Foreigners fight for a greener Vietnam

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If you spot a foreigner picking up garbage in Hanoi, he or she may be a member of the Hanoi Environmental Group (HEG).

A group of conscientious expats founded the group in the capital under three basic principles (or No's)"”there is "no office, no profit, and no leader."

The organization has been meeting for about a year, usually with between five and 25 members in attendance, according to Ben Minot, one of the group's founders.

Anyone can become a Heger (that is, a member of HEG), the group promised.

"The only people not welcome are whiners and complainers," the organization's website was quoted as saying.

Instead of complaining about the city, HEG founders mobilized around 170 people to tidy up areas around Tay (West) Lake, last September.

The clean-up programs initiated by the HEG drew help from foreigners and Vietnamese, alike. As the group grew, the whole town got involved.

NGOs, embassies, restaurants and coffee shops have all pitched in to support the effort.

The group is now preparing to launch its 26 Degree program.

"We will urge the public to keep their air conditioners at 26 degrees, at the lowest," said Eddy, a member of the group. "This is a very simple way for all of us to protect the environment."

HEG hopes to reduce energy consumption (and CO2- emissions) and reduce the heat and noise pumped into the street by over-worked A/C units.

In addition to addressing environmental problems, HEG has served as an important social network as it has connected individuals, companies and government agencies from Vietnam and beyond.

Further information on the HEG is available at their website: http://hegroup.posterous.com.

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