Car sales in China are a wee bit flat right now, but it’s still one of the world’s largest car markets. Congestion in cities is so bad that local governments have begun restricting how many people can drive each day. Despite that, the air quality and traffic remain untenable. Still, the China Environmental Protection Foundation’s campaign to get people out of their cars was an uphill battle at best.
But its Green Pedestrian Crossing installation managed to drive the message home to pedestrians in a really innovative and tangible way. The group enlisted the talents of Jody Xiong, creative director at design agency DDB Group China, to try to get more Chinese citizens to opt for walking instead of driving.
Xiong created massive canvases—41 feet tall by 22 feet across—and printed a single large leaf-less tree on each one. The canvases were laid across intersections on 132 roads in 15 cities across China. At both sides of each intersection, Xiong laid large pads soaked with an environmentally-friendly and quick-drying green paint. Then, he let art happen.
As pedestrians approached the intersection, they walked across the paint, which bled onto the soles of their shoes. By the time they’d reached the other side of the street, they had inadvertently “painted” a number of leaves onto the tree. By the end of the campaign, 3,920,000 people had contributed to the paintings.
You can call this all symbol and no substance, sure. Certainly the paintings haven't stemmed the growth of the Chinese auto market, but they assigned a certain value to walking. The paintings are their own kinds of rewards, and a novel way to convey that we all make choices every day that impact global health. The whole 10 Things You Can Do To Safe the Earth approach to encouraging "greener" lifestyles is great, but it’s not terribly inspiring. Maybe more environmental groups need to bring in artists to get the word out.
—Mary Catherine O'Connor