Hong Kong has the largest wealth gap in the world! That gap is widening. If your daily routine takes you past nothing but luxury and leaves you feeling a bit poor, here are some questions which may lend some perceptive.
10. How much will you pay for fresh juice?
A: 50 hkd plus when blended into a great smoothie at my favorite spot in Soho!
B: 15 hkd at a street side shop with a fast juicer.
C: I sometimes buy a tetra pack when it is on sale at Park n’ Shop.
7. Going to work? Look down at your shoes, describe.
A: Ahh I’ve been waiting for you ask! They are the latest edition of ________ fashion house!
B: Yea these are pretty good, they lasted 1 year, I am hoping for another!
C: I can wear these for my 8 – 12 hour shift, during which I am standing the whole time.
8. Are you eligible to live in government housing?
A: Well my penthouse is on land which was previously harbor, which I suppose was owned by the government previously. Is that what you mean?
B: No. I am paying well over 50% of my salary to my feudal lord, I mean landlord.
C: Yes. Along with about 40% of Hong Kong’s population./Or I am waiting for it.
7. Go to Pacific Place shopping mall. Did you?
A: Shop around for a while, make a few purchases.
B: Buy 1 item at either, the supermarket, drugstore or coffee shop.
C: Not buy a single thing – do I look like Li Ka Shing?
6. How many holidays a year do you have?
A: A few. However not enough to do a wine tour in the South of France, a private cruise of the Caribbean and a shopping trip to New York, Milan and Paris. Paris will have to wait to next year.
B: The minimum set by law.
C: None. I don’t work - I don’t get paid.
5. What is you opinion of Sham Shu Po?
B: A great place for cheap fabric & electronics.
C: A possible place to live – cheap rents & on the MTR line!
4. Have you ever watched ‘Dolce Vita’ on the TV station TVB Pearl?
A: Sure. It gave me a great tip buying Swiss watches.
B: Once. I broke my leg and couldn’t get off the couch – never ever again.
C: For 5 minutes. After which I ran into the Sai Kung hills and lived off the land for a week. This was to try to balance out the extreme overdose of blatant consumerism and blind worship of luxury products which haunted me … and still does …
“One of the biggest challenges we face on a daily basis …. should we be pairing it with gold or silver?” – I don’t think I am in “we”.
3. Do you know the price of an MTR ride?
A: No, but I know the price of my MTR stocks!
B: Uh, I put more money on my octopus card every few days.
C: Yes! They raised the fare by 5.4% in March last year!
2. What is you knowledge of 7-11′s culinary selection?
A: Just a sec, let me ask my driver, he might know.
B: Well I sometimes get a cheap snack or chocolatebar anytime of the day.
C: 13.40 for a ham sandwich. Lunch done.
1. Can you ever buy a flat in Hong Kong?
A: Well I own 3 flats, as part of my investment portfolio.
B: Maybe if I can work until I am 75 and eat exclusively ramen noodles.
C: ahahahaha yeah sure, right after I brush my pet unicorn’s mane.
I may be a green geek, but not all of my favorite things are green. In fact if someone reports any of these loves to Captain Planet, I may be in for some disciplinary action.
10. Kinder surprises –Yummy chocolate and a tiny toy! Wow! I admit to occasionally slipping some of these eggs into my shopping basket. However after that first 10 minutes of putting together the toy and fiddling around with it, those tiny toys are rarely touched again –very wasteful.
Green it – Stop buying Kinder Surprises, start buying fair trade chocolate!
9. Being chauffeured – This is a rare one for me, but I do relish it. Be it in a private car, taxi or once in my case in odd job in a Yellow Rolls Royce! Trips by yourself are way less environmentally friendly. Travelling solo with a driver shoots up your carbon footprint, and your impact on air quality.
Green it – Instead revel in the pleasure of getting a seat on the MTR train in rush hour, when I am so lucky.
8. Old school film – Capturing an image on camera with old fashioned film somehow is more special to me than snapping away with my 3G phone. The anticipation of waiting to see if the shot is good and finding out walking out from the developer at a later date, makes it more of an event. However film processing uses some pretty nasty chemicals, which if not disposed of carefully do some heavy damage to the environment. So taking tons of digital photos and developing only a few is generally better for the earth.
Green it – Get used to seeing photos 20 seconds after they have been taken on social media.
7. Imported food – Exotic, out of season and food from far away is often very tempting. In many cases however the amount of miles the food has flown puts a huge carbon footprint on it.
6. Long hot showers – I am getting relaxed just typing the words! Unfortunately using more fresh water means less drinking water somewhere and more polluted water that comes out of a pipe somewhere.
Green it –Have super short showers (timed with a shower timer) 6 days a week and indulge once a week.
