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So Much to be Thankful For!

TEDxTinHauWomen Committee 2021 *
Photo: Binoj Janardhan

Happy Thanksgiving Day to you and your loved ones. It doesn’t matter if this holiday is a part of your festive calendar, this holiday dedicated to gratitude, is a good reminder for us to reflect on the year, mull over things and give thanks to all the good in our life. It prompts us to pause, spare a thought to things we are most appreciative about and express our gratefulness.

With the pandemic restrictions still in play, many of us are not able to go back home and be with our loved ones.  But we know they are there for us and that is reason enough for cheer and optimism. No matter how hard the year has been, we are still able to find our blessings, our silver linings. Our event this year will do just that, it will reflect on this thought showcasing ideas that prompt us to be hopeful. 

Only a couple of weeks to go for the big day, we have hit the pause button for the moment to think about things we are most grateful for.

So, what is TEDxTinHauWomen thankful for this year? 

To begin with, our live in-person event. Unlike many of our counterparts across the world who are unable to host a live event, we are thankful that we can put together our face-to-face event this year.

Our team of volunteers who give us their precious time and talent, working tirelessly to put on a show that is truly exceptional. And that’s not all, this is a close-knit team that has each other’s back, empowering, encouraging, uplifting one and all.   

We are thankful to our speakers, who put their trust in us and allow us to help them prepare an engaging, impactful talk. Our sponsors, who believe in the power of ideas and support our event year on year. And our audience who mark their calendars for our inspiring talks.

And most importantly we are thankful to our families, our friends who are our backbone. They support us through and through, drive us to be the best we can be, love us unconditionally no matter what and recognize our passion for this community which is TEDxTinHauWomen. 

These are a few of the things we are thankful for. We hope you too are taking a pause to recognize things you are most grateful for in your life. 

*Photo taken at an amazing team bonding session, and we missed some of our amazing rockstars who couldn’t make it on that day.


Tête-à-Tête  with Jen & Daniella, the Powerhouse Women Behind TEDxTinHauWomen

Meet Jen Flowers & Daniella Lopez, accomplished career women, who love their day jobs but still take out time to pursue their passion – creating a sense of community by bringing people together through engaging, stimulating TEDxTinHauWomen events.

We catch a sneak peek into their pet project and their personal lives.

  • Tell us the story behind TEDxTinHauwomen? What made you lean towards bringing TEDWomen to HongKong?  

Jen: I was very motivated by TED and the platform it provides to ideas that can make a difference. I wanted this to be available in Shanghai, pivoting more around the power of women. Therefore, in 2011, I got involved with TEDWomen. This was way back when we held our very first TEDxShanghaiWomen event.  At that time we were only 6 women on the committee but all passionate and stubbornly determined to present an inspiring event. And we did it! Around 200 people attended our event, that too in a training center of PwC , where I worked at the time. 

With each passing year our team got bigger, this stage grew from strength to strength and we had the privilege of hosting 5 amazing TEDxShanghaiWomen events. In 2016, after my last TEDxShanghaiWomen, I moved to Hong Kong and so did three other committee members. 

Daniella: I too found TED to be a very powerful platform showcasing mighty ideas. Jen roped me in for the 2013 event in Shanghai and so began my journey in this arena. In the next couple of years, Jen moved to Hong Kong and as luck would have it, my professional life transported me to this city soon after. Jen and I reconnected, discussed ways to bring the TEDWomen experience to our new home, and it’s been a wild ride ever since.2.

  • How do you select the ‘ideas worth spreading’ and ensure that every event experience is unique? How is this year’s theme different?

Jen & Daniella: Each year TEDWomen selects a global theme, we develop on that theme and localise it. This year’s global theme was ‘What Now’ and our local take on that is ‘What Matters Now?’.  We give a local flavour by deliberating on it with the rest of the leadership committee (which has now grown to 8 of us) so that we are able to bring in fresh concepts and of course garner more support.

Our themes are ideas which are very topical or have a common thread that connect with one and all. Each year we deep dive into the content, select speakers that personify it and present a new perspective with great passion. Our events provide bold, uplifting stories which resonate with our audience emotionally and that is what makes our event truly unique.

  • What does it take to bring TEDxTinHauWomen to life? Which is your favourite part of the process? 

Jen & Daniella: It is three things that bring it all together for us – a lot of thinking, rigorous planning & execution, and unequivocal support of our volunteers.

We generally start having conversations in February – analysing our last event, discussing things that can be done differently, exploring new ideas, so that we can give a standout experience to our community. In late March/ early April we get the rest of the leadership team together to pick their brains and kick off the planning. It is around May that we start to build the year’s committee and begin honing the concept. 

