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Green Is The New Black

TALKS: What We Learned About WORKING at The Conscious Festival

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The second track from TALKS at The Conscious Festival focused on intrapreneurship for good. Here we look back on highlights from the WORK track which took place on in Hong Kong in April 2019.

‘I am love. I am light. I am the solution. I am here, and I am free. I am free to make the choice.’ – Nicole Yau

Lucia Torresi, 9-year old activist

We heard from youths fighting at the front lines for climate change

In what is being called one of the most moving talks from The Conscious Festival, nine-year-old Lucia Torresi from Ecoparties talked about her experiences that began when she was just four years old with a beach cleanup after she found that Hong Kong was covered in plastic waste. Upon learning that plastic toothbrushes take over 400 years to decompose, she started selling humble brushes to her friends. Now she holds classroom presentations and provided tips and tricks to live more consciously and even more recently she skipped school to join the strike for climate change. She even started a rental service called Ecoparties that provides reusable products and aims to create change one party at a time. Here are two things Lucia feels we can do to live more consciously:

> Take inspiration from Children OR tap into that childlike energy – adults are older and are stuck in their ways (children are learning, they have more energy, and are more enthusiastic to do something about it)
> Tell EVERYONE – it’s important that we create awareness throughout the world

Yet another inspiring talk by a youth came from Eugenia Chow from Bye Bye Plastic Bags. The high school student is the Hong Kong lead for the company started by two Bali-based youths who were aged 10 and 12. Eugenia also works with universities around HK where she promotes circular economies after becoming concerned with a degraded national landscape and deforestation. She’s worried that future generations won’t know or have access to natural wonders, like the Great Barrier Reef. These are the facts that turned her into an advocate:

> Hong Kong has inadequate recycling infrastructures and these materials are ending up in landfills – it’s also running out of space
> Solutions include fast fashion workshops that teach people how to recycle and upcycle
> Adults think it’s a gradual process whereas youth are more immediately impacted
> Start small and start now – our individual actions do make a difference
> Make small adjustments in your diet


Drinks Without Waste: Forming a Consortium Panel

We learned how to drink without waste and how to form a consortium

Mark Harper from John Swire & Sons explained how 80% of beverage packaging in Hong Kong ends up in landfill and/or leaks into the environment. He went on to tell that there is very little data around what exactly is the issue in Hong Kong surrounding packaging but he’s been campaigning and advocating for desired regulations and the infrastructure needed. By reaching out to NGOs, he found that there is a need for very clear governance structure to ensure equal voice and vote. He added that more research needs to be done and funding needs to be secured in order to figure out what to do next. This is where he’s found people can improve:

> Independent group and chairs are needed to reduce the amount of plastic waste
> Reduce – this is the biggest area for impact and drink stations are a solution
> Redesign (eco-design) – it can create a level playing field and guarantees a higher level of value of a product
> Collection + Recovery – there a big problem with the current infrastructure in Hong Kong and a solution exists in a value return system that uses deposits
> Recycle instead of sending our waste somewhere else
> Businesses need to be rolling out water stations and lead the way for others to do the same

Paul Zimmerman of Designing Hong Kong followed Mark and delivered a talk that complemented his as well. He’s been trying to make sustainability improvements in Hong Kong by analyzing what he picks up during cleanups as part of research through his without waste initiative. Through his work, here is what else he’s discovered:

> You need to give the government comfort that there’s a large group who wants a change – only then will they see this as a means to speed up change
> We need to promote reusable bottles, especially for water because it doesn’t make sense to import water

Dana Winograd from Plastic Free Seas feels that there is hope for a higher reduction of waste through global awareness, bulk, and zero-waste stores because reduction is part of the solution. She added that competition in this sphere is fantastic. Here are some of the key ways Dana suggested we go about it:

> Focus on students and children because it’s much easier to change their behavior than adults
> Try to get them to use less plastic and tell more people
> Governments and companies need to install and provide beverage solutions

The talk was moderated by Doug Woodring of the Ocean Recovery Alliance who asked a very important question: school buses and ice cream trucks in Hong Kong are diesel, what are we going to do about these?


We also heard about low hanging fruits with a huge impact

Romain Zanna of Bellegrade was living in India when his journey started. He reminded the audience that sustainability is ingrained in our DNA and encouraged dreamers who are willing to make changes to improve. He spoke alongside Benoit Calmeil from Blue Sense who started his career as a trader. Through their work, they discovered that millennials have changed the way companies do business. We need to listen because they make up 26% of the world’s population and have the biggest spending power. They use their dollar to fight for what’s right. Millennials are also both the digital generation and the sustainable generation
The customer is the same for both, as is the methodology. Here are a few more takeaways from this talk:

> Startups, small groups, information sharing, open innovation, technology sharing, game changers, new players – they all want the same solution
> The customer is ready for change
> We’re starting to understand that there’s an environmental cost to everything and we can’t close our eyes any longer
> There is too much single-use plastic in the toy and holiday shopping industry, new packaging should be without plastic, cheaper and attractive


Cedric Mainguy, Palo It

We heard about ways to find purpose at work by empowering employees to be the change

The talks featured Cedric Mainguy from Palo It who stressed the need to re-energize organization for the next decade and called upon employees to do it together. He encouraged people to dream in the workplace and to envision their ideal organization five years from today by defining initiatives and also by reinventing organizations by empowering employees to be conscious individuals. He wrapped up with two points that hit the spot:

> We need to fall back in love with the planet in order to be a more beautiful world
> Be the change you wish to see in the world

We learned about the trends, truths, and transition of impact investing

The panel was moderated by Gram Milosevic of WHub and Angelhub. Anita Varshney of SAP started out by reminding people that purpose should be at the heart of every innovation. You can’t have a strategy without sustainability at the core of it. Today’s businesses put people at the heart of the company and communities have become smarter and are leading the innovation because they are reacting faster to what’s happening around them. Here are a few more points to keep in mind:

> We need to be respectful of different customer cultures
> CSR should not be treated as a separate vertical, it’s a necessity
> Sustainability practices should be shared
> Go where the customers go → this is especially the case for sustainability
> Industry needs to come together to really make an impact

Scott Salandy
of Magnet App has been helping 1.1 billion people in Nigeria get electricity by focusing on emerging technologies. Having consulted for the UN, he posed a good question and asked how we define the success of these conferences? There is lots of talking, but what about execution? “It’s easy to talk about these things, but difficult to tackle some of these much larger problems.” Here are some of the other key points he made:

> Be realistic, profit is a driver
> Define what impact looks like
> What are the potential negative, unintended consequences?
> It’s not only about doing good but also about doing no harm
> Commit to a mindset shift
> Companies need the right stakeholders involved from the beginning


And lastly Tony Vern from The GreaterBay Company who is involved in venture capital and technology talk about his experience of being a part of the innovation ecosystem. He believes that there will be 2.5 billion more people living in urban areas by 2050 and by making smarter investments we can help ease the strain on urban areas.

> We need to focus on companies with a positive impact
> Every investment should be impact positive
> We need to focus on urban tech (impact on urbanization)
> Match resources with the right person/company to take it on

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Olivia is a bon vivant with an insatiable appetite for...everything. Upon being horrified at the amount of rubbish she produced in a single day, her journey towards finding a better balance between being extravagant yet sustainable began. Like most obsessions, down the rabbit hole she went and it wasn’t long before she decided to shift her sustainable preachings from Friday nights after too much wine to every day at Green Is The New Black. Olivia is still trying to figure all this ‘the end of the world’ stuff out, so she is keepin’ it real, one super small #LittleGreenStep at a time. Be like Olivia.