Real Environmental Leadership


In early May, the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club (RHKYC) announced that from June 8th 2016  onwards, it will no longer sell beverages in single-use plastic bottles nor provide members with plastic bags or straws. According to its Facebook’s post, the Club’s Rear Commodore Sailing, Anthony Day said, “Reducing the amount of waste being dumped into our oceans is one of the challenges of our time. Here in Hong Kong, where recycling is effectively non-existent, it’s impossible to sail far without being struck by the amount of plastic that finds its way into our waters and onto our beaches. As one of the world’s larger and most active yacht clubs, RHKYC is then uniquely positioned to be able to show innovation and leadership in no longer using or providing plastic bags, bottles or straws. I am proud of our cadets for showing the way through their successful initiatives promoting the use of reusable water bottles over the past three editions of Hong Kong Race Week and grateful both to our management and to our membership for now taking up the ‘plastic free’ challenge with effect from World Oceans Day.”

Many premises in Hong Kong sell plastic bottled drinks.  The primary reason for this practice is convenience and costs – staff don’t need to prepare the drinks or to wash the tableware afterwards.  It is a very easy way to make money.  An even easier way is to allow the beverage company to place vending machines on the premises.  The beverage company will dispatch staff to re-stock the machines regularly.  In return for allowing the machines to be installed, the premise owner takes a cut of the sales revenue. In order to protect the marine eco-system from being further traumatised by more plastic waste, the RHKYC’s decision demonstrates real leadership in going against this tide.

REAL environmental leadership inevitably involves changes to revenue-generating or core operations and educating customers, which most companies and organisations will shy away from (don’t rock the boat). The prevalence of MBA-style thinking has taught our leaders to use cost-benefit or risk-return models to make organisational decisions. Most environmental changes will result in increased short-term risks or costs to the organisation. This is why the RHKYC leadership is real – it goes against the prevailing model to address a big-picture problem.

While the RHKYC says “no” to plastic bottled drinks, what are our “leaders” in government are saying and doing? Recently, Anthony Cheung, the Secretary for Transport and Housing, when asked by a legislative councillor why there are no water fountains installed in parks and leisure areas managed by the Housing Authority,  gave the following reply “Since the《Hong Kong Planning Standards and Guidelines》is silent as to provision of water fountains, and since water fountain is not a standard facility in public housing estates, hence there is no plan for the Bureau to install water fountains at these locations.”  The Secretary further suggested park users either bring their own drinks or buy them from shopping arcades in the public housing estates. In contrast to the leadership and decisiveness of the RHKYC, Secretary Cheung’s bureaucratic response is really quite embarrassing.

In response to Secretary Cheung, I have the following questions: Does the《Hong Kong Planning Standards and Guidelines》mention the provision of vending machines?  If not, why are there so many beverages vending machines placed in government premises? How much profit has the government made from sales of plastic bottled drinks from these vending machines?  Is this profit being re-invested to subsidise the recycling of plastic bottles?

Lee Tung Street ~ Then and Now


Over a decade ago, I worked in an office building on Queen’s Road East.  On the way to and from the MTR, I walked through one of those small streets connecting Queen’s Road East to Johnston Road.  Spring Garden Lane was often jammed packed with people.  So if I was in a hurry and wanted to avoid the human traffic jam there, I would walk on Lee Tung Street instead.  There were a number of wedding card design and print shops there.  In between them, there was also a custom shirt maker.  I walked into this shop one day in 2004 and had a white shirt made.  There were two gentlemen working in the shop, the middle-age man was responsible for taking measurements and helping clients select the fabric and detailing. The elderly gentleman was busy with the sewing machine at the back.

The White Shirt that Lasted a Decade

After washing and wearing the shirt for a number years, the shirt was longer white.  However, since it fits me so well, I kept wearing it.   Recently, I realised that it had started to fray near the collar.  I had to admit that my relationship with this white shirt had finally come to an end.  Luckily, the phone number on the tag was still in use by shop, which had since relocated to the nearby Luen Fat Street.  So twelve years later,  I dropped by again. The elderly tailor had passed away.  Now all the work is solely performed by the owner.  This time I had two white shirts made.


