Street Talk: Ren Wan
Ren Wan is one of the founders of JupYeah, a swapping platform where people can share and take home otherwise unwanted items. She tells Yanis Chan about finding joy in consuming less in a consumer-driven world.
HK Magazine: Why did you start JupYeah?
Ren Wan: I have always been interested in sustainable development, but a couple of my friends and I learned about the idea from foreign magazines when we were still in school. Back then, we just swapped clothes after dinner at one of our homes. We thought it was a great idea because you didn’t have to pay for things you wanted. Then later when we became older, we realized it is indeed environmentally, socially and economically ideal. We wanted to celebrate the idea of “consume less, share better.” That’s JupYeah’s motto.
HK: What does “JupYeah” mean?
RW: We wanted to host object swap events for locals. We decided to use “JupYeah” because we felt like it can represent us as a Hong Kong Chinese culture. It has a dual meaning to it—“picking stuff up” and “tidying stuff” in Cantonese.
HK: How does it work? Is it free?
RW: JupYeah works in two ways: Swap parties and an online platform. Swap parties are pretty self-explanatory—you just come and drop off your unwanted things and grab things you find value in. For the online platform, it’s the same but you upload pictures of the unwanted things. Then you can get a token that you can spend on our database. The website is completely free.
HK: What items do you normally find on JupYeah?
RW: We do have some basic rules: we don’t take commercial souvenirs that are for promotion purposes and things that are too personal. In past events, we did receive some old underwear which I think is not so hygienic. We also have received a bunch of empty disposable water bottles. I guess those people might have mistakenly thought that we were doing recycling. We’ve also received unexpected things such as bicycles, ancient Chinese musical instruments and furniture—which are more on the expensive side.
HK: Do Hongkongers hesitate at the idea of swapping secondhand items?
RW: People used to hesitate towards secondhand stuff. I once heard one of the participants complain, “I put down a Gucci and now I take back a Uniqlo?” People too often equate price with value. To me, if something is useless to you, it has no value to you, no matter how much it cost. People are more open to it now.
HK: Have you bought fewer things after starting JupYeah?
RW: This month, I’ve only spent $28 on shopping. I was aware of the problem of over-consumption ever since I was young.
I guess most young people, including myself, have gone through a period where you’d just shop insane amounts, especially after you first start earning money. But JupYeah has made me reflect on my consumption patterns. I just wouldn’t have the desire to buy more stuff after dealing with some 500 to 600 things that people put down in a swapping event. After all, consumption is just a mental comfort call.
HK: What’s the next step for JupYeah?
RW: Object swaps are getting hip now. But we have important messages to spread. That’s why we also do talks, workshops and documentary screenings. Earlier this year, we started a new campaign, “Shareables,” which is a charity collaboration. The upcoming one is about providing office wear for underprivileged fresh graduates. I have an actor friend who has donated so many of his shirts. My goal is that when people need something, they will immediately think of us or look around to see if someone has it, instead of buying a new one.
Register an account on jupyeah.com and start swapping stuff for a good cause. JupYeah also holds regular swap parties, check website for more.