Those of us in Hong Kong, Macau and China may be feeling the impact of pre-CNY factory output the most, but it's going take a global village to help turn things around
Ahhhhhh… there’s nothing quite like waking up in the morning, stepping outside and enjoying your first 25 cigarettes. On Saturday, 12 January 2019, the air pollution in Hong Kong rose to staggering levels of disgustingness. High to Very High readings were recorded across most of the territory’s air quality stations, and you only had to step outside and into the yellow haze to understand why around 4.2million people worldwide die from ambient air pollution every year.
Though our air quality ranking at time of writing is down at 48th in the world, if we’d been ranked with Saturday’s figure of around 208 for some pollutants, we would have sat 4th in the world for worst air quality. Can you even imagine what this is doing to your health, let alone that of the littlies whose lungs are still developing?! This is one top 10 list Hong Kong really doesn’t want to be on.
Word on the street–and if you’ve lived here for a while, you’ve probably noticed this trend–is that the factories in Southern China are working over-time to produce all their goods before Chinese New Year, but before playing the old ‘blame China’ card, let’s talk about the facts.
Who is to blame for the rank air pollution in Hong Kong?
The short answer to this is: we all are. The only reason factories are scrambling to make cheap plastic toys and fast fashion is because we as consumers demand them. We want more bang for our buck, and we don’t care if the product is made in China, shipped back to France, or New Zealand or the States and then flown to us after a few pushes of keys on the computer and a quick input of the credit card. But the madness has to stop.
If 2019 wants to be known for anything, it needs to be as the year we consumers demanded change through the power of our spending habits. This doesn’t mean you have to stop buying things completely, but you really need to educate yourself on how to shop, so that those of us living in the vicinity of the huge factories around the Pearl River Delta can breathe again (breathe again. Sorry, sidetracked by a Toni Braxton moment.)
To help you out, I’ve made a wee list of three helpful (and totally doable) tips for you:
1) Check to see where the product you are contemplating buying was made
Try and shop locally made/produced as much as possible, as this means less outsourcing and transport pollution, plus you’re helping your local economy: e.g. these Hong Kong fashion brands rule. You can usually find where something was made on the label, and failing that a quick check on Uncle Google may help. If you can’t find this info, then WALK AWAY.
2) Marie Kondo the shit out of your life
It’s only when you have all your clothes piled on your bed that you can begin to see that 1) clam diggers are never coming back, and 2) you buy too much crap. Ask yourself that quintessential Kondo question before any purchase: does this spark joy in me? And even then, try and stick to locally produced delights.
3) Invest in statement fashion pieces and recycled items
Not gonna lie, I’ve brought my share of fast fashion over the years, but I also rely heavily on vintage stores in Hong Kong. And when it comes to your wardrobe in general: less is more, so spend a bit more on a coat you will get five years out of and then wear it and cherish it to death.
Reducing air pollution in Hong Kong and Macau is not just the responsibilty of those of us who live here, so share this with your friends around the world, and let’s make 2019 the year we vote with our wallets, rather than the year we force small children to take up smoking.