Our whole committee is made up of volunteers – their energy, enthusiasm, dedication, and excitement is also what pushes us to create a fabulous event. Not to forget, a lot of blood, sweat, and sleepless nights go into planning and implementing each event. So, seeing everything come together on the final day, coupled with the look of sheer joy on the faces of our committee, speakers and audience, is what makes it absolutely magical

  • Can you share the most memorable moment thus far?

 Jen: There are so many! For me the most memorable moments are the ones involving people sharing their stories of how our community and our speakers have impacted their life and really created a positive change.

Daniella: It’s the team behind the event – warmth from the familiar ones and enthusiasm from new ones on the committee, helping to drive the event – that creates everlasting memories. This diverse set of people come together as a team, year on year, creating a new, distinct, and sophisticated event. 

  • And finally, what can one expect from this year’s even

Jen & Daniella: Prepare to be surprised, thrilled and inspired, all at the same time from this year’s speaker line up and the venue. Be ready to shed some tears and share some laughter. And most importantly connect with your fellow attendees, our charities, engage in community activities and have conversations on ideas worth spreading.


What it means to be a TEDx Sponsor…

The long-standing support from our sponsors including J.P. Morgan and Allen & Overy makes the annual TEDxTinHauWomen events in Hong Kong possible 

While our beloved city, Hong Kong, is slowly distancing itself from the pandemic gloom, we at TEDxTinHauWomen have chosen to showcase ideas that celebrate optimism and spark conversations with our 2021 theme –  “What Matters Now?”. Taking a colourful, illustrative approach to re-emerge, our December 10 event will be held at the impressive Xiqu Centre in the West Kowloon district.

In the last few years, our events have attracted strong visionary speakers, and have garnered support from a variety of corporates, as well as institutions, and have received an overwhelming response from our audience.

In our journey thus far, we are hugely grateful to all of our supporters along the way — big and small — for their contributions in making our yearly event the success it is today.  As the organizer of a non-profit event, we direct sponsorship stipends towards photography and video, renting an accessible venue and curating a memorable experience for our guests. All of this helps us set the stage for our speakers to share ‘ideas worth spreading’. Sponsors such as J.P. Morgan and Allen & Overy – who over the years have title sponsored every single one of our events – make it possible for us to shine a light on Hong Kong’s unsung stories and inspirational speakers.

Our partnership with J.P. Morgan and Allen & Overy, which began in 2017, has generated 5 successful events and provided platforms to 28 passionate speakers who have shared their impactful initiatives with over 1,500 attendees to date. 

Needless to say, that we would not be able to make TEDxTinHauWomen a success without the support of our sponsors. We therefore ask if:

  • women equity is on your corporate agenda
  • you would like to enable the voices of change and innovation
  • you are looking to support drivers of positive social change

If that’s a yes, then we could be the partner for you. TEDxTinHauWomen events not only highlight the contribution of women in Hong Kong, but also provide a safe space for people coming from all walks of life to come, enjoy stimulating talks, discuss important topics and new ideas worth spreading. 

What to expect on 10 December 2021?

This year, we polled our community to find out what you want to hear and the themes of self-care, purpose and perspective came out on top, taking inspiration from the notion that it is okay to feel the way you do and still find it in you to focus on what really counts – health, kindness, patience, empathy, enthusiasm, love and optimism.

This year we plan to return with a bang! and there are a variety of excellent ways to have your brand involved in our regular sell-out event: 

  • Cash sponsorship – packages ranging from HKD5,000 to HKD50,000. All of which include complimentary event tickets for staff or clients.
  • Goody bags for event attendees  – branded gifts, the bag itself, or a bespoke offer.

We are looking to create long-term partnerships, where the TEDxTinHauWomen event becomes a major asset for your company. For further information, please email sponsorship@TEDxTinHauWomen.com  on how you can become an official 2021 partner.

Together we can provide impetus to great ideas that can transform the world and build a socially-engaged community in Hong Kong.

Tickets will go on sale for the Dec 10, 2021 TEDxTinHauWomen event soon, watch this space. 

Learn more about TEDx partners here: https://tedxtinhauwomen.com/partners/2018-event-partners/).

To hear our talks from previous years, click here: https://tedxtinhauwomen.com/watch/

#TEDxTinHauWomen           #WhatMattersNow


TEDxTinHauWomen are back!! So What Matters Now…

“No pessimist ever discovered the secrets of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new heaven to the human spirit.” – Helen Keller

These words by Helen Keller, humanity’s extraordinary icon, bring a special meaning at a time when the pandemic has brought life to a virtual standstill. Yet a lot has changed in the last one year as our routines got disrupted, forcing us to reformat our existence. 

