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“InnoFriday” Talk #6 Review: – A Micro-Revolution in Consumption

       Living in cosmopolitan Hong Kong often means consumption -- everything we eat, wear, use for our daily living and everywhere we travel. How many of us are aware of the many burning issues caused by our excessive consumption behavior these days -- saturated landfills, resource wastage,  labour exploitation and the ever growing carbon emissions worldwide? Two guest speakers we invited to the Inno-Friday Talk held on 13 November shared the ideas behind their recent projects based on the principles of ‘consumer responsibility’.

     ‘A Micro-Revolution in Consumption' was the theme of this Talk, during which our two guest speakers put forward the concept of responsible consumption, meaning consumers should behave in a responsible manner towards the society and the environment. Ms Patsy Cheng, Director of SEE Network, advocated for the promotion of ‘Consumer Social Responsibility – CnSR’ as a means to change consumer behaviour. She got this idea during a visit to a fast-food shop, where she witnessed one of the staff being rudely treated by a customer. The unpleasant experience led her to rethink on the fair share of consumer responsibilities towards the environment, the society and even for themselves. Patsy came up with four principles that she believed could constitute ‘CnSR’ ---‘resource conservation’, ‘help yourself and help others’, ‘ethical consumption’ and ‘build up responsible consumer networks’. In fact, individual effort can contribute to responsible consumption. Patsy suggested us to start with small actions such as bring your own box when visiting a bakery shop and make your purchase from small local shops. Patsy and her colleagues were considering to develop a mobile app in the near future to share a ‘what-to-do’ list with and to spread the four principles of ‘Responsible Consumption’ to the Hong Kong public at large. 

       A bold attempt to transform the present modes of consumption through information technology has been launched by Alex Kwan, another guest speaker and the young engineer who recently founded FreeSth. FreeSth is an online platform designed to let users freely share different material resources with one another. During his sharing, Alex commented that the current pattern of consumption, from product production to disposal, is simply unsustainable. It does not only harm the environment (e.g. gold extraction brings toxic sewage) and our society, but also affects our relationship with other people. Instead of just looking at the price tag, Alex suggested the consumers to take into account the benefits a product can bring to others and the environment before spending their money. The underlying principle of FreeSth is ‘gift-economy’, a concept which encourages penny-free connection and mutual benefit among people, just like what is in the ecosystem: an earthworm obtains food after loosening the soil, enabling aeration and drainage for the tree to grow at the same time. In terms of economy, Alex thinks that people who live in a small community can still help one another and satisfy one another’s needs, may they be teachers or farmers. Alex asked us to rethink about the money system of the modern times. If people do not indulge in excessive consumption, resource wastage will be greatly reduced and human connections will be much strengthened. 

        During the discussion session, participants shared their views and ideas on how to apply the concept of ‘responsible consumption’ to successfully bring about behavioral changes to individual consumers and the community as a whole. We welcome anyone who has got innovative ideas to join us as an InnoTeam member and contribute to further discussions. Those interested please leave your personal particulars here.  Let’s launch a ‘micro-revolution’ in consumption together and help make Hong Kong a truly sustainable society.