Leaving the shop on my way to the MTR, I walked past the redeveloped Lee Tung Street (see photo).  All the old “Tong Lau” have been replaced by high-end apartments selling for over HKD 30,000 per square foot.  Only a couple of the original wedding card shops were willy enough to return to the redeveloped Lee Tung Street.  The rest of the the shop lots were occupied by mid-to-high end jewellery stores, boutiques, and cake shops.  There are quite a number of young people working there.  Some as property agents, waiting anxiously for investors that dare to dive into the market at this moment.  Some are doorman, wearing velvet suits and topper hats, holding the door and greeting the residents of the “luxurious” apartment buildings.  Many are store clerks, standing idly in the empty shops waiting for the first customer of the day.

Tailor Made Shirts vs. Mass Produced Polos

Returning to Central with my shirts, I walk past the flagship store of an international clothing brand.  The one with handsome half-naked male models at the entrance greeting customers, and hot young sales staff that would randomly yell “Yo! What’s up?”  I realised that the price I had just paid for a custom shirt made in Hong Kong was not enough to even buy a mass produced polo shirt made in a third world country.

Is it not time for craftsmen that produce high quality goods to regain the respect they deserve? Is it not time to build a resilient local economy that produces quality goods rather than simply re-selling imports? Is it not time to create an environment where the next generation has the financial ability to invest in developing their skills rather than wasting away in dead end jobs? Is it not time to take the economy back from the developers and “luxury” brands?



A Students Open Letter



NOTE This open letter is re-published with permission from the environmental action group Grebbish.


Let your action match your words!

I am a university student participating in a competition called ‘Glocal Greenovation’. The competition is a corporate social responsibility event hosted by Sasa and VolTra, and it is supported by twenty-five organisations and companies, including the Environment Bureau, and Google. The competition was an unforgettable experience. I was given the chance to discuss green ideas with innovative, experienced, and friendly people from a variety of sectors. It also granted me the chance to visit the offices of KMPG, Google, and other participating corporations. Last weekend, I visited the Google Office in Hong Kong. It was a memorable experience, but it also showed me how careless catering arrangement can produce a huge amount of waste.

From the event emails, I can see that the organisers are environmentally conscious as they asked participants to bring our own cutlery, bottles, and cups; the organisers also offered rental of reusable cutlery for $20. KPMG provided the venue and a sufficient number of mugs in the first two days. The organiser served pizzas and party sandwiches, so cutlery use was cut to minimal. During dinner time, a cleaning lady of KPMG, possibly not knowing much about the event, offered to put a stack of paper cups in case all the mugs were used. After I told her that the event was promoting environmental protection, she quickly left with the paper cups. I applauded the arrangement at the end of those two days. At that time, I did not know that the arrangement would create more waste in the future.

I spent my last Saturday and Sunday from 9am to 9pm in Google Office. After the participants entered, the hype over the creative office design shifted to no less than ten pots of free Starbucks coffee over the pantry counter. I could not help but stare at the tall stacks of Starbucks paper cups that came with markers for participants to mark their names. Many people used the paper cups as the bottles they brought along were not heatproof. Was waste reduction considered during the food and drinks arrangement? I started to wonder.

The organisers ordered almost every sandwich on the menu of Oliver’s Super Sandwiches for the first meal in Google Office. The sandwiches were already packaged and participants searched for their options according to a written index. At the end, about ten sandwiches (five of which were club sandwiches) were left behind. One of my teammates microwaved her sandwich as she could not eat raw food. Some of the participants did not even eat their sandwich. These food waste can be easily avoided by setting up a simple online form for ordering on the competition’s Facebook group.

In the evening, vegetarian buffet was served and this was where the disposable cutlery frenzy started. My teammates did not bring their own boxes and cutlery as they were not needed on previous nights. No one made use of the the $20 cutlery rental service;instead, many of them used the Starbucks paper cups and coffee straws to hold their food. The rubbish filled all the bins as no cleaning was provided during the weekends.