Keller’s words also resonate well with the event we are planning in December, whose theme incidentally is “What Matters Now.’’ The gathering is set to showcase ideas and prompt us to re-think and re-align.  

If the global health crisis brought despair to many corners of the world, it also made many of us focus on issues that were critical to our overall wellbeing. While health and immunity became priority, mental health is getting the attention it deserves. There is a staggering rise in domestic abuse due to lockdown, many women quitting workforce to support home schooling. On the flip-side working from home not only became necessary but also found acceptance. Our kids got used to attending classes online. Families got closer, communities rallied to help those in need.

“The pandemic deeply impacted everyone. It forced us to re-look at every aspect of our life.  But it also shone a light on compassion, shared experiences and brought us closer. And challenged the creative thinkers, problem solvers, innovators, to go beyond the ordinary,” said Jen Flowers, our Co-Founder and Co-Chair.

So, what now? Where do we go from here? What would the world be post Covid? What will the new normal be?

It’s the time to Pause, Breathe, Reflect, Reset and Re-imagine a better future.   

“We are thrilled to bring back our annual event, especially with such a thought-provoking theme this year. Our Hong Kong community will be inspired by diverse topics from amazing speakers who are passionate about big ideas and making a difference. With some new changes all around, we can’t wait for you to see what we are planning,” added Daniella Lopez, our Co-founder and Co-Chair.

The TEDxTinHauWomen tribe in Hong Kong is  already supercharged about this. The manic frenzy has started! The stage is set. Be sure to join us and be a part of these inspiring talks that will spark stimulating conversations.

So mark your calendar and save the date. Our 2021 countdown will take place in Hong Kong on Friday, December 10, 2021. Half a day of gathering together as a community, celebrating visionary speakers with powerful messages.

We will share more details on the event and how to get tickets soon, so save the date [December 10, 2021], follow our TEDxTinHauWomen InstagramTwitter and Facebook accounts and sign up for the TEDxTinHauWomen email updates.

We have given the oceans a fever. Is improving our climate fitness the cure?

Jessica Broomhall gives herself a climate bootcamp inspired by Jonathan Cybulski’s TEDxTinHau Countdown talk.

Jonathan Cybulski at TEDxTinHau Countdown explains how to build your climate fitness. Photo by Alex Macro.

Climate change and athletics. Two things I most definitely would not have put together… at least that is until Jonathan Cybulski took to the stage for the TEDxTinHau Countdown event and introduced his Climate Fitness training manual. 

Jonathan, a marine ecologist, athlete and fitness coach, believes that we must improve our climate fitness to become part of the solution to climate change.

Jonathan’s training guide to improve our climate fitness includes 4 key steps:

  1. Reshape your mentality – rather than quitting in the face of the climate mountain ahead of us to climb, put one foot in front of the other and start walking” celebrate the small achievements
  2. Reform your climate identity – recognise one conscious action every day for 30 days. Through identifying as a sustainable person, you will find it easier to become more sustainable.
  3. Take actions – align these to your interests and find your tribe. Like the beach? Organize a cleanup. Budding chef? Prepare a vegan or sustainable meal.
  4. Learn to care. Build your personal motivation and trust the process.
Watch Jonathan’s TEDxTinHau Countdown ‘How to build your climate fitness’

Sometimes in the fitness world we need a boost. A kickstart towards our goal. That’s when a bootcamp comes in. In line with the TEDxTinHau Countdown key areas, I committed to making a small change every day for 5 days across each of food, energy, transport, nature, fashion.

So here we go.

Climate fitness bootcamp day 1 – food

Between the office and studying life can be pretty full on. If I haven’t meal prepped for the week on Sunday, it’s likely I’ll resort to take-out for both lunch and dinner. I know this isn’t good for me or the planet, but knowledge doesn’t always equate to action, and sometimes convenience and cravings win out over my better self.

Lunch is usually a quick dart to get a sandwich or (usually) a Deliveroo. Today I make a conscious decision to switch this up. I give my legs a stretch and my brain a break and head over to Mana for a wrap. Food literacy – the subject of Peggy Chan’s talk , is all about understanding the impact of food on your health, the environment, and the economy. By skipping meat and supporting local business this seems like a step in the right direction.

Day 2 – energy

We use energy in almost everything we do, most often unconsciously. Looking around my desk I have my laptop, extra screen, and phone charger all plugged into the grid, lights on, aircon on… you get the picture.

I turn to google to find some tips to improve my energy efficiency and come across the concept of ‘Vampire Energy’. Vampire energy (or phantom load) refers to appliances that remain plugged in even when not in use (i.e. on standby mode), sucking up energy and ramping up your electricity bill.

