Greener BeeGreen LivingGreen living: A former lawyer shows the way

Rachel Pang Hoi-yan hates it when people ask her why she chose to quit her job as a high-paid lawyer and become an environmental activist.

The answer from her is straightforward: environmental protection is a life-and-death issue that she wants to dedicate her life to.

Feeling content with wearing a second-hand T-shirt that cost her only HK$50, Pan, aged 40, who received her law degree from the University of Hong Kong, told the Hong Kong Economic Journal that money is not important to her and that she does not think buying an expensive home in Hong Kong is something worth pursuing.

After having been a lawyer for more than a decade, she and her husband, an IT professional, decided last year to devote themselves to protecting Hong Kong’s environment through various means, including setting up a website called GoGreen to guide people on living a green life.

In a bid to spread public awareness about environmental problems, the couple tries to set a personal example in everyday life, wearing second-hand clothes they collect from friends, using recyclable cloth as toilet paper, keeping old furniture, etc.

In addition, they turned to farming so that they can not only feed themselves but also provide organic and healthy food for the general public. Among other initiatives, Pang has been promoting the benefits of green living by writing articles for a newspaper.

Asked what she thinks is the most urgent thing to do to reduce environmental pollution in Hong Kong, Pang says without hesitation that bottled water sales should be banned immediately.

Hong Kong is not part of the third-world, and drinking water provided by the government here poses no health risks such as cholera, she said.

In an angry tone, she slams producers of bottled water, saying the industry is making billions every year by selling their products at hugely inflated prices.

While companies rake in profits, the city’s residents are forced to live in an environment where five million empty plastic bottles are created every day, Pang said, adding that it is a serious problem that the government has failed to tackle.

To encourage people to drink tap water instead of buying bottled water, Pang and her husband have launched a “Water for Free” App, which shows the locations of all public drinking fountains in Hong Kong and allows users to find out the nearest one.

As to food discarded by people for passing the best-before date, Pang said it is a total waste because such food is still edible. The activist says she has been endeavoring to save as much of the wasted food products as she could and give it away to low-income families.

In Pang’s view, many of the meetings that take place in the city to discuss ways to improve the environment are meaningless. Some environmental groups say one thing and do another, she says.

Pang adds that she would rather use her time to do things she considers really useful, even though that individual approach sometimes puts her at risk of being labeled an environmental maniac.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on June 16

Translation by Taka Liu

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