This appeared as part of Blazing a Green Trail, a feature story in BACCARAT November 2013, where we profile 10 indomitable grassroots environmentalists.
Francis Ngai & David Yeung of Green Monday
When David Yeung, co-founder of Green Monday, came back to Hong Kong a decade ago, he didn’t meet a single soul who understood the relationship between going meat-free and sustainable eating. “People would always ask: oh, but wouldn’t you be malnourished?” he says, shaking his head in bewilderment. Francis Ngai, the other half of the duo and an avid marathon runner, seems to be the very antithesis of the claim. “My [running] record has actually improved!” he exclaims.
Launched in April last year, Green Monday has had resounding success in enlisting more than 1,000 food and beverage outlets to implement vegetarian menus on Mondays. Yeung notes that the campaign owes part of its success to the few large corporations that were willing to take the leap of faith. “We had the support of Cafe de Coral, the Habitu group and City Super from very early on,” he praises.
Why ‘Green Monday’ as opposed to ‘Meat-Free Monday’, the moniker used in other countries? “We took the Chinese translation into account, because ‘meat-free’ as in ‘no meat to eat’ is a very negative term in Chinese culture,” he explains.
The campaign, endorsed by Hong Kong actors Moses Chan and Annie Liu, is cultivating awareness among the younger crowd, “Before we implemented Green Monday, only four per cent of students were vegetarian; now – wait for this – 42 per cent of students are going vegetarian on Mondays,” says Yeung proudly.
He is also quick to note that Green Monday is not about preaching vegetarianism, but rather promoting a healthier and more sustainable lifestyle. “If all seven