Pots of new coffee were bought with new Starbucks paper cups in the next morning, but more participants brought heatproof cups. Then came lunch time. “Grab your lunch at pantry guys!” the voluntary helpers announced. I walked to the pantry, saw the most horrid sight — on the counter were piles of KFC boxes and bags of disposable cutlery. As I carefully put a chicken wing in my box, another personnel told me to just take the whole boxes of wings away for my group. The waste started to fill up the garbage bags.
After the final group presentations and the winners were announced, one of the voluntary helpers called for people to finish all the remaining KFC food. “You are welcome to take some food away,” said the Google representative through the microphone, “we have filled all garbage bags we have in the office.”

A group of participants started eating the leftovers away. My group members and I were taking photos, and a helper approached us, “if you want to eat, please help us eat the remaining chicken,” she pleaded. I thanked her for volunteering for the event, and found out that she was the leading voluntary helper. “I wrote the scripts for MCs and made all of the slides,” she said. I seized the opportunity and asked about the food choice. “Well, we just ordered whatever we thought of.” The topic switched as she talked to my team members.

When I was a freshman, I used to take pictures of waste left in orientation camps, because I stand firm on the principle that we need to address the issue properly no matter how ugly it could be. Having heard what the volunteer said, I decided to take my mobile phone out again to take pictures of the waste there, all the ignored yet inevitable proof all cameramen there would nimbly avoid. I decided to post my photos here and write this article because the public needs to know that this waste of earth resources can be avoided. I am writing this article because the last day of the competition will be held next Saturday in the office of Credit Suisse, and I want to make sure that the organisers of such an innovative and eye-opening competition will be careful when it comes to producing waste. I hope that while they aim to promote environmental protection, , they can match their actions with their words.

New Water Dispensers in HKU

A few months ago, I had a chat with Ms. Ann Kildahl of the HKU Sustainability Office about the water dispensers in the HKU campus.  Ann told me that based on the number of staff and students, there should be more water dispensers installed in HKU campus.  And thanks to her effort and that of other good folks at HKU…here they are!  Three new water dispensers have recently been installed at: G/F of James Hsioung Lee Science Building, LG of Chong Yuet Ming Physics Building and 3/F of TT Tsui Building.  There is a censor installed on each of these dispensers.  You stick your water bottle in, and water is dispensed automatically. There is also a counter showing how many disposable plastic bottles this machine has helped to reduce.  Although this water dispenser is newly installed, it has already reduced 1559 disposable plastic bottles from going into the landfill.

CUHK is also working hard towards plastic waste reduction.  I paid a visit to Mr. Jor Fan, Environmental Sustainability Manager of CUHK last summer.  Jor told me that the Estate Management Office of CUHK had notified all the drink vendors to remove 40% of their vending machines from the CUHK campus (excluding the colleges, which are separately managed).  This not only reduces plastic waste but also reduces electricity consumption. For the remaining vending machines, CUHK encouraged the vendors to reduce the sale of plastic bottled drinks.  At the same time, in order to encourage students to bring their own bottle, CUHK is posting up more water dispenser maps on the campus.  

While two of the top universities in Hong Kong are working hard to reduce plastic waste at source, the largest public transportation operator continues to allow its tenants to sell tonnes of plastic bottled drinks inside each and every MTR station. It continues to resist requests for installation of water dispensers inside MTR stations.  Recently, a friend of mine wrote to MTR to request installation of water dispensers inside MTR station.  He received the following reply “We would like to stress that at MTR, we always place passenger safety as our top priority. With regard to your suggestion of providing drinking fountains in MTR stations, we appeal for your understanding that there are large numbers of passengers using MTR services and walking around in the stations, therefore setting up drinking fountains in stations may cause hygiene issues and also misuse would cause the surrounding ground to be slippery and a potential danger to other passengers passing by. Therefore, for safety reasons, we currently have no plans to install drinking fountains in our stations.”

