Eco Warriors: Yolanda Choy-Tang 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 Yolanda Choy-Tang, founding partner of Central Weddings, avid hiker and now, eco-warrior:
Why and how did you decide to become one of the founders of EcoDrive?
I enjoy hiking and noticed a lot of plastic bottles and lunch boxes on the road, which become quite irritating because nobody was picking them up. So, I decided to bring a bag along with me on my daily walks to pick it all up.
Unfortunately, after a week, the garbage would be back. Later, my friend Ming invited me to watch A Plastic Ocean and I was so shocked at the global situation about plastics and how it affects everyone that I committed to hosting a screening.
Friends who knew I was passionate about the cause asked if we could start something together and that’s how it all began.
Tell us about your personal background when it comes to environmental issues.
I’ve never been an environmentalist because I didn’t realise what was happening in Hong Kong. For instance, I thought I'd been recycling for years, only to find out that Hong Kong only recycles plastic bottles, newspaper, cardboard, office paper, glass and aluminium.
The waste we produce is shocking; everyone needs to do their part or else the next generation will suffer for our indulgences.
Why are you passionate about reducing single-use plastics?
Reduction is the only solution in Hong Kong because there are two issues with recycling. First, nobody will collect plastic unless you pay for the collection and secondly, only plastic bottles are being recovered by the Hong Kong government.
What is your biggest pet peeve when it comes to plastics usage in HK?
My biggest pet peeve is litter on the road and outside of garbage cans. In Sai Kung country parks, I can recover hundreds of plastic bottles on the ground and from those hidden in the plants.
People just don’t care—they drink, eat and consume and just toss their garbage onto the road, thinking someone else will pick it up. The truth is that the waste management company doesn’t have to pick up anything outside of the garbage cans.
What actions have you taken in your own life and/or business to help reduce plastic waste?
We don’t use single-use plastics at Central Weddings and our staff knows how I feel about it. The best way to encourage change is to talk to people about the reality of single-use plastics.
Most people do not realise how much single-use plastic affects our planet and that the average use is 15 minutes. Just imagine, if you use a plastic stirrer to mix your sugar into your coffee, that stirrer will last for over 100 years.
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’m not entirely against plastic as it is a great invention—I just feel that it should be reused. I reuse all of my plastic bags instead of taking brand new ones (I always carry extra plastic bags inside of my handbag to conserve as much as possible). People abuse plastic because it's cheap and convenient.
See also: Start Small, Start Now: Introducing EcoDrive Hong Kong
What are some tips you have for everyone to reduce single-use plastics?
Depending on your lifestyle, I would encourage everyone to carry a recyclable bag, with a few extra plastic bags inside. Also, get some reusable containers, a water bottle, some metal or bamboo straws and utensils.
Are there any other ways that we can protect the environment?
Conserve everything we have—from water to clothes and food. We need to be more conservative with what we purchase as there is an environmental consequence with everything we consume.
Styling: Grace Lam | Hair: Alex Chan | Makeup: Megumi Sekine | Clothing: EcoDrive T-shirt, green jacket by Hermès
See also: Meet Claire Yates Of EcoDrive Hong Kong