Profile: Shaun Cunningham, A Letter a Day to keep the Plastic Away | Liv


Shaun’s Impact

Active Environmental Advocates Created:  1,600

Businesses Engaged to Reduce Their Waste:  1,300

Estimated Straws Saved:  1,279,000

Estimated Plastic Cutlery Saved:  766,000

Estimated Umbrella Covers Saved:  30,000

Shaun Cunningham is the founder of vegan brand Future Kind, with the mission of helping the planet shift to a plant-based diet. On the side, he runs Microadventures Hong Kong, a 3,000-strong organisation dedicated to bringing more adventure into our lives. He’s also the founder of the environmental advocacy group
A Letter A Day to Keep The Plastic Away.

Tell us why waste reduction, particularly in single-use plastic, is so important to you?
Like many Aussies, I spent much of my childhood at the beach. When I moved here five years ago, I was blown away by the region’s natural beauty, but saddened by the amount of plastic waste in the water. The dumping of any kind of material in the ocean is a tragedy, but single-use plastic is particularly unfortunate because it is so
easily avoided.

How did you come up with the idea for ‘A Letter a Day to keep the Plastic Away’?
It all started after I went shopping at my local supermarket in Kennedy Town and noticed the amount of individually wrapped fruits and vegetables on the shelves. I posted a photo on Facebook, and unsurprisingly, a number of others also expressed their dismay. It was then I decided to create a group based on a simple idea: what if we could send a letter each day to different organisations asking them to reduce their use of single-use plastic? Wouldn’t it be worth it if even just one company decided to make a change?

Why do you think there is such a waste problem here?
The SARS epidemic, long working hours, short-sighted governance and the ability to ship waste to the mainland all created the perfect storm for Hong Kong’s unprecedented levels of waste and low rates of recycling. The SARS epidemic resulted in a culture of “wrapping everything in plastic” for hygiene, but 15 years later, we need to move on. Long working hours and a large wealth gap have also pushed waste management and recycling down the agenda.

Can individuals really make a difference?
It’s a cliche, but if you don’t, who will? History is filled with figures who took a stand and changed the course of humanity. The problem is enormous but so are the opportunities.

How have businesses responded?
Our Facebook group is filled with success stories from restaurants that have agreed to take action based on the letters written by our members. Many restaurant owners simply didn’t make the connection and there is even the possibility to save money by reducing their waste. Supermarkets have been a much more challenging target, often responding with generic pre-written letters, the contents of which are in essence “we’re still prioritising making money over your health and the environment”. This is where we need the government to step in.

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