Lets examine if their reasoning is valid. The Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA), since its opening back in 1998, has installed more than 50 water dispensers at various locations inside its terminals.  Recently, it has even installed water dispensers which provide hot drinking water.  Have you ever heard of any slip-and-fall case at the HKIA due to misuse of water dispensers?  As to the so-called “hygiene issue”, it is actually referring to a famous urban myth: uncivilised people using the water fountain to wash their hands and feet, or even spitting into the basin (Note: there is no basin with the new type of water dispenser shown in the photo).  May I ask if any of our readers have actually seen this happening in Hong Kong?  Almost everyone now owns a phone which can take photos and videos, if such uncivilised acts actually took place in Hong Kong, photos or video recordings of such acts would have gone viral by now.

I urge MTR stop wasting time making up excuses.  Just follow the good example set by HKU and HKIA and start installing water dispensers inside MTR stations!


Fast Fashion: The Hidden Waste


Recently, I participated in a very insightful activity at the office of a fabric manufacturer. With other volunteers, I helped to remove labels which contained sensitive pricing and product information from thousands of pieces of cloth samples.  The labels contained proprietary info – if the labels were not removed, the samples would have had to be bagged and thrown into the landfill to prevent the info from being passed to competitors.  After we removed the labels, these samples were instead given away free-of-charge for up-cycling into usable items such as cushion covers, clothes, bags, dolls etc.

Being ordinary consumers, we normally only see the waste from fast fashion after an item has been purchased.  For example, the used clothes collection box in my building is always overflowing to such an extent that the property management recently decided to replace it with one double the size. Shopping it seems is therapy and we need plenty of it.

While we were removing these labels by hand, the organiser (who had successfully convinced his family business to give away these cloth samples rather than throwing them away) shared his insider knowledge of the hidden waste in the fashion industry:

Every season, fashion designers and their sourcing agents design numerous styles of clothing.  Those shortlisted require sourcing of material for making samples, some for the buyers and designers to choose from, others for conducting product testing. To take one international clothing brand as an example – each season over a 1000 styles are produced for their men, women and children’s wear collections.  Each style usually comes in multiple colours which requires its own sample. Over 10,000 yards of cloth are used each season just to make samples for one brand.

After finalising the style and the colour selection, the next stage involves mass production where more cloth is wasted at each and every stage of the manufacturing process. The greater the variety of styles and colours, the greater the amount of waste produced. To drive consumption, the fashion industry is constantly invoking the ideas of “personal style” and keeping our wardrobe “up to date”. To what end? And at what cost to the environment?

The Clean by Design initiative promoted by Natural Resources Defense Council(NRDC) is trying to address the issue of waste in the supply chain:

“Through extensive hands-on research in China, NRDC has developed 10 practical, inexpensive, easy-to-implement best practices for textile mills that significantly reduce water, energy and chemical use, thereby improving manufacturing efficiency. In fact, in nearly all cases, NRDC’s best practices pay themselves back in less than a year. Designers, retailers and brands can reduce the footprint of their global supply chain by encouraging or requiring mills to adopt these improvements and reward those that do so with more business.”

When I mentioned this initiative to the organizer – whose family business owns factories in mainland China – he told me that he has never heard of it. He further went on to explain that the profit margins of textile mills have been depressed since the rise of fast fashion – which is all about “cheap, fast and quantity”. As such, the mills owners are not willing or able to invest in implementing any of these best practices. 

Even though his family business relies on sales to the fashion industry, his advice for consumers is to simply “say no to fast fashion, and go for good quality clothing which will last”.


