Environmental degradation and climate change are certainly not new phenomenons; according to scientists, certain signs of global warming could be seen as early as the 1940s. However, it is only in recent times that these issues have gotten mainstream attention. This push for environmental awareness and conservation has been heavily led by youths, like Greta Thunberg and the Gen Z consumer market, that is redefining business by holding companies accountable for their part in climate change, and demanding more sustainable products. Young people all around the world are taking ownership of their future and insisting on creating a better tomorrow. One interesting result of a generation that is keen on leading positive action is young entrepreneurs focusing on socially responsible and sustainable business models. Research has suggested that more than half of Gen Z wants to start their own company and a major driver for these ambitions is the desire to create something beneficial for the planet. The young people of Hong Kong are no different. Here are 3 environmentally conscious and sustainable brands founded by the youth.
Sakshi Vasudev, a second-year student from the City University of Hong Kong, started BamPads! soon after she received her first set of reusable sanitary pads from her father. Her product is made from materials such as bamboo, charcoal and microfleece and is a lot more biodegradable than the disposable sanitary pads or tampons used by most women. According to Vasudev, “A single (disposable) pad takes 500-800 years to decompose because it contains 90% plastic.” However, plastic is not the only problem associated with these single-use products; they often contain harmful chemicals that can cause irritation and infections. So BamPads! is not just good for the environment, but they are also healthier for women, which is an integral part of the vision behind the brand. With her company, Vasudev hopes to one day reach consumers in developing countries that struggle immensely with both period health and environmental issues but for now her products can be found on the BamPads! website.
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Food waste is a major environmental issue that has been aggravated even more by the COVID-19 pandemic as supply chains are disrupted and outlets such as restaurants and bakeries struggle with lower demand and lockdowns. Anushka Purohit, Suyash Mohan, Naman Tekriwal and Deevansh Gupta from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology identified this very problem when they saw bread from a local bakery being thrown into the trash. According to Gupta, a week after the incident, they realised that “bread and beer have the same constituent elements, and that there is a potential idea here.” Working closely with local breweries, the students eventually developed Breer, a craft beer that is not only environmentally friendly, but having swapped barley with waste bread, has a novel taste of its own with hints of citrus in the bread beers while the pizza crust beer is formulated using fruity hops. Such upcycling of food waste has also proven to be highly cost effective as the company told Green Queen that “within one year they will be able to save HK$75 000 in brewing costs (in comparison to normal craft beer), on top of the 9.2 tons of bread and 3 square kilometres of landfill space saved.”
Single-use cutlery made of plastic doesn’t only take a long time to decompose but is also not recyclable. In order to be recycled plastic needs to be sorted properly in a recycling facility but the small size of single use cutlery means that it often falls through the crevices of most machines and equipment running the risk of contaminating other plastics. This difficulty with recycling has led to the creation of more biodegradable options which often use wood instead of plastic, but what about deforestation? Aditi Deodhar from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology came up with a solution that is a lot more sustainable and environmentally friendly than other options: vegan edible cutlery. Deodhar baked her first usable batch of cutlery with her partners, Swapnil Mishra, Srijan Saxena and Anhad Singh Chawla, which allowed them to consume a meal of hot ramen. The breadstick-like cutlery is baked using whole grain flour and water which makes it relatively tasteless and thus easily enjoyable with any meal. This young team behind Planeteers is now hoping to collaborate with members of the local restaurant industry and promote the use of sustainable and edible cutlery through events such as their first product test run on the 5th of April at a popular vegan restaurant in Central. Deodhar remarked that this event was a success with positive feedback from customers and a plethora of inquiries about when the cutlery might be available regularly.
These youth and the sustainable brands they have created have made it apparent that not only is the current generation coming up with innovative solutions to counter climate issues but they are willing to lead these efforts themselves. As these young entrepreneurs envision their future it is closely intertwined with the well being of the planet and their communities and as such it simply does not make sense to stand back as previous generations build that future. The fact of the matter is that the youth is no longer just our future as most would believe but they are actively creating the present and often walking side by side with much more experienced individuals in creating a better tomorrow so why should entrepreneurship be any different?