A quick tour of my apartment that evening confirms I’m feeding the vampire, and I unplug the offending appliances. Easy, right?

Day 3 – transport

I feel pretty lucky in Hong Kong. We have a great public transport network that’s clean, frequent, and cheap. To push this further, my small win for today was to ditch transport all together and to walk into work. I feel good for the walk, and it allowed me to take time for myself and reflect on Ollie Haas’s talk on the future of flying. I love travel. Unlike Ollie however, I do not love flying (genuinely terrified). Nonetheless I don’t think it’s something I’ll ever fully give up. With the prospect of travel bubbles and vaccines on the horizon, I make a commitment to myself to purchase carbon credits if and when I travel in the future. As Ollie said, it’s not the solution, but it’s a continuous trade off.

Jessica has a revamped holiday wardrobe courtesy of her climate bootcamp. Photo courtesy of Jessica Broomhall.

Day 4 – fashion

A basic cotton t-shirt on average takes a whopping 2,700 litres of water to produce, putting huge strain on our freshwater resources. Add to this the impact of pesticides and insecticides, manufacturing, transportation, use, and disposal, and you can see the issues caused by fast fashion consumerism begin to mount up.

Running up to the festive period I need a few outfits to keep it fresh. Luckily, I have a great group of friends and we decide to get together and have a clothes swap x mulled wine evening to revamp our respective wardrobes. I emerge with a bag full of awesome outfits – it’s a resounding success and we’ll definitely be doing this again in the New Year!

Day 5 – nature

Like Jonathan, I have a mild ocean obsession. My own sustainability journey began with a love of scuba diving, and by seeing first-hand the extent of coral bleaching and the mountains of plastic we’ve poured into the ocean.

A Plastic Ocean is a Hong Kong based NGO dedicated to creating ‘a wave of change’ to stop plastic pollution via education and policy advocacy. They created an award-winning documentary that I’ve put off watching because it’s easier to ignore the problem than to acknowledge it and do something about it. Today my action is educational… time to finally watch this.

I’m overwhelmed by the damage we’ve done but also inspired by the team behind the film and the work the NGO does do day-in day-out to encourage people to be part of the solution. We can and must do better to help save our oceans.

Reflections on the bootcamp

It really wasn’t too much effort to change up my choices, but I recognize I still have a long way to go – doing one push-up isn’t going to make me strong. Acknowledging the choices we make is a key step in changing them for the better… and as with any fitness goal the real challenge comes in sticking with it until actions become habit.

I’m up for the challenge – are you?

Design you own climate fitness and #JoinTheCountdown with the Count Us In aggregator. Choose from the 16 steps that will have the most impact at Count-Us-In.org

Jessica Broomhall is currently studying for the Masters of Corporate Environmental Governance at the University of Hong Kong.

Why food matters in the talk about sustainability

Daniella Lopez considers the right ingredients for a sustainable future while watching Peggy Chan’s talk at TEDxTinHau Countdown

In a former life I used to describe myself as a “foodie”. Back in Shanghai I used to plan my days around meals, exploring hole-in-the-walls, street food, free-flow brunches and saving every penny to visit Paul Pairet’s Ultraviolet. I bragged that I didn’t know how to cook and was on first name terms with many chefs and bartenders around town.

Rarely did I pause to think about the ingredients I was consuming or about the waste around me as we over-ordered to try every recommended dish. Yet, sitting down at one of the 2020 TEDxTinHau Countdown live stream events, I found myself entranced by Peggy Chan’s talk which focused not only on what we eat but how we eat.

Peggy Chan shares her recipe for a sustainable future. Photo by Alex Macro.

A plant-based Chef, Peggy spoke to us about “food literacy”, a new and developing term in the food world. A phrase I had never heard before. Food literacy is understanding how food is related to nutrition, biodiversity, and climate change. It also encompasses everything from nutrition to composting to sustainable business management. And also understanding how our food is processed in order to make more sustainable choices. By understanding these connections we can become more informed about our food choices to make healthier decisions for ourselves and our communities. And Peggy firmly believes “food literacy as a subject should be as fundamental as math, science and languages.”

Planet-forward food from MANA! enjoyed as part of TEDxTinHau Countdown. Photo by Danielle Tjia.

Peggy has spent years educating herself about the impact that our food choices have on our physical, social and mental health. Her passion was clearly visible in her TEDx talk and as I looked around everyone was entranced. When MANA! was served at the end of the talks, everyone was acutely aware of how MANA! fits into this food literacy school of thought. Their food is about diet change, not climate change. whole-food, plant-based food, served in an eco-friendly & responsible manner.