Plastic Disaster on Rainy Days


The climate is definitely changing – the Hong Kong Observatory issued its first ever amber rainstorm warning in January.  If you are bringing an umbrella with some dripping water indoors – what would you do? In the 1980s, most restaurants had an umbrella rack with individual locks placed near the entrance.  As a child, I always wanted to try it out, but my parents always said no.  They said it is completely fine to bring your umbrella with you, because even back then the restaurants knew to lay a non-slip PVC mat onto the floor.  Decades later, all those big umbrella racks have given way to the so-called umbrella bag dispensers.  Google this machine and you’ll find this advertisement “no electricity needed, easy to use, it only takes 2 seconds to bag an umbrella, each refill contains 1000 umbrella bags.”  Not only restaurants, but most office buildings and shopping malls now put out these “umbrella bags dispensers” at their entrances on rainy days, giving plastic umbrella bags to everyone who happens to walk past. Recently, I was walking in The Centre on a rainy day.  Although the lobby was already covered with a non-slip PVC mat, the property management staff were standing anxiously next to an umbrella bag machine.  One of them signalled to me I should go get an umbrella bag.  In response to their unnecessary “concern” and “generosity”, I waved them off and continued walking.

“Generosity” is in quotations because I’d like to ask: out of whose generosity? Theoretically speaking, these plastic bags can be re-used, practically speaking they are disposable. We can see that on any given rainy day, the rubbish bins on the streets in town are overflowing with these umbrella plastic bags. At most having been used for one single day, these bags will then be thrown into landfill and it will take hundreds of years for them to disintegrate.  Who will suffer when the landfills are full and need to be expanded?  Those of us who are happy to take a free plastic umbrella bags.

While writing this article, my friend Amy whatsapp’ed this photo to me.  Amy and her family were walking past this rubbish bin.  Her 7-year old daughter On Yi saw this and asked her parents to take this photo to send me.  On Yi also sent me this voice massage, which is translated as follow “hello Auntie Rachel, I am On Yi.  I think those umbrella plastic bags are not too environmental friendly.  Because those bags are made of oil…it takes a long time to breakdown.  What’s more, many people lack public morals (referring people throwing the used bags on the floor).  Janitors need to sweep them up…or else others would step on them and slip and fall.”

I hope we can all learn from On Yi and stop using these bags.

Rooftop Farming


Urban farming on rooftops has been gaining traction in cities around the world. Its rise can originally be traced to consumers increasing awareness of carbon emissions that result when our food travels hundreds, if not thousands of miles from the farm to our table. As an experienced urban farmer that grows on the rooftops of commercial buildings such as the Bank of America Tower, and as a farming instructor at schools and universities such as HKU, I’ve gained an in depth understanding of the challenges, as well as the opportunities.

Space limitations in a city such as Hong Kong make rooftop farming an attractive option for growers. Farming on the rooftop creates numerous social, economic and environmental benefits. A HKU paper examining green roofs concluded that:

“Apart from enhancing the city landscape and environment, mitigating the urban heat island effect and improving air quality, green roof can improve the microlimate and increase the life span of waterproof and insulation facilities on the roof. Consequently, roof greening with a sufficient large scale is conducive to energy conservation and life cycle cost saving for the urban city.

Green roofs can help reduce three of the four top problems facing the society in the next 50 years: energy, water, and environment. In this way, the green roof technology has a potential to improve quality of population health and welfare in the urban areas with dramatically reduced vegetation.”

Rooftop farms reduce the carbon footprint of our food. Most of our fresh vegetables are transported hundreds of miles in refrigerated trucks. For consumers, rooftop farming provides fresher, more nutritious produce and reduces our reliance on imports which today account for 98% of all vegetables consumed in Hong Kong. Vegetables grown on rooftop farms can reach consumers in a day instead of weeks. According to this Harvard paper, “foods grown far away that spend significant time on the road, and therefore have more time to lose nutrients before reaching the marketplace.” Up to 40% of the nutritional value of fresh produce can be lost during transport and distribution.

Urban farming can also help to address the issue of our ever expanding landfills. Food waste constitutes 37% of total landfill waste. This food waste can instead be composted to produce a nutrient rich growing medium which is highly sought after by organic growers. In Hong Kong, most food waste is not used to make compost in part because there is no local demand for the end product. Urban farms create local demand for compost, thereby helping to reduce the amount of food waste entering our landfills.