5. Flying somewhere far away – Oh yes, I love to travel. However the average carbon footprint for someone in Hong Kong is 13.44 tons (an American is about 20). Now add an average long haul flight. If you are an average passenger in economy it is 4 tons of carbon dioxide give or take. Which means in just 1 long trip back and forth increases the carbon footprint nearly 70%!
Green it – Buy carbon offsets for all my flights. Carbon offsets work by funding projects that are doing work to keep carbon out of the atmosphere such as clean energy, carbon sequestration and reforestation.
4. Allowing the price decide – Going with the cheapest option is sometimes so nice and easy. However stop and think: why is this product so cheap? Was it grown in a sustainable manner? Does this company have good labor standards? Does the country it was made in have strong environmental standards? When you buy a product you are basically saying to that company “I support the way this was produced or made. Here is some money to keep producing some more in the same manner.”
Green it – Keep learning and don’t let the amount of information overwhelm me. Be a smart consumer and vote carefully with my dollar.
3. Fancy packaging – Forget “Brown paper packages tied up with string”. Gift boxes with ribbons are one of my favorite things.
Green it – Use recycled wrapping paper, re-use gift boxes and find use for those ribbons (not my hair!).
2. Campfires – So nice on a cool evening. Watching those hypnotizing flames is watching stored carbon – wood, become greenhouse gases.
Green it – Make my own logs from recycled newspaper, burn wood from sustainably harvested forests, buy carbon offsets for any campfires and have smaller fires. Carbon neutral charcoal is available from some companies too. (In Hong Kong it is available in some shop is Sai Kung town.)
1. Cheap coffee – I am not a coffee snob. I am perfectly happy with instant in a paper cup from 7 – 11. I don’t refer to it as ‘sludge’. I refer to is as ‘a soul warming, energizing, bargain’. Too bad cheap coffee is rarely fair-trade, organic, rain-forest alliance certified, shade grown or bird-friendly. All of which are characteristics of coffee which is better for the planet in comparison to my beloved cheap caffeine.
Green it – Buy any of the above mentioned better options in the supermarket and make my own coffee at home or work. That way I can save some money by not paying café prices , use fewer disposable cups and choose a more environmentally friendly option!
Hippies they are not. This generation’s groups of young adults may not be shocking the establishment with their lifestyle of free love, anti-war sentiments and seeking inner peace. In fact the biggest shock may be the trend for lenses-less thick framed glasses. They might not be fueled by flower power, but here are at 10 of their characteristics which are often associated with ‘hipsters’ which give them some green credentials.
10. An affinity for hand crafted goods – Supporting crafts people, supports businesses based on knowledge and skills, which can mean greater sustainability.
9. ‘Organic is the new black’ – Less chemical pesticide, herbicide and fertilizers being used in agricultural can lead to healthier ecosystems and lessen pollution.
8. Vintage style – Buying something old in place of something new, means one less something new being produced. Reusing is after all one of the ‘3 R’s’.
7. Instagrams – Sharing your photos digitally rather than printing them out saves some pretty nasty chemical being used in photo developing process.
6. Bicycles – Not just any bicycle. A vintage (or vintage looking), bicycle with a basket can be proudly hung in any hipster urban flat. Using pedal not petrol power is of course great for air pollution and climate change.
5. Knowing local ‘secrets’ – No hipster would be caught in a multinational chain restaurant! By supporting local businesses, hopefully you are supporting staff and owners that will spend their salaries and profits into the local economy. Thus making the local area more sustainable.
4. Straw hats – Made from natural material. When there life ends and we say good-bye to our well-worn boater we know it can peacefully biodegrade harmlessly.
3. Intelligent conversation – Yes, just because someone looks like a nerd crossed with a prairie princess, it doesn’t mean they are smart. However valuing education, travel experience, and knowledge of current affairs is a good thing. It often leads to one using their own power be that political, consumer or personal, to create a fairer, friendlier, and more sustainable world.
2. Thick & sturdy glasses – Even if they don’t have lenses. These glasses will surly last forever before breaking, thus negating the need to buy more. They may even outlast this trend.
1. Most are DINKS (Double Income No Kids) – Hipster kids are rare. That is actually good news for the planet. Human population of this planet is a hugely impacting all the other creatures humans share the earth with.
Rainy days need not be a downer. When the city rains there are at least 10 good things to look forward to:
10. Umbrellas and rain boots, one more element to accessorize with!
9. Lowers air temperature! In the summer those one or two degrees make all the difference!
8. Filling the reservoirs. In Hong Kong we get most of our fresh water from China. In fact it was rumored to be a major issue in negations between Britain and China in the lead up to handover. 586 million cubic meters of water are currently in Hong Kong’s reservoirs, which supply many households and businesses.