So although there  is no easy solution for our health and environmental problems, supporting restaurants with a comparable mantra is a step in the right direction.

Watch Peggy’s TEDxTinHau Countdown talk ‘A chef shares her recipe for a sustainable future’

And what else can you do to be more food literate? According to Peggy, there are things we can do right now to help use food in our own fights for climate change.

  1. Push for legislative changes, such as ending government subsidies of genetically modified corn. This will reduce the amount of junk foods being sold on our supermarket shelves.
  2. Influence government bodies to agree on setting a standard to help manage a sustainable global food system.
  3. Support farmers’ markets
  4. Eat locally grown and locally sourced food as much as possible
  5. Educate yourself on ingredients and how to read food labels 
  6. Include more plant-based meals to your diet

You can make your actions count when you #JoinTheCountdown with the Count Us In aggregator. Commit to eat more plants or eat seasonally at Count-Us-In.org

Daniella Lopez is a Co-Founder and Co-Chair of TEDxTinHauWomen.

Magical fuels and other, more immediately available, ways to travel sustainably

Colleen Galbraith is transported to a world of sustainable aviation while watching Ollie Haas’s TEDxTinHau Countdown talk.

Ollie Haas presents his TEDxTinHau Countdown talk ‘Flying on Magic Fuels’. Photo by Alex Macro.

While Hong Kong’s airport has moved since my first trip to Kai Tak in 1990, Hong Kong’s International Airport is one of the world’s busiest passenger airports. HKIA’s vast new third runway project due to complete in 2024 is on a scale almost equivalent to building a new airport next to the existing one

Ollie explained that if aviation were a country, it would have been the sixth biggest CO2 emitter in 2018. Pre-pandemic travel restrictions, Ollie estimates that 65% of his annual carbon footprint related to air travel and that he made 10-15 round trips by air per year. His strong environmental values clearly conflict with the air travel he and I associate with being a modern global citizen. So, what can be done?

Ollie has a strong belief that we can change climate change in the aviation industry, and here are his ideas worth spreading:

  • Batteries – within the next five years Ollie estimates that battery powered aeroplanes will be able to cover 1000km (the distance from Hong Kong to Taipei or from London to Milan). Solar or wind powered batteries have a lower overall environmental impact than jet fuel. While there are constraints such as the weight of the battery, hybrid models will allow for further distances.
  • Waste to energy – although converting waste into plane fuel will still result in greenhouse gases, the cleaner burning fuel and lower emissions have led some airlines to start using blends with biofuel in their existing aircraft. While switching from fossil fuels completely would be expensive and difficult, it’s not impossible. 
  • Hydrogen – last month, Airbus revealed three concepts for zero-emission commercial aircraft which could be flying passengers by 2035. The concepts rely on hydrogen, the first element in the periodic table and the most abundant in the universe. Hydrogen can power planes if it is burnt or using fuel-cells and the only byproduct is water.]
Watch Ollie’s talk ‘Flying on magic fuels’.

Many of us have cancelled flights over the last year and changing travel restrictions may make rearranging trips challenging for the time being. Ollie has two options for our next trips by air:

  • Fly less – while this doesn’t sound fun, Ollie reasons that many people will have learnt to adapt their travel behaviour during the pandemic and that unnecessary business travel and travelling to the farside of the globe for short holidays will be less common.
  • Carbon off-setting – Even though the International Air Transport Association (IATA) says that there was a 140-fold increase between 2008 and 2018 of passengers offsetting through voluntary programmes, this is just 1% of passengers. While buying carbon off-setting vouchers from your airline (if they offer it) or a third party to reduce CO2 is not a silver bullet, Ollie suggests travellers should be more responsible in managing their own emissions.

As the pandemic has caused many aspects of our lives to “pause”, Ollie’s ideas have prompted me to take time to reflect on my travel habits and to take action on the transport within my control. As Hong Kong’s autumn weather arrives, I have stopped relying on Hong Kong taxis in favour of walking around the city more. I have also been more appreciative of the efficiency of the MTR for longer journeys. I hope it’s not too long before I can see my family in person. Before I board my next flight, I am comparing the airlines with off-setting options and researching third party carbon off-set programmes

Colleen with her family before a childhood flight. Will the magic of future travel be the fuel? Photo courtesy of Colleen Galbraith.

