Over the past few decades, Hong Kong has emerged as a leading center of culture, finance and trade. But the city’s rapid growth has brought all the familiar problems of modernization: its per capita carbon footprint is the planet’s second highest, and it consumes beef at an astonishing rate. David Yeung, a cofounder of Green Monday—Hong Kong’s Meatless Monday cousin—is on a mission to stem the tide. Along with a growing group of socially conscious professionals, Yeung uses his experience in the corporate world to fashion innovative solutions for public health problems. And as an author, opinion columnist, and regular media personality, he has a significant platform at his disposal. We caught up with him during a stateside visit.
As your website notes, Hong Kong has one of the highest per capita carbon footprints in the world, as well as a rate of beef consumption seven times that of mainland China—both of which make the city a rather unlikely candidate for such a successful program. How can an organization begin to combat such entrenched habits?
Until Green Monday pointed out that Hong Kong has the highest meat consumption per capita, it was a data that went unnoticed and unreported. Once we cited that figure, it became a shock to the media as well as the entire city. While people here might be aware of their unhealthy eating pattern, they didn’t know the extent. Through explaining the extreme meat consumption situation, Hong Kong people realize that collectively we need to change our diet habits.
Another major angle we use, particularly when we approach corporations, is the reduction on carbon footprint. Before Green Monday, almost nobody in the city knew or talked about the correlation between meat and global warming. Since all corporations need to fulfill their corporate social responsibilities, Green Monday becomes a great and simple solution to them.
Last but certainly not least, we have been successful in engaging some of the biggest celebrities in the Greater China region to endorse and spread the message of Green Monday. We package Green Monday in a way that people feel is cool and trendy.
Green Monday has arrived at an interesting time. As China’s middle-class matures, its access to (and presumably demand for) imported animal products is at an all-time high. Beef and other meats have become commodities that Chinese families can enjoy with regularity, and yet environmental advocates are now urging them to cut back. Is this an issue that Green Monday finds itself addressing?
By calling our “Green Monday” rather than “Meatless Monday,” we deliberately avoid creating conflicts and use a more moderate approach. So while we are addressing the environmental issue, we also make sure that people don’t feel pressured to make a dramatic change.
Green Monday has an impressive roster of corporate partners. Can you speak to how companies and restaurants can collaborate with nonprofit missions like Green Monday to produce effective results?
Corporations and organizations such as the Hong Kong Airport Authority, Bank of China, Wheelock, Great Eagle, Del Monte, BUPA, among many others, choose to work with Green Monday because we play the role of a collaborator on green initiatives. We work with them not just to promote vegetarianism, but also to consult them on ways to promote their companies as visionary and socially responsible. We work hand-in-hand with them to implement solutions to reduce carbon emission or food waste, or other green initiatives that they would like to specifically work on.
What’s the next big project for Green Monday? How do you see the movement engaging with people over the next year or even decade?
The next big project for Green Monday is to expand beyond Hong Kong, with a primary focus to take the concept to China as well as other Asian countries and cities. We also look to extend the Green Monday lifestyle to not only vegetarianism but also other domains of green.
Do you have a favorite vegetarian recipe you’d like to share with our readers?
I am a fan of Indian food and there is no shortage of vegetarian choices at Indian cuisines. Meanwhile, among Chinese food, I love Sichuan food the most. It usually has a great number of dishes that are vegetarian.