market, which bus do I get up onto?”
Support public transportation.

OK- I know the buses in Bangkok emit thick black smoke but- 25 people on a bus versus 6 taxis- which has more pollution? You do the math. And, perhaps if more people ride the bus they’ll have more money to upgrade the buses to more efficient models. Perhaps.  I almost forgot! How about those bicycle tuk-tuks in the smaller cities of Bangkok? You have to admit those things are pretty cool.

What else can you do for Thailand’s environment?

We came here to help- let’s do it!!!

*This was printed previously in Sticky Rice 2002 and Shawn resubmitted it for our groups to enjoy!

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