Ollie reasons that although there aren’t immediate solutions to aviation’s sustainability problem, the future of sustainable flying is not a quantum leap. I grew up in an area with roughly the same land mass as Hong Kong but with only 0.8% of Hong Kong’s population. As a child, I could only dream of living somewhere as unique as Hong Kong, from its skyscrapers to its country parks. As Ollie suggests, from the first Wright brothers’ flight 117 years ago, to supersonic Concorde travelling at twice the speed of sound a little over 50 years later, it is only by daring to dream that we can make sustainable air travel and businesses like Rabbit Airlines a reality. 

You can #JoinTheCountdown with the Count Us In aggregator. Commit to fly less, drive electric or walk more at Count-Us-In.org

Colleen Galbraith is a qualified lawyer and is currently studying for the Masters of Corporate Environmental Governance at the University of Hong Kong.

If you think going green is hard… What if it’s about self-interest and living better?

That’s the question Connie Wu asked herself while she listened to Keilem Ng and Lance Lau’s TEDxTinHau Countdown talk.

Keilem Ng and Lance Lau share how they help communities take climate action at TEDxTinHau Countdown. Photo by Alex Macro.

People don’t like changing, even less so when being told to. Keilem and Lance started their talk with a story about people avoiding them on a recent Friday for Futures climate strike in Hong Kong.

Many of us are told that as long as we are alive and well, any disruption to the status quo should be discouraged. But no, we may be alive but are certainly not well. For example, I’m concerned whether the air that I’m inhaling is full of dirt and toxins, and that the water I’m drinking contains numerous plastic pellets undetected by our naked eye. We may have a flash of regret when picking up takeaway and using plastic cutlery, knowing that plastic is piling up in landfills and killing our marine life, and yet very often this guilt is gone in a blink of an eye, and so the vicious cycle never ends.

Yet many of us seem unwilling to close the value-action gap, i.e. our action does not correspond to our value system, in this case environmental sustainability. The term “going green” sounds like a daunting task which requires us to revamp our whole lifestyle, such as throwing away all things disposable, eating no meat, avoiding air-conditioning in summer and going zero-waste. After all, not many of us are as proactive as Keilem and Lance, who are brave enough to take the lead, go to the street to raise awareness of climate action and help others achieve their own green goals.

Going green is acting in self-interest

Adam Smith, the “Father of Economics”, believed that human-beings act in self-interest all the time. Going green can seem difficult, as many of us believe that it is a distant idea and has nothing to do with our own self-interest. Aside from the benefits of contributing to a healthier planet, and as Lance mentioned, making sure that parts of our city don’t  disappear underwater, what if going green can save our hard-earned money?

Have you considered buying a collapsible water bottle for HK$100 which can be used for years, in lieu of bottled water for HK$10 for 10 times? What about spending HK$79 on three washable face masks which last for two months in total, instead of HK$150 on 60 disposable surgical face masks containing degradation-resistant materials? Or the most obvious one, bringing your own bag so you don’t need to spend extra 50 cents when you do grocery shopping every time? Going green doesn’t necessarily mean researching and calculating the carbon footprint of every single purchase, but a bit of awareness and simple arithmetic can also help you make wiser choices.

Connie Wu shows that swapping to a reusable mask can be good for the planet and your wallet.

Going green is focusing on living better

You may think that spending a few extra bucks for convenience is still better (or cooler) than bringing along an additional water bottle or shopping bag each time going out. I used to think that too, until I moved into my current tiny flat. Suddenly buying less is no longer optional but mandatory, otherwise my freezer would be overflowed with pre-packaged microwave food, my wardrobe fast-fashion clothes which degrade after a wash or two, and my cabinet a chaos of plastic bags from times when I forgot to bring my own bag.

This reminds me of a friend of mine, who once said that Marie Kondo’s tidying/organisation method in fact “creates more waste”, as one would have to throw away things which do not “spark joy”. I would rather think of it as a way to focus on living better and buying quality over quantity – fewer items which last longer means fewer purchase decisions to make and less time to spend on tidying up your home at weekends, and instead you have more time and money to spend on things that really matter and “spark joy” in your life, like family, friendship and lifelong goals. Just make sure that anything you decide you no longer need is passed on responsibly, for example by finding it a new home, upcycling or recycling.

We can start with small actions Keilem and Lance mentioned that they keep telling people what should be done even when they are unwilling to listen, and for me this is a very powerful statement. Whilst the science behind climate change is clear, it can be perceived as difficult and inconvenient to make changes to your lifestyle. Our daily lives amongst our communities are where important first steps can be made. “Climate action isn’t something we should leave to the scientists and politicans,” said Keilem, and Lance concluded, “no one is too small to make a difference, and no action is too small to start with.”

Watch Keilem and Lance’s talk ‘The story we’ll tell in 2050’

You can #JoinTheCountdown and take your small step for climate action today, choose your action for 2020 at Count Us In. 

