Meng Jie said she had a rewarding journey with her family on a recent weekend in Jizhou district, in the North China city of Tianjin.
After driving about two hours out of the downtown area, she and her family arrived at a building complex for ecological education. There they attended classes with different themes, such as turning used bottles and packaging boxes into useful objects or artwork.
"The experience has been very stimulating and satisfying, not only for my girl but also for me," said Meng, who is in her 30s.
Meng said she had just planned a day of normal family activities over the weekend, so the fruitful educational experience was surprising.
"My daughter liked the classes very much. She listened attentively to the teachers when they were talking and was very careful when making handicrafts," she said.
Meng added that she herself was inspired to conduct similar activities at home in the future so that her child could adopt the healthy habit of protecting the environment.
Meng was just one among many visitors to Eden Chunshanli, or Eden in the Mountains of Spring, which is an ecological education and sustainable living demonstration base located at the site of what used to be Donghouziyu quarry.
The base is one of the representative achievements of the district's efforts in improving the environment.
Located north of Tianjin, Jizhou district is the city's only mountainous area. Since the 1980s, the district had focused on developing construction materials as its pillar industry. Activities like demolition of mountainsides and open-faced excavation in search of brickmaking materials left behind many abandoned pits and did staggering harm to the local environment.
In 2008, the local government decided to protect the damaged environment by shutting down the district's mines and processing factories, and in 2014, began a campaign to restore plant life to the mountains on a large scale.
In 2018, local authorities started to bring in private industry to participate in ecological restoration in a drive for sustainable development.
"The place is not only for tourism, but also for demonstrating living practices through which people can learn valuable ecological concepts and nature knowledge," said Cui Wei, an investor and a founder of Eden Chunshanli, adding that in the facility, more and more children can get closer to nature, and thousands of families can come to experience a more environmentally friendly lifestyle.
Parents and children have access at the facility to classes and activities about environmental protection, learning skills like how to plant trees, and how to create more nutrient-rich soil by mixing in decayed plants and vegetable waste.
"Our hope is to not only restore life to the abandoned pits, but also sow environmentally friendly ideas in people's minds," said Wang Lihua, deputy general manager of Eden Chunshanli.
According to Wang, the facility also features an insect-themed nature museum where children can learn about their tiny neighbors and further understand the relationship between human beings and nature.
Since 2020, when the base opened to the public, it has attracted over 200,000 visits, which has in turn bolstered the incomes of more than 2,000 nearby households through their participation in the tourism industry.
Other pits in the district are undergoing a similar development process. Projects include small scenic towns and bases for adventure activities, as well as accommodation and catering for tourists.
Combined with existing cultural and tourism resources in the district, including Panshan Mountain scenic resort and the Huangyaguan section of the Great Wall, Jizhou has become a hot spot for visitors.
During this year's Spring Festival in January, the district received more than 100,000 tourist visits, quadruple the number of the year before, according to Li Shuling, an official in the district's culture and tourism bureau.
"This is the result of the area's efforts in building an ecologically friendly civilization under the concept that clear waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets," Li said.