Unless you’ve been living under a social media-free rock, you’ve probably heard that the Amazon rainforest is currently on fire. Over 80,000 fires have been detected right now, which is an alarming 79% rise from last year. The Amazon rainforest – commonly referred to as ‘the lungs of the planet’ – produces over 20 percent of the world's oxygen and absorbs more than two billion tons of carbon dioxide a year. Put simply, it has been our first line of defense against global warming. So yeah, this is kind of a huge deal.
While there's no way you can stop the fires unless you hop on a plane and fly to Brazil with a giant fire hose, we do have a few suggestions that you can do here in Hong Kong to stop further harm to our environment. Read on to find out.
6 things you can do to help save the planet in Hong Kong
When it comes to public transportation systems, Hong Kong is among the best in Asia. You can take the train, bus and tram to almost anywhere in the cityside, so there’s really no need for private cars. You’ve likely heard this a million times before, but just for good measure, let us tell you again: the gasoline or diesel fuel that your car burns, as well as the energy needed to locate, extract, refine, and transport it, emits huge amount of greenhouse gas emissions. In other words, most private cars are bad for the environment.
If you really must buy a car, get an eco-friendly vehicle. Even if you have the money to flex, avoid buying gas-guzzling sports cars. And if you already own a car, then consider starting a carpool system with your colleagues or neighbours.
While a number of factors contribute to the current crisis, deforestation is actually the biggest driver. In recent years, loggers and ranchers have been aggressively clearing land for cattle production. Cattle ranchers start fires as they are an easy way to clear land, and these blazes can spiral out of control. What's more, as a result of the decreased tree coverage, rainfall lessens and the region becomes even drier, spurring more deforestation and potential wildfires.
We Hongkongers love our beef. In fact, according to statistics from the USDA in 2018, Hong Kong accounts for a staggering 24 percent of all beef exports from Brazil. You may not be ready to go vegetarian or vegan, but simply cutting beef out of your diet a few times a week can make a huge impact on our environment.
Growing up, we're told that dairy is essential for strong bones and helps us grow taller (lies). While milk has tons of calcium, its production process is not so great for the planet.
A report from the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates that the global dairy sector contributes four percent of total global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions as a result of milk production, processing and transportation, as well as the fattening and slaughtering dairy cows.
By choosing dairy-free alternatives for milk, you can help cut your carbon footprint. With the wealth of milk alternatives available nowadays, you don't even have to give up your creamy milk-based coffee. In fact, many of our favourite coffee shops in Hong Kong offer soy, almond or oat milk.
Fires across the Amazon have sparked an international outcry for the preservation of the world's largest rainforest. But even though the focus is (understandably) on putting out the Amazon rainforest fires at the moment, we can also spare some attention to growing more trees worldwide.
While most of us in Hong Kong don't have a space to grow trees, we can still support the planting of trees is by using apps such as EcoAsia. It's a search engine that uses its profits to plant trees that benefit people, the environment and local economies. Its servers even run on 100 percent renewable energy as well. You can also download the focus timer app, Forest, which grows virtual gardens of trees for every minute you stay away from your phone. Users can spend virtual coins they earn in Forest to plant real trees as it makes donations to their partner, Trees for the Future.
Help save the earth and combat climate change by supporting organisations that are working on the frontline to protects rainforests, and the animals and indigenous communities that inhabit them. The Rainforest Alliance is currently redirecting 100 percent of its donations to frontline organisations in Brazil that are working to protect the Amazon and its indigenous community. Earth Alliance, an environmental conservation project co-founded by actor Leonardo DiCaprio, recently formed an Amazon Forest Fund that will be focusing resources towards local communities and groups working to protect the Amazon, as well as those affected by the fires. Other noteworthy organisations include (but not limited to) the Amazon Conservation Team, Eden Reforestation projects, WWF, and Rainforest Foundation US.
Apart from donating to specific groups, experts also urge consumers to support businesses working toward sustainable goals through the products they purchase. You can check out Rainforest Alliances' list of over 700 companies that the group certifies as meeting rigorous environmental and social standards. Popular brands that are available in Hong Kong include Nespresso, Nescafé, McDonald’s, and even 7-11.