Eco Warriors: Emily Lam-Ho 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.
Known collectively as EcoDrive Hong Kong, they've been running outreach and education programmes at Hong Kong schools, private members clubs and local sports teams to reduce their plastic footprint (and that's just the start).
In our latest series, get to know these 11 inspirational women who are making Hong Kong a greener place. Up next is Emily Lam-Ho, founder and CEO of Empact28 and now, eco-warrior:
Why and how did you decide to become one of the founders of EcoDrive?
As an impact investor, I’m beginning to invest time, energy, and capital into mission-driven founders here at home and overseas. But I really wanted to do something that could be meaningful for Hong Kong specifically as this is the home that I love so much, and it’s where my family, friends, and most importantly my children live. So when Tansy invited me to an early event that she was organising, I met like-minded women who are on a mission to improve our local environment and I was excited to roll up my sleeves and help.
Tell us about your personal background when it comes to environmental issues.
Over the years, I’ve volunteered to spearhead initiatives across our family businesses in order to eliminate waste. Specifically, I’ve been working with our F&B businesses to help them find ways to be more sustainable. We’ve now eliminated plastic straws across all of our restaurants.
And I’m most excited about our new Hong Kong Ocean Park Marriott hotel which will be implementing some of the most cutting-edge solutions: from rainwater collection systems and vertical planting, to bamboo toothbrushes and cornstarch tableware for kids. We’ve also built partnerships with Green Monday, Beyond Meat, Nordaq Fresh eco-friendly water filter systems. And we’ll be launching a green education programme for kids, along with workshops for interested guests.
Why are you passionate about reducing single-use plastics?
When we use styrofoam, drink from plastic bottles and use plastic straws, we’re not just polluting the environment, we’re also creating health risks for ourselves and our children. Plastics can be useful and not all are inherently bad—but when we abuse and over-use them, that’s not good. This needs to stop somewhere, and I feel strongly that we all need to do our part.
What is your biggest pet peeve when it comes to plastics usage in HK?
Definitely straws. The service industry in HK is programmed to put straws in your drink (or in your bag, if takeaway) before you’ve even asked for one. Everyone can do something meaningful by simply requesting a drink order with no straw. A small act, but very meaningful and impactful.
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?
There’s been a lot of innovation in materials over the past few years. Alternatively, sustainable materials like bamboo are emerging in more mainstream use-cases for disposable utensils. And biodegradable plastics are showing a lot of promise. There’s even research underway to make compostable plastics from carbon dioxide. So I’m hopeful that we will eventually find better ways—but in the meantime, we all need to do our part.
What are some tips you have for everyone to reduce single-use plastics?
Drink more wine. By consuming wine we are helping to eliminate single-use plastic and supporting farmers. First of all, glass bottles are more easily recyclable. And second, wine can be and enjoyable part of your plant-based diet. I also do vegetarian Mondays. Honestly, it’s hard because I do love meat, but we can all start somewhere!
Seriously though, it’s important just to be aware about what we’re doing to our environment each time we have a meal or buy products. Awareness is the first step.
Are there any other ways that we can protect the environment?
I personally think the most important thing we can do is to adjust our mindset and behaviour towards single-use plastic. And we should keep educating ourselves and those around us about the urgency of the crisis we are all facing.
Like understanding where your trash actually ends up; or the microplastics that are in single-use plastic bottles; or what happens when we wash our laundry. I am still learning about these problems every day myself, and am fascinated by all of the innovative solutions on the horizon.
As simple as this seems, I think the key message is to increase education and to consciously reduce waste wherever we can.
See also: Douglas Woodring: How To Turn The Tides Against Plastic Pollution
What other causes are you passionate about?
I’m extremely passionate about female empowerment. Look at EcoDrive, we are all women founders. I have been surrounded by strong females figures my entire life, like my mother who has shown me how it is so important for a woman to be independent, to my first boss that I ever worked for who took me under her wing and mentored me. I believe that ultimately, targeting the root cause of some of the challenges women face is crucial.
One aspect is gaining financial independence, which is a key reason for my strong support of female entrepreneurs. Another aspect is raising awareness and knowledge sharing, which I am hoping to achieve through my role as council member for Hong Kong's Women Commission, who focuses on broader initiatives like gender mainstreaming and funding allocations that would support women's development.
Could you recommend some of your favourite anti-plastic products? (products/brands and where to get them)
I always travel with a que bottle. It is made out of food-grade silicone, it is collapsible, stylish, lightweight. It collapses into a small cube that I can throw into any bag I’m carrying.
I also love Rothy’s shoes, you have probably seen me wear them around. They are made from recycled water bottles, and most importantly they are sustainable, and they are stylish, colourful and pretty may I add. I also love my John Masters Organic lavender, rose geranium and ylang-ylang bar soap.
And of course, my co-founder Claire’s "no plastic mm goi" series of totes and water bottles.
See also: EcoDrive Private Screening: Start Small, Start Now