Increasing demand for food waste compost has many positive effects. First, it recycles the nutrients contained in our waste to grow more fresh produce. Second, as a superior growing medium it reduces demand for fertilisers. Third, it reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Dumping food waste into an anaerobic environment, such as a landfill, produces methane, a greenhouse gas at least 16 times more powerful than CO2. Aerobic composting of food waste can reduce the climate change impact of our landfills.

Rooftop farming also creates the opportunities for employment, education and community engagement. For example, the Riverpark Cafe in NYC employs a full-time professional farmer to create a unique farm-to-table dining experience. In Detroit and Vancouver, urban farming projects have revitalised communities and created employment. At Wildroots Organic in Hong Kong, we have been integrating the science curriculum in hands on farming lessons that engage students.

While urban farming can help address many of our social and environmental issues, there remain many challenges that make widespread implementation difficult. In a future article, we will explore these challenges and share our lessons learned.


Is the Science Museum Out to Sea?

“….A large centrepiece comprising plastic flotsam collected from the beach cleaning operations in the North Sea, Hawaii, the Baltic Sea and the rest of the world is displayed with the aim of arousing public awareness of plastic waste. …..Through the exhibition, visitors can gain an in-depth understanding of the chemical composition, classification and recycling processes of different plastic materials, and also learn about the harmful effects of plastic waste on birds and marine animals. The aim is to let us realise that we must curtail our consumption of plastic and encourage the recycling of plastic immediately.

To enrich the educational experience of the exhibition, we have specially invited the students of the “Project We Can” to collect plastic garbage from the beach, classify them, and make different works of art using plastic garbage for display in the exhibition.”

– Introduction to the Hong Kong Science Museum’s “Out to Sea? The Plastic Garbage Project” exhibit (emphasis added)

I care a lot about the plastic waste problem too, so this exhibit was a must see for me. Since the Science Museum is huge (over 10,000 square feet), I realised that it will take me at least two hours to check out all the exhibits. I expected to get thirsty during my visit, so before my trip I asked the Science Museum on its Facebook page whether there are any water fountains there. I received an immediate reply which said “Greetings. Since eating and drinking are not allowed within the exhibition area, there is no water fountain installed.”

Oh I see! Because eating and drinking are prohibited, there are no water fountains. Following the same logic, there should also be no beverage vending machines either. So I asked “Are there any vending machines selling plastic bottled water or drinks?” This must have been a difficult question to answer, because it took them a whole day to reply this time “There are beverage vending machines on the first floor of the Science Museum, selling plastic bottled drinks, paper carton drinks and can drinks. There are recycling bins placed next to the vending machines as a means to encourage citizens to recycle waste.”

This is really weird! If there are no water fountains installed because drinking and eating are prohibited, why are there three vending machines installed? Two out of three machines sell plastic bottled water. But wait, there’s more. The very brand of bottled water sold in the vending machine was also used by the students in their “Project We Can” art project. I guess the purple bottle caps were irresistible.  The students really didn’t have to go all the way to the beach to pick up these bottles, they could have just gotten them at the Science Museum.

If you follow the financial markets, you’ll notice that the price of commodities such as oil  have plummeted over the last couple years. Plastic is made of oil. As a consequence, the recycling business globally is in trouble. In Hong Kong, where there are no subsidies for recycling and with few exceptions, no charges for dumping waste into the landfill, recycling has ground to a near standstill. Most plastic bottles, even if placed in the recycling bin, will still end up in the landfill anyway.

Not only the Science Museum, but all other museums managed by the LCSD have no water fountains. Ironically, while there is not a single water fountain or dispenser in any of these museums, there are numerous beverage vending machines. Premises which allow the installation of vending machines can share in the profits from the sales. We would like to ask the LCSD how many beverage vending machines have been installed on their premises, and if they collect profit-sharing?

We give this exhibit by the Hong Kong Science Museum a Green Wash rating.

water fountain at MoMa

Drinking fountain at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York.