7. No one can see you cry. Maybe you stubbed your toe, maybe your boss was particularly mean today, maybe a particularly melancholy power-bald played on shuffle on your mp3 player.
6. The excitement of rain storm and typhoon signals. Starting in kindergarten we learn to wait and check for these little symbols to be raised to get a day off school. The excitement continues into adulthood with a possible day off work, free drinks at some bars and the fact that weather outside the window getting more intense to watch.
5. Washing the city. Air pollution covers everything in a yucky film. Rain help rinse the city. Help out in the cleaning by purchasing eco-friendly dish washing detergent and letting it loose on any outdoor surface.
4. Possibility of a rainbow! Maybe even a pot of gold at the end!
3. Plants love water. Plants feed wild animals, absorb CO2, release Oxygen, stabilize slopes, look nice, and animals — including us — eat a few of them.
2. What air con drip? – On a sunny day, getting hit with a big drip, from some air con above is unpleasant and may even be worthy of a curse or two. In the rain who knows which drip is air con and which is fresh rain!
1. Clear air and a spectacular view of this amazing city after rain!
Beat Summer Heat
How hot are you? Last summer I was off the chart. I had no air conditioning at home. With temperatures above 30 most of the summer with humidity hovering 90%, I survived. It was great or my carbon footprint but bad for my sanity. If you are attempting the same you will save some money and some energy – here are my tips.
10. Wear as little as possible – If you home is close to your neighbors be cautious on how far you take this. Also thin & breathable fabrics are you friend.
9. Read books set in winter – Mind over matter! Get yourself totally engrossed in a book where the cold is integral to the plot. Try ‘Wolf Totem’ by Jiang Rong, the blizzard in the first hundred pages is intensely chilling!
8. Vent heat on top - Heat rises, so let it out as it gets to the top of your home. Open higher windows to encourage cooler air flow. If you can install, put in vents high up in walls or ceilings.
7. Cross ventilation – Open windows on at least 2 sides of your home will encourage air flow and cool you down. Remember if used in conjunction with tip 1, beware.
6. Get in water – Go swimming, sit in a bath tub or take a shower. Or just attempt to carry out all daily activities from the bath tub - watch those power cords!
5. Ice packs - If you have a freezer, load it up with ice packs. Wait. Now apply all over your body. Too impatient to wait? Frozen peas will do.
4. Go to the mall – A well used tactic by smart seniors all over Hong Kong. The trick is staking out the benches and keeping your wallet shut.
3. Fans – Electric, ceiling, usb or my favorite – banana leaf powered by attractive & strong men, Cleopatra style!
2. Hydrate – Beverages should abound in your un-air conditioned home.
1. Don’t move – Only reason anyone should be able tell you are alive is from the occasional blink.
Avoid zombies & be green
Zombies are trending right now. I can’t say I understand the appeal. Much speculation has been done on ‘what if’ scenarios . How should I avoid them? What can and can’t zombies do? If your best friend was a zombie, would you have the courage to kill them, and save yourself?
I have no answers to those. I can show you some tricks on how if you feel the need to prepare for the zombie apocalypse, you could be doing the environment some good too.
Good for zombie apocalypse: Living stealthily will help you avoid the swarms of undead.
Good for the earth: You eliminate noise & light pollution. Your neighbors and any nocturnal wildlife will thank you.
Good for zombie apocalypse: You can go maximum a few days without good clean water. So you had better know where to get some from a fresh stream near you!
Good for the earth: Advocating for fresh clean water means you are enuring environmental problems like pollution, sanitation, fertilizer use, industrial waste, erosion and desalinization are valued.
8. A solar or wind up light and radio
Good for zombie apocalypse: Society has descended in to chaos. You need a light to survive the night and a radio to keep up to date on survivors.
Good for the earth: There is a huge variety of solar lights and radios out there. There is no reason you should still be plugging in or using one use batteries for every light, radio or stereo – so check out these products with a free, unlimited power source.
7. Living off the electricity grid
Good for zombie apocalypse: Just because some people didn’t have the decency to stay dead, doesn’t mean you should miss out on movie night on you 50 inch plasma TV, and microwave to pop the popcorn! Better get your own power supply.
Good for the earth: Renewable energy options for individual homes such as solar and wind are becoming more affordable. Many governments will even subsidized the purchase price and pay you for excess electricity fed back to the grid.
6. Physical fitness
Good for zombie apocalypse: Darwinism will have its heyday! Survival of the fittest!
Good for the earth: In an effort to get fit you will reduce your consumption of food, meaning your impact on the earth decreases. Also you might walk more and reduce carbon emitting vehicle trips.
Good for zombie apocalypse: Assume you can’t dial a pizza, pop out for a sandwich or stock up at the supermarket. You need to know where to get food locally. Plus any fans of the ‘Plants vs. Zombies’ games know that zombies are easily killed by an exploding watermelon.