Connie Wu is currently studying for the Masters of Corporate Environmental Governance at the University of Hong Kong.

Why does fruit need clothing?

Tanja Wessels walking and wearing her TEDxTinHau Countdown talk ‘Why I dress like an apple’. Photo by Alex Macro.

Colleen Galbraith reflects on watching Tanja Wessels’s TEDxTinHau Coundown talk.

Why does fruit need clothing? Spoiler alert: it doesn’t, but this is how content creator and environmental advocate, Tanja Wessels, opened her TEDxTinHau Countdown Talk in Hong Kong, part of Countdown, the global initiative to champion and accelerate solutions to the climate crisis, launched in 2020.

When planning for the event, the first question Tanja asked herself (like most fashion fans) was “what am I going to wear?”. Her striking style evoked Patricia Field’s timeless look for Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City’s finale in 2004, with a conscious 2020 update – the wasteful wrappers that adorn so many apples in Hong Kong supermarkets were carefully collected and upcycled to create her tulle effect skirt.

Tanja is celebrating four years of not buying any new clothes. This may not seem like much if you aren’t into fashion, but Tanja walks, talks and wears sustainable fashion with passion. What started out as a one year experiment after a period of eco-anxiety, led her to change her relationship with an industry whose products mostly end up in a landfill

The fashion industry accounts for 10% of the world’s carbon emissions and around 20% of wastewater, inspiring Tanja to share her three ideas to change perceptions of fashion and help us all respect the planet. 

One: shopping for fast fashion can’t fix us.

Feeling the need to belong, combined with the availability of cheap clothing, leads us to buying clothes unnecessarily. This resonated with me, thinking of my wardrobe full of unworn clothes after ten months of COVID-19 social restrictions in Hong Kong. Tanja talked honestly of the links between our addiction to fast fashion and the mental lows which follow the ever-shortening highs of a new purchase. Tanja spoke of the fear of rejection, vulnerability and shame associated with needing to keep up in the conventional fashion game. After four years of no buying, she reasoned that she cannot lose a game she no longer plays, as her experience has made her feel more powerful in her clothing choices.

Two: if we stopped using plastic straws, why are we still wearing plastic clothes?

While it is obvious there is plastic in Tanja’s upcycled skirt, many of us don’t realise how much plastic there is in the clothes we wear. With the increasing popularity of athleisure during the pandemic for namaste and Netflix binges, the sector is set to grow 7% in the next three years. Most items of sportswear contain plastic (polyester, acrylic or nylon) because it is lightweight and cheap. But every time they’re washed, microplastics are released into the water system, polluting the planet’s water. There are around 700 marine organisms that consume microplastics and I didn’t feel very zen as Tanja reminded us that the plastic from our socks ends up in the sushi we eat.

If we stopped using plastic straws, why are we still wearing plastic clothes? Photo by Karina Tess on Unsplash
Three: second-hand needs a rebrand.

As someone who has been known to store a new-for-me vintage bag overnight in the freezer to freshen the leather, I was not surprised to hear that Tanja has been asked by fast fashion fans whether she ever thought that shopping for second-hand clothes was “dirty”. We know that fast fashion is dirtier. Growing conventional cotton relies on pesticides and these chemicals make their way into the fibres of our clothing, before being absorbed into our skin. In the next stage of the lifecycle of your crisp white t-shirt, that “just off the rack” feeling may be down to a toxic finish of formaldehyde, a known carcinogen. Buying second-hand clothing decreases the amount of chemicals you’re likely to come into contact with and saves the clothes from landfill, while balancing the use of water and energy expended in creating them. 

Tanja left us with three other creative ideas for change:

  1. Don’t forget about your accessories – consider switching from mass produced leather made with pollutants to planet-friendly alternatives;
  2. Slow down and embrace the repair culture for your clothes. Nothing is ever truly broken in the Japanese art of Kintsugi, where damaged pieces are repaired with gold to enhance their beauty; and
  3. Finally, ideas begin with us, and each of us has the power to develop more creative and meaningful relationships with the clothes we wear and the materials we use.

The latest looks can be found away from the chain stores of Causeway Bay. We can all be inspired by Tanja and the ways fashion is changing in our home of Hong Kong, from pre-loved luxury at HULA to restyling with Redress. Whether you are organising clothes swaps with friends, working with one of Tsim Sha Tsui’s traditional tailors for style crafted to last or supporting a small local business like Beam Bold’s adjustable pieces in natural fabrics, I know I’d choose planet-friendly over fast fashion any season.

Watch Tanja’s talk ‘Why I dress like an apple’.

