Can these dragon boaters make HK a greener place?
Dragon boaters are uniquely placed to enjoy our beautiful natural environment, and also to get a close-up view of our plastic pollution problem. We spoke to Suzanne Younan from Green Dragons HK to discover how this group of dragon boaters hope to combat Hong Kong's plastic addiction.
After typhoon Hato in 2017, keen dragon boater Suzanne Younan joined a beach clean up at Ma Hang beach in Stanley and was shocked by the amount of plastic rubbish washed up on the shore. The experience stayed with her, and left her feeling there was little she as one individual could do to impact plastic pollution in Hong Kong. Then she hit upon the idea of encouraging her fellow dragon boaters to ‘go green’ and eliminate single-use plastic from the sport. So ‘Green Dragons HK’ began, with the mission of encouraging dragon boat teams to put aside their competitive spirit and come together to help the environment.
Refusing Single-Use Plastic
The main focus of Green Dragons HK is to eliminate the use of single-use plastic bottles in dragon boating, both in training and on race day. Currently 5.2 million plastic bottles are disposed of every day in Hong Kong, with only 4-7% being recycled. As Suzanne puts it “recycling is not working, refusing is the answer”.
Suzanne started small by spending her dragon boat race days personally canvassing other paddlers and spreading her environmental message. 2 years later Green Dragons HK has turned into a full time (volunteer) occupation for Suzanne and 7 other volunteers have joined her to help move the campaign to the next level.
Taking the Green Dragons Pledge
Dragon boating teams across Hong Kong are signing up to the Green Dragons HK pledge to eliminate single-use plastic and to contribute to the clean up effort. Teams agree to never use plastic single-use water bottles either in training or at races and to incorporate beach cleanups into their training schedule. Suzanne says that the dragon boating community are enthusiastic about the scheme and that there’s a definite desire for change among paddlers. So far 19 teams have signed the Green Dragons HK pledge and Suzanne hopes there will be 50 teams committed by the end of the dragon boating season.
Getting Race Organisers to Go Green
As well as working with the dragon boating teams, Green Dragons HK are encouraging race organisers to stop giving single-use plastic water bottles to racers, and instead to make water fountains available at events. Green Dragons HK are also advocating for better recycling facilities at dragon boat races.
Suzanne told us that encouraging race organisers to adopt greener practices has been challenging. “Some race organisers have been reluctant to change. But we were delighted this week to have a race organiser reach out to us for the first time, and we’re hopeful that a positive momentum is building.”