Good for the earth: Growing your own food is great! You can control fertilizers and pesticides. Also buying local and in season often reduces the energy and water needed to get that food to you.
4. Self sufficient transportation
Good for zombie apocalypse: With all this confusion about if a person walking around, is dead or alive, you can’t expect the trains to run on time (even in Germany!).
Good for the earth: Walking, cycling, sailing and rowing all rely on good old fashioned people power! The impact to the earth here is just our breaths out, which has way less carbon dioxide then the back of a car. Next best alternatives include beasts of burden such as horses, ox, donkey, mule, and even elephant. Getting around by animal is cool for the earth and cool for you Indiana Jones type look!
3. Emergency preparedness
Good for zombie apocalypse: If being 6 foot under doesn’t keep people down, who knows what will happen! Learn from the boys scouts and “Always be prepared”.
Good for the earth: With climate change most scientist predict more extreme weather events such as storms. Being prepared for emergencies is a part of facing the reality of climate change.
2. Know the threats
Good for zombie apocalypse: Know thy enemy. They already died once, there has to be trick to killing them a second time.
Good for the earth: Educating yourself on what threats the world is facing is the first step towards change. Keep up to date on the threats facing our world locally, nationally and globally.
1. Hope, courage and a determination to survive
Good for zombie apocalypse: A horror film has come to life. The person who breaks down and gives up hope, usually dies pretty quickly in most film plots.
Good for the earth: Information about today’s environment can get pretty overwhelming at times. Keeping positive and proactive is the only way we can overcome these challenges facing the earth and humankind. Remember what Jane Goodall said, ““The greatest danger to our future is apathy.”
OK, so I am aware ‘green’ is buzzword that sometimes can means little. Never the less, here are 10 ways a product can be in someway more sustainable for the environment or society than alternatives.
10. Fair trade products - These products aim to give fairer prices to producers and lessen in the gap between what consumers pay and producers receive. Poverty is one of the biggest causes of environmental destruction and these products fight poverty!
Example: Fair Trade Chocolate & Coffee! Chocolate makes everything better & coffee makes you more alert to enjoy it!
9. Tools to help your reduce your impact - Everyday we live we impact the planet. Anything that helps you reduce your impact is great!
Example: Carbon credits for your flight , a compost bin or even a bicycle to reduce car trips.
8. Products that aim to last a lifetime or more! - Things that you only need to buy once are always better than ones that need replacing again and again.
Example: Luggage with a lifetime guarantee, rather than cheap bags that will break after one trip.
7. Natural products - OK the trick here is that the materiel is sustainably harvested. So you need to educate yourself a little on the origins of the product. A table made from a 200 year old redwood tree – bad. Forest stewardship council certificated paper – good.
Example: Tupperware made out of oil from corn. Almost like your mother had it.
6. Products that are re-usable & eliminate need for disposable alternatives – Attention – this doesn’t mean a guilt free shopping spree on colorful reusable grocery bags is a go. You often have to reuse the item a lot to make them better. As stronger re-useable products take much more energy to produce, they have to be used many times to make them better then disposables, which take less energy to produce. So when you bring your own bag – do it often with the same one!
Example: Re-useable coffee flask rather than paper cups at the coffee shop!
5. Products from recycled and or by product materials – Using recycled or materials which would normally go to waste is great! It can also result in some funky designs. Some are obvious your wallet made from a chip packet. While warm fleece made from old plastic bottles, might only be noticed on the label.
Example: Bags made from old billboards. If you are in Hong Kong check out Banner Bags! Paper made from banana leaves and coconut fiber products.
4. Awareness raisers – Spread the word – are planet is in crisis and WE are the cause! Helping to educate, discover and empower is the first step to changing attitudes and action.
Examples: An energy monitor for your home, become super nerdy and try to beat yourself in weeks or days you used the least amount of energy (days when you are on vacation do not count). Nature guides, books about the environment or the latest BBC nature DVDs.
3. Products that encourage interaction with the environment – Get out there an explore the wonder of nature. Remind ourselves why we should care about the environment and all those other species. Plus being out in nature is good for our health!
Examples: Binoculars to spy all those far off animals. A bird house for your garden. Native flowers butterflies will love.
2. An experience - as long as the experience is focused on using human capital rather than physical resources. Buying someones time, expertise, knowledge or performance is very sustainable!
Examples: A spa package, a trip to the aquarium or my personal favorite: home made vouchers for doing household chores!
1. Repairing or reworking what you already have - Well this is not really a traditional product. The idea is making what you already have work, rather than buying new.
Examples: Repair an antique watch, re-tailor an outdated cut coat or painting or re-upholstering furniture.