You can #JoinTheCountdown and make your actions count with the Count Us In aggregator. Commit to buy fewer new clothes and wear them for longer at Count-Us-In.org

Colleen Galbraith is a qualified lawyer and is currently studying for the Masters of Corporate Environmental Governance at the University of Hong Kong.

A story of five talks

Our speakers and support team take the TEDx tradition of ‘ideas worth spreading’ very seriously, what you see on stage is the product of hundreds of hours of preparation. Here’s the story of the five TEDxTinHau Countdown talks…

On Saturday October 17th the TEDxTinHau Countdown speakers presented five talks, sharing their ideas on how to build a better, greener, healthier Hong Kong.

The talks were insightful, inspiring and thought-provoking. They were also the result of hundreds of  hours of work by the speakers and the TEDxTinHau coaches, buddies and curation team.

It was back in August when our speakers were selected for TEDxTinHau Countdown and the preparations began. Each speaker had a team that worked with them to bring shape and structure to their ideas and present them in ways that would resonate with the audience. “There was so many things that I wanted to share and so many things I wanted to talk about,” recalled sustainable food systems chef-consultant Peggy Chan at one rehearsal, “and the coaches really helped guide us in the right direction so that the audience can absorb it better.”

Peggy Chan rehearses with her coach Karen Koh (far left) and speaker buddy Marina Huynh. Photo by Alex Macro.

Historical and marine ecologist Jonathan Cybulski added, When I was nominated, I was pitched as a scientist, which I am, but working through my ideas with the team, I was really happy to have a chance to bring this alternative angle, the fitness angle. This talk allowed me to hone into who I am and it makes it feel really personal in what I am able to contribute to climate solutions, which I think is what everyone wants to do – contribute in their own way.”

“I’ve done public speaking in the past, but I’ve never had a team supporting me telling me what parts of my scripts suck and what parts are great. It’s an eye-opening experience,” said writer, content-creator and artist Tanja Wessels, “Here is a really well-crafted, well thought-out procedure, and consequently, as a speaker, it’s very exciting.”

Tanja Wessels rehearses with her speaker buddy, Megan Leckie. Photo by Alex Macro.
Tanja Wessel’s Why I dress like an apple. Illustration by Inkagrm.

A new part of the support team this year was Chan Wai, aka Inkagrm, whose illustrations were projected on screen after each of the talks providing a powerful reminder of the key points that the speakers have made.  

“My illustrations are graphic recordings. I am always aware that what I do is not about art but about visual communication, memory retention and a good start to discussions and dialogue,” said Inkagrm.

“This was my first time working with a TEDx event while the speeches were being developed and it was super interesting. Not only because the speakers talked about so many things that I was not aware of –  like microplastics, electric planes, and an 11-year old climate activist in Hong Kong –  but particularly because I had the privilege to watch the voice and body coaches go through the talks with the speakers. I learned so much and it was so good to see behind the scenes – it was an awesome experience!”

“It really does take a village,” said Ollie Haas, designer and engineer, “at every step of the process people have been there helping the speakers perfect our talks and get them to a point where they really are ideas worth spreading. The amazing illustrations from Inkagrm are fabulous reminders of our ideas and will encourage people to share the TEDxTinHau Countdown ideas even further.”

Ollie Haas’s Flying on magic fuels. Illustration by Inkagrm.
Jonathan Cybulski’s How to build you climate fitness. Illustration by Inkagrm.

“There is a magic that happens in this process every time we do it,” says Treena Nairne, Head of Curation for TEDxTinHau Countdown, “We start in a certain place, when we first meet, and everyone comes with their idea. The final speeches may not be what the speakers envisaged; they might not have had any idea where it would end up. And none of the support team ever does either. But we trust the process. It is magic. And I love it every year.”

Treena Nairne, Head of Curation for TEDxTinHau Countdown checks in with the speakers during preparation for the live event. Photo by Alex Macro.

Ultimately, everyone at TEDxTinHau Countdown hopes that you enjoyed the talks and are inspired to #JoinTheCountdown and take climate action.

“What is different about this TEDx is the focus on action,” said community environmental advocate, Keilem Ng, “I would like to see more action from this community beyond the day of the event.” Youth climate activist Lance Lau agrees, “We need more action in general and we need to keep spreading the message. I hope that we have planted the seed of climate action in people’s minds and that they water it.”

Bobsy Gaia leads a meditation at MANA! before TEDxTinHau Countdown talks. Photo by TEDxTinHauWomen.
Keilem Ng & Lance Lau’s The story we’ll tell in 2050. Illustration by Inkagrm.

So, what are you waiting for?  #JoinTheCountdown by making a pledge on the Count Us In website.