Eco Warriors: Sherry Fung 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 Sherry Fung, mother of three and social issues ambassador:
Why and how did you decide to become one of the founders of EcoDrive?
It was a combination of self-guilt and consciousness that drove me to do more than just impose a personal habit change. My tipping point was watching the award-winning movie, "A Plastic Ocean" on a Cathay flight, which gave me that final push to realise the urgency of the situation and the need to educate more people, especially the younger ones on this serious issue of single-use plastic (we call it SUP).
Tell us about your personal background when it comes to environmental issues.
My mother taught me from a young age the importance of reusing what we already have and not to waste. It wasn’t so much to be environmentally friendly but to be responsible for our own actions. That was the beginning of my awareness of how I impact my surroundings. With awareness came consciousness, with consciousness came caring, and with caring came change in my own behaviour.
Why are you passionate about reducing single-use plastics?
There are so many global issues to tackle but the reduction of single-use plastic (SUP) is more pressing for me since it can be taught early. We all have different reasons for wanting to reduce SUP, but I am passionate because the human consumption of plastic and our inability to control and process the plastic waste is killing marine life and more importantly, getting into our food chain.
Most of us are unaware that oceans provide us with 70% of our oxygen and when the ocean is sick, we get sick. We didn’t inherit the world from our ancestors, we borrowed it from our children. I want to leave the world with three extra people who will try their best to conserve our environment.
What is your biggest pet peeve when it comes to plastics usage in HK?
Watching people buy take-out with all the single-use containers, bags, utensils, straws, cups and lids makes me cringe. Similarly, umbrella bags that are only used for an average of about 2-5 mins during rainy season also drives me insane.
Unnecessary over-packaging of products at the supermarket has driven me to shop at the wet market more. On the other hand, this just reminds me of how much work EcoDrive has to do because I truly believe it's not that people don’t care—they simply need to be educated.
What actions have you taken in your own life and/or business to help reduce plastic waste?
I've started small with my own family, implementing simple rules such as leaving recycle bags and reusable containers at the door or in the car for easy access. We go to great lengths just to get take-out by providing restaurants with our own reusable containers.
Since my family loves bubble milk tea, we plan ahead and bring our own glass jars with wide mouth stainless steel straws. And if the children are thirsty and we forget to bring their reusable water bottles, we try to sit down at a coffee shop and order a drink (without straws) instead of buying a drink from convenience stores.
Buying in bulk reduces our plastic consumption and we also always travel with our own bathroom amenities to avoid the single-use bottles of soaps and shampoos, toothbrushes and SUP-packaged cotton pads or cotton buds at hotels.
I believe it has to start from me and the better educated my own family is, the better equipped we are to influence those around us.
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?
At the moment, while we are still trying to find viable alternatives to plastic, we have to live with using plastic to produce either single-use products limited to medical use and durable products that can be used for years. Plastic is not evil—it is how we abuse the use of plastic that is causing our current pressing environmental problem.
Our culture of convenience has driven our consumption of plastic into overdrive and no recycling or repurposing program can ever catch up with the amount we are using. That is what people are generally mistaken about.
What are some tips you have for everyone to reduce single-use plastics?
Never think the power of one is too weak. I used to think there wasn’t much I could do unless I got the government to make some policy changes. But once I began talking to those around me about the SUP problem, more people wanted to help and once they were aware, most wanted to make lifestyle or behavioural changes. Children were especially receptive and were natural advocates of the issue as they take the consequences very close to heart.
Question what is happening to your plastic waste where you live or work, and make sure the collected plastic waste is being brought through the right channels to a legitimate recycler.
Don’t be shy to whip out your reusable containers or bags at a crowded, bustling “cha chaan teng”. Your example will trigger those lining up to rethink their SUP usage.
Lastly, start small—don’t be overly ambitious and cut out all SUP from your life. Pick one type and say no to it for a month, and when not using that item becomes a habit, pick your next one.
Are there any other ways that we can protect the environment?
Self-reflection is an important step to truly committing to protecting the environment. There is no need to rush off and save the world. Take baby steps, join Facebook or IG groups who share your same concerns and try to be as informed about the issues as possible.
As with most information on the web, it is always important to weed out the myths and not be “green-washed”, which essentially means being misled by marketing claims about the environmental benefits of a product, service or policy.
What other causes are you passionate about?
I'm also passionate about doing what I can for orphans who suffer from life-threatening medical conditions such as those from New Hope Foundation, and who come to Hong Kong for surgical or medical treatment provided pro bono by volunteer doctors from MedArt.
Food waste is also another one of my pet peeves and my family and I try to support Foodlink Foundation or Food Angel whenever we get the chance.
Could you recommend some of your favourite anti-plastic products?
My water bottles— I have one for travelling that's foldable and lighter than steel, one for everyday use as a conversation starter and one for hot drinks in the colder days (a beautifully designed coffee cup from Plastic Free HK).
Download the ‘Water For Free’ app, which helps locate the nearest restaurant that provides free water to fill up your bottle. Glass jars are great (preferably those made in Japan) for storing bulk foods. They are safe and do not leach harmful toxins into the foods, which is my main concern as a mother of three.
See also: 5 Eco Apps For Greener Living
I can't go anywhere without my collapsible food containers from Japan Home, which are leak proof and lighter than glass containers. I also love the bar soaps from Aesop, shampoo bars from Lush and the bamboo cutlery sets from Plastic Free HK.
Another tip? Use old shoe bags as produce bags—they make amazing produce bags for buying fruits and veggies, after having been through the wash, of course. Ultimately, there is no need to go out on an eco product shopping spree. We encourage everyone to reuse what you already have at home and reduce unnecessary purchases.
Styling: Grace Lam | Hair: Alex Chan | Makeup: Megumi Sekine | Clothing: EcoDrive T-shirt, denim items from Sherry
See also: Start Small, Start Now: Introducing EcoDrive Hong Kong