Plastic Microbeads in Scrubs

Three and a half years ago there was a plastic disaster in Hong Kong. During a typhoon, 6 shipping containers of plastic pellets were blown off a container ship into the ocean.  Dissatisfied with the government’s inaction, thousands of Hong Kong citizens took up the task of cleaning up the plastic pellets that washed up on the beaches.

In addition to accidents, the simple act of washing our faces can result in plastic going into the ocean.  The “scrub” in many brands of face and body scrub are actually made of plastic micro beads with a diameter 2 to 12 times the width of a human hair.  If plastic micro beads this small get into your eyes, they may cause infection. When they go down the drain, they cannot be filtered out by the sewage treatment plant because they are so tiny.  So billions end up in the ocean everyday and are often mistaken for food by marine life. The beads absorb toxins from the water,  the fish eat the beads, and we eat the fish. A terrific video by The Story of Stuff explains it.

If we do not want to eat plastic, we have to take the first step and stop using personal care products that contain micro beads. How can you tell if your facial or body scrub contains micro beads? Look at the list of ingredients, if you see any of these words: polyethylene, polypropylene, polyethylene terephthalate, or polymathy methacrylate, then it contains plastic micro beads.

Excited to learn that an Amsterdam-based organisation called 「BEAT THE MICRO BEAD」 developed a mobile app which helps identify products containing micro beads,  I immediately downloaded it.

I walked in the two major chains of personal care shops and identified a few brands of facial scrub.  Some brands listed the ingredients on the packaging, while others are silent as to what is actually in their products.  I tried to scan these products with the app, but found that most of them are unknown to the app.  There is a report function in the app, so you can take photos of the front and back of the products and upload them.

Since the app does not seem to cover many of the micro beads products available in Hong Kong and does not have photos, we have set up a page on Go Green Hong Kong to help identify products that contain micro beads in Hong Kong.  We invite readers to join our effort – if you spot any products containing micro beads, please kindly let us know at

Upcycled in Hong Kong


GREEN RATING  Deep Green. Upcycling an authentic flour bag into a unique tote bag.

PRODUCT RATING  Good. Thoughtfully designed and well made.


AVAILABLE AT Star Ferry Farmers’ Market every Sunday, Mapopo Community Farm, ACO Book (14/F, Foo Tak Building, 265 Hennessy Road, Wanchai)

My mother-in-law visited Hong Kong recently and I was happy to show her around. One of the “must visit” places listed in Lonely Planet is Stanley.  My mother-in-law was very excited shopping for souvenirs in the Stanley market.  She picked up a tiny cloth bag with panda embroidery on it and asked the shopkeeper, “is it made in Hong Kong?”  The shop-keeper replied “Yes, of course. And it is designed by our own in-house designer.” Pleased with the answer, she paid HKD 50 for this little pouch which can probably hold a pack of kleenex.  We walked down two shops and saw the exact same panda pouch for sale!

If you happen to be visiting Hong Kong and are looking for souvenirs which are truly made in Hong Kong, I would recommend this upcycled flour bag instead.  It’s made by Yung-jie, a retired former garment factory seamstress. She collects used flour bags, washes and irons them, then spends a couple of hours sewing the strap, the liner and zippered inner pockets as well as other features. Yung-jie’s daughter often teases her by telling her that including the time it takes to make and sell the bags, she is not even making the minimum wage!  But Yung-jie does not mind. She laughs it off and told me that she simply enjoys talking to her customers directly so that she can explain to them all the thoughtful design features she has added to her upcycled bags.

I bought one from Yung Jie about 7 months ago and have been using it almost on a daily basis – often filling it with heavy groceries.  Although the colour has faded a bit after a few washes, overall it’s holding up really well.

In addition to the tote bag above, there are many other designs such as pencil cases and backpacks. Check out the Sunday Star Ferry Farmers’ market and talk to Yung Jie directly about these upcycled bags that she makes right here in Hong Kong.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,216 other followers