Updated: Aug 19, 2020
Joey Ho is the co-founder of WeFill, an environmental advocacy platform that aims to tackle the problem of excessive packaging, as well as promote the concept of zero waste and plastic-free lifestyles. WeFill hopes to inspire new Citizens of Sustainability, and was awarded the ‘Best of InnoTeam Award’ and the ‘Best Climate Innovation Award’ in the 2018 Zero Carbon Pitch. Joey has also taken on a key role in various sustainability projects organized by the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. As the very first guest of our ‘Green Impact Maker’ interview series, Joey had kindly agreed to share with us her experiences working in various green initiatives, her opinions on Hong Kong’s sustainability scene and advice for students seeking a career in the environmental sector.
What inspired you to create WeFill?
In 2018, I participated in a 30-day zero waste challenge, aimed at reducing plastic waste and carbon footprint. At first I was concerned about being ‘tempted’ by store-bought chips and chocolates, but by pushing myself to think of alternative options, I have actually become a lot more environmentally conscious. This motivated me to participate in the CarbonCare Open Innovation Lab (COIL) incubator program hosted by Hong Kong Jockey Club with three of my friends, where a startup competition resulted in the creation of WeFill.
What inspired WeFill to create bamboo toothbrushes in specific?
Our goal from the very beginning is to tackle Hong Kong’s plastic packaging problem, to change our society’s consumption habits for a cleaner Earth in the many years to come. Our target audience was university students, so the idea of toothbrushes came to mind when we thought of their dorm life. Toothbrushes are daily necessities that students need in their everyday routines; by promoting the use of plastic-free bamboo toothbrushes, we hope to integrate environmental responsibility into everyday life, to show how change can start and ripple out from the little things we do. We have marked our toothbrush and pouches at a reasonable price, one that hits the ‘sweet spot’ of being affordable for students while reflecting the reliability of our branding.
Where do you see WeFill in the near future?
WeFill aims to reassess Hong Kong’s environmental issues after COVID-19, as our increased use of sanitary products and takeaway containers have led to the production of much waste. Ultimately, we hope to spread our message on environmental awareness to all corners of society. Through our products, workshops and eco-fair exhibitions, WeFill hopes to show our community how sustainable lifestyles are actually achievable from small, habitual changes.
What sustainability projects have you worked on in HKUST?
Three years ago, I joined HKUST as development and alumni manager, and volunteered to join the university’s sustainability team; our team consists of staff members and students who share an interest in promoting a green university initiative. One of our highlights include negotiating and promoting the ‘Bring Your Own Box’ campaign, to reduce plastic waste accumulated from takeaway containers. Our most recent project is creating a food sharing platform within the university. After becoming aware of the number of uneaten fresh fruits and packaged foods that can be collected on campus, we sought for a solution to reduce food waste. However, donations proved to be quite challenging as HKUST is located away from the city, making transportation to and for charity organizations and food banks an obstacle for us. We conducted a survey with staff members and students, and discovered that many were actually open to the idea of sharing unused food products; our emphasis on dry foods with long shelf-life also aligned with the university’s health and safety policy. Subsequently, we launched the platform and introduced Chinese New Year and Mid-Autumn Festival campaigns, as the latter saw over 300 mooncakes being shared among our school community!
What are your thoughts on Hong Kong’s sustainability scene?
Hong Kong’s sustainability scene is relatively new compared to other developed economies; sustainability is harder to implement in social enterprises than NGOs, as profitability may be a larger concern to them. Still, the public has been increasingly aware of environmental business ethics, which has motivated large companies to utilize sustainable solutions in their business operations; an example of this would be Pacific Coffee’s use of 100% natural and biodegradable sugarcane straws from 2019. Therefore in many cases, eco-friendly initiatives can actually contribute to creating positive brand interest, thus goes hand-in-hand with a business’ profitability.
What advice would you give to university students who are interested in pursuing a career in sustainable development?
I believe that having a technical background can be very helpful, as companies and organizations value students who have a fundamental understanding of environmental policies. I also know colleagues with experience in project management and marketing who are now in charge of coordinating green programme initiatives. Yet, students should not feel restricted by these expectations; work hard to pursue what you are passionate about!
For more on WeFill, please visit https://www.wefillhk.com and their social media pages! (Facebook: @wefill.hk, Instagram: @wefill_hk)
Interview transcribed by: Mioie Kwok