Eco Warriors: Claire Yates Of EcoDrive Hong Kong
Last year, 11 Hong Kong women from the Tatler community joined forces to fight one of our world’s most pressing issues: single-use plastics.
Armed with stainless steel straws, reusable tote bags and various shapes and forms of Tupperware, they have been spreading the anti-single-use plastics movement through outreach and education programmes at Hong Kong schools, private members clubs and local sports teams (and that’s just the start).
With a mission to make the world a better (single-use plastics-free) place—not just for themselves but for their children—we get to know these 11 inspirational women through our latest series featuring EcoDrive Hong Kong.
First up is Claire Yates, founder of local stationery brand Lion Rock Press turned eco-warrior:
Why and how did you decide to become one of the founders of EcoDrive Hong Kong?
Laura Derry (another EcoDrive co-founder) connected Yolanda Choy-Tang and I because she felt we had similar views on the plastic problem in Hong Kong.
Tell us about your personal background when it comes to environmental issues.
I was an ardent nature enthusiast but was never heavily involved in any frontline environmental issues until I started my #NoPlasticMmGoi range for my company, The Lion Rock Press. Once I started researching the issue, I couldn’t unlearn what I’d found out. I became focused on the power I had to make a difference in Hong Kong.
We teamed up with Photo Escapes to make a film, "Start Small, Start Now”, about the plastic crisis in our city, and I learnt so much about not only the problems but also the potential solutions. I feel passionate about showing the film to as many people as possible so that we can all be part of the solution together.
Why are you passionate about reducing single-use plastics?
I’m passionate about re-educating people who see this virtually indestructible material as “disposable”. The vast majority of single-use plastic is simply unnecessary and we can easily live without it. It’s a very visible problem, so it’s very motivating when you see the impact of making small changes in your life or your business.
What is your biggest pet peeve when it comes to plastics usage in HK?
There are so many, but I would say people using plastic bags when it simply is not necessary—only to be discarded moments later. It’s incredibly wasteful and so easily avoided. We need to use our voices and refuse these bags, rather than passively take them when we don’t need them.
What actions have you taken in your own life and/or business to help reduce plastic waste?
I try to live as single-use plastic-free as I can, despite having young children. As a family, including our helper, we never leave home without our #NoPlasticMmGoi bottles and, as a result, none of us have bought a plastic bottle of water or beverage in 18 months.
We’ve also replaced cling wrap from our home with beeswax wrap from Plastic Free HK. When shopping, I always bring a canvas tote bag and Tupperware to the supermarket or wet market so my meat and fish won’t need packaging. Where possible, I buy all my groceries loose whether that’s in the supermarket, wet market or at a zero waste store such as Live Zero in Sai Ying Pun.
See also: Tamsin Thornburrow, Founder Of Live Zero
At home, we have an under-the-counter water filter from Waterlinks so we can completely trust the water as we live in an old building. In business terms, we don’t use any virgin packaging when we send out our orders, and we try to have as little waste as possible. I’ve bought everyone in my office reusable lunch containers, metal cutlery, reusable coffee mugs and water bottles which they take out to the restaurants and bring their lunch back—or they eat in.
Plastic seems to be a necessary evil in our modern world. Given that, what do you think is the future of plastic? Can we really live without it?
I don’t believe, for the most part, that plastic is a necessary evil—so much of it is completely unnecessary! I am not against plastic—I’m for trying to reduce our consumption of single-use plastic as much as we can and live more consciously in general.
What are some tips you have for everyone to reduce single-use plastics?
Some great ways to #StartSmallStartNow are to take a reusable water bottle with you as part of your daily routine. Download the app “Water for Free” and learn how easy it is to fill up on-the-go completely free. Using a reusable coffee cup is another obvious one, as well as taking a reusable bag, or refusing plastic straws.
Use your social media power to shout out about companies who are doing a good job—vote with your dollars and give them your patronage to encourage them to keep up the great work! In the same way, if you see your favourite restaurants, bars or shops not making the changes you want to see, tell them! Ask to speak with the manager, write an email or send them a message on social media asking them to reconsider their choices.
Are there any other ways that we can protect the environment?
Just living more consciously every day, and teaching children about the impact our choices are having on the world around them.
What other causes are you passionate about?
I’m passionate about causes that involve wildlife and are connected to HK or Asia—particularly shark fin soup, the illegal ivory trade, trafficking exotic wildlife and using endangered species for “medicinal” uses.
What are some of your favourite anti-plastic products?
Naturally, I would recommend all the products in our “No Plastic Mm Goi” range, which we’ve made young, hip, and Hong Kong—a cool way to start your eco-journey I love the beeswax wrap and netting produce bags from Plastic Free HK, and the stainless steel straws and cleaners from NO!Waste.
My favourite reusable lunch containers are the collapsible silicone ones from Japan Home. For a brilliant no waste experience, you can’t do better than Live Zero on High Street in Sai Ying Pun.
Styling: Grace Lam | Hair: Alex Chan | Makeup: Megumi Sekine | Clothing: EcoDrive T-shirt, checked grey jacket by Maje, brown/blue pants by Lora Piana
See also: Start Small, Start Now: Introducing EcoDrive Hong Kong