Q&A: Jan Lamb Hoi-fung

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 18 July, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 18 July, 2009, 12:00am

The demand for environmentally friendly shopping bags has surged since the plastic bag levy took effect at major supermarkets and chain stores earlier this month. Fashion trendsetter Jan Lamb Hoi-fung, 42, said he's been encouraging people to use reusable shopping bags for years by making his own.

Lamb (right), the popular radio host, stand-up comedian and globetrotter, said he's long been aware of green issues and now wants to be a role model for young people by committing himself to protecting the environment.

'When I was little, I loved staring at a mini globe and as soon I saved enough money, I started planning trips to different places. Recently problems related to climate change have affected all of us,' he said. 'Environmental issues have become an increasingly serious topic and none of us can ignore it.'

Why did you start making eco-friendly shopping bags?

Years ago, when I would go shopping with my family, I realised how many plastic bags we would use each time we shopped and I began to think about making my own reusable bags. I bought some fabric and took it to a local bag manufacturer. I showed them an ordinary plastic shopping bag and said I wanted the same look, but using the fabric. I remember the owner being puzzled by the request.

What did you do with the bags?

I gave most of them away to friends and kept some in my car. Whenever my family went shopping, we would use our own bags. Actually, now that I think about it, we might have been among the first people to have used environmentally friendly shopping bags in Hong Kong.

How optimistic are you that other shoppers will start using reusable bags?

They will have to unless they want to pay for each plastic bag they use. In the past, if you told people they had to bring their own bags to go shopping, they would have said you're crazy. It was the same with cellphones. Years ago nobody would have believed that we'd be walking around with tiny cordless phones, but now people can't live without them. People will soon get into the habit of bringing their own bags when they go shopping; it's just a matter of time. The new levy will convince them they don't have a choice.

You also design T-shirts, caps and other accessories. Do you think that creates waste?

I believe making new products and saving the planet need not be mutually exclusive, in the same way that heritage preservation can take place alongside economic development - even the Chief Executive says so. What's important is striking the correct balance. For instance, I do buy new clothes, but we share old clothes between family members. I wear my brother's old clothes and I pass on mine to my father, which is why people often praise him for his good fashion sense. Do you see consider yourself an environmental activist?

No. I just do things that are already common practice for many people. Everyone knows what a difference it would make if we used fewer plastic bags, recycled our waste and turned off lights when they're not in use. These small changes in our daily lives can have such a great impact. If we stop being selfish we have a chance to save our planet, which is dying. After all, I think environmental issues are everybody's business. If we keep polluting our planet, it may no longer be able to support life and then it won't matter how many pairs of cool trainers or stylish T-shirts you own.