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Altruistic activism: Celebrating DB’s eco-heroes

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Can a gift-giving app make the world a better, greener place? Is implementing eco-policies at a school cafeteria worth the effort? Henry Benjamin investigates, and in so doing celebrates a few of the dedicated eco-heroes in our midst.

That DB is now a fully fledged green community, with the bulk of residents ready and willing to do their bit for the environment, is something we can all celebrate.

We use the recycling bins provided at each village as a matter of course, in much the same way as we now bring our own cloth bags to the supermarket. And in our bid to reduce plastic consumption, more and more of us are now unwrapping products at the supermarket and leaving the superfluous, environmentally damaging plastic wrap behind. Championing this new initiative may still turn some heads at the checkout, but those on board know that pretty soon there’ll be a snowball effect, and everyone will be doing it.

We are also supported and enabled in our bid to recycle/ reuse/ redistribute by numerous online forums. Instead of sending unwanted items to landfill, we can sell them at DB Wardrobe (clothes/ accessories), Discovery Bay Toys, Books, Games Not Clothes/ Nursery Items (yes, it’s actually called that), Moving Sale..Discovery Bay Edition (household items) and Discovery Bay (HONG KONG) Buy Sell Swap (just about everything). Through social enterprise DB Mothers & Friends, meanwhile, Nikki and Fred Boot provide a superb collection service (a collection fee applies), whereby the team comes to your home, picks up your unwanted household stuff and redistributes it to local charities.

That DB homes more than its fair share of bona fide eco-warriors has of course contributed greatly to its emergence as a flourishing green community. Three household names that have long inspired us are Tracey Read founder of Plastic Free Seas, Kate Wade of DB Green and Gary Stokes, the Asia Director for Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. From facilitating local beach clean- ups and education programmes to driving eco-initiatives in which we can all take part (think boycotting plastic straws), this trio helps keep us at the forefront of the movement.

With so many in the community doing their bit, let’s focus on two eco-innovators you may not have heard of.

Enabling green giving

Leon Adeoye’s truly innovative eco- app, enrich others, launched in June. Essentially it’s a gift-giving service, enabling users to give away once valued items they no longer want. Free to download and use, the idea is that you connect with people in your immediate vicinity (thus reducing your carbon footprint). Users are asked to visualise themselves as selfless benefactors, as recycling super heroes, as enthusiastic social-media advocates against unnecessary waste, and as enrichers of others.

“The inspiration for the enrich others app came from living in DB,” Leon says. “Just before my daughter, Harper, was born, we did an apartment clear-out, and gave away lots of stuff for free to both friends and strangers. Some decent stuff, I’m ashamed to say, even got thrown out with the trash. I realised soon after that there was nothing out there specifically built for the purpose of giving away stuff for free.”

Leon has been working on the app, in his free-time, for a year now, and it’s jam-packed with innovative gift-giving features, making the dispersal of unwanted items both seamless and targeted.

Firstly, since items can only be given away for free, there’s no online clutter (items for sale) to wade through. Secondly, app users maintain a category-based interest list of things they want, and when someone posts a gift they also have to select a category. The app’s algorithm then matches people up based on categories and GPS locations. So if you are interested in lamps within a 5-kilometre radius, and someone nearby has posted an Arco, it will feature on the landing page of your app.

Thirdly, enrich others can handle multiple requests by permitting up to five people to express interest in a gift. When potential beneficiaries make their requests, they are required to provide a justification for their need. The benefactor is then free to carefully review these justifications, along with the profile and gifting history of the potential beneficiaries before deciding who should be enriched – hopefully in favour of those individuals with the most generous gifting histories, or those who need this particular gift the most.

By using the app, people are reducing waste, lowering their community’s carbon footprint and hopefully helping those in need in a socially acceptable and seamless way. So what’s Leon’s next step? “I would like to increase the global footprint of the app – it already has multilingual support in French, German, Japanese, Spanish, Putonghua, Bahasa and Hindi, and we are working on more languages,” he says.

“I have lots of ideas on how this app could work for charities and NGOs during disaster relief and charity campaigns,” Leon adds. “I just need some introductions and some funding.”

The positive response enrich others is already enjoying affirms that everyone wants to recycle with minimum effort, everyone wants free stuff in relatively decent condition, everyone wants to be charitable. The question is how far could Leon’s brainchild take us?

Here’s the bigger picture: “I hope to help create a circular economy of free stuff – a world where googling for free board games returns three neighbours who have recently posted Snakes and Ladders, a Chess set, and Cluedo as gifts,” Leon concludes. “With time, enrich others could change the world.”

Giving kids a way in

Another DBer keeping an eye on the community’s eco-status is Discovery Bay International School cafeteria manager Connie Kwok Yu-ching. From reducing the use of plastic to saving food waste for compost, Connie has become an eco-hero to many who know her and her passion for the cause is palpable.

One of Connie’s initiatives involves teaming up with the school’s PTA to help reduce the use of plastic at school events, with Connie instead providing reusable plates and cutlery. “Before for functions they would use the plastic forks and spoons and that sort of thing, but now everything has stopped,” she says. “The PTA came to me and they said, ‘Connie we can do something to help save the world’. We lend them the equipment and they wash it and bring it back.”

Food waste is segregated and collected to be used for composting, while Connie, who works for catering company Chartwells, is also phasing out unnecessary plastics used daily in the cafeteria. “We do our best not to use too much plastic,” she says. “We have hot cups and cold cups, we don’t use the lid for the hot cup anymore and we have stopped using the hot drink straws.”

Connie is also slowly changing the menu to make it healthier and kinder to the environment. While students are not often the easiest to please, Connie is confident her softly, softly approach is doing the trick. “We must do it little by little, not stop everything right now,” she says. “Because we keep changing a little each week, the students are okay with it.”

A more recent initiative is Green Day, something Connie, who operates with a verve that belies  her 61 years, is implementing once a week with the help of the school’s Green Club and the support of Chartwells. Every Monday, there is an emphasis on vegetarian food in a bid to reduce the carbon emissions and extreme water usage that go hand in hand with raising animals for food. “I like it and it is better for the environment, although some of the students don’t like it,” Connie jokes.

On top of that, DBIS works with Food Angel to ensure any of their leftover food is not wasted, with Food Angel using the food to prepare nutritious hot meals for Hong Kong’s underprivileged. “Two times a week on Tuesday and Thursday they come and take away what we haven’t used,” Connie says. “They cook some of it again and it’s very good to help in that way, it makes me feel so happy.”


• DB Green, www.dbgreen.org
DB Mothers & Friends Facebook page
DB Wardrobe Facebook page
Discovery Bay (HONG KONG) Buy Sell Swap Facebook page
Discovery Bay Toys, Books, Games Not Clothes/ Nursery Items Facebook page
• Enrich others, www.enrichothers.com
Moving Sale..Discovery Bay Edition Facebook page
• Plastic Free Seas, www.plasticfreeseas.org
• Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, www.seashepherdglobal.org

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