On a blue sky day, Hong Kong is nothing short of spectacular. But if a typhoon blows in, or a dodgy tide, so does a whole heap of rubbish and its beaches end up trashed. And it’s not just Hong Kong that is bearing the brunt of our obsession with throwaway plastic – there has been a marked and noticeable increase in the amount of rubbish strewn washing up on beaches all over South East Asia during the last couple of years.
With this in mind, two Clearwater Bay mums have launched The Green 52, an environmental blog aimed at encouraging followers to make lasting changes to their everyday lives to help reduce environmental impact.
Every Monday a green challenge will be posted on the blog and on Wednesday it will be explained how to achieve the challenge in Hong Kong.
“We will not preach, we will not make people feel guilty, rather we want to provide weekly, practical and manageable ideas on how to become more environmentally-friendly,” said co-founder Zoe Stevenson.
The pair, both British expats and Clearwater Bay residents, have five children under nine years between them and say the initiative was sparked by the worrying change in the environment that their kids are growing up in. “We are both lucky enough to live near the beach but over the past six years the amount of plastic washing ashore has increased dramatically,” explained fellow founder Laura Tyson. “It’s now easier for our children to collect bottle tops than shells.”
“We don’t expect people to do all the challenges, although that of course would be fabulous,” said Stevenson.
Start 2018 as you mean to go on – reduce, reuse and recycle. An environmental initiative from local university student Kathryn Davies hopes to rid Hong Kong of plastic bags. Find out how to join the movement…
What’s the big idea?
My big idea is to kill two birds with one stone – upcycle unwanted fabrics such as scraps from the textile or hotel industry to stop them going to landfill; and to create reusable, cloth bags that are a cheap alternative to plastic shopping bags. A further goal is to offer employment to those in need, particularly women.
How did it come about?
I was working on a PhD at Hong Kong University (HKU) until quite recently, but I was frustrated with the disconnect between lofty research and down-to-earth problems. Since being in Hong Kong, I’ve been mesmerized by the stunning natural environment that we have, but through participating in beach cleanups I have been heartbroken to see the senseless, even selfish, damage that we are causing. So, I decided to focus my time on doing something practical that would address the very real problem of plastic bag pollution. I thought putting together my skills with sewing would be the most realistic thing I could do.
So how does it work?
I want to create new systems of consumption and shopping so that there are reusable bags in place of plastic ones. The idea might involve rethinking how we can conveniently get reusable bags to where people need them – such as the supermarket or bakery – and how we could create a system for returning them. We’re very much in the planning stages at the moment.
How long has the idea taken to evolve?
It’s been brewing in my mind for a couple of years – as a PhD student you do a lot of procrastinating – but it was last September that we started to set the ball rolling by collecting fabric and sewing our first bags. We have just completed our first semester working with HKU social venture management students and we are still considering how best to move the idea forward. In the near future we hope to reach out to businesses who could distribute the bags, either as packaging for their products or directly into supermarkets.
How can readers get involved?
I hope one day all Hong Kongers will have a convenient reusable bag option available to them as an alternative to plastic bags. We may not be able to accomplish this easily in Hong Kong, so we may have to start by distributing the cloth bags to other countries where laws and habits are already favourable to less plastic consumption. I would encourage everyone to always carry a reusable bag with them – with each small change a difference is made. And I’ve discovered myself that it’s really not that inconvenient to live without disposable packaging. I’m also hoping to start up volunteer workshops, so people can come and help us sort and cut up the fabric to send to the ladies who sew for us. I’d love for Expat Parent readers to like us on Facebook and follow us when we advertise sales at local markets. Please do drop us a line and order some bags – our first prototypes! We hope to formally launch mid-year and have a website up and running by the end of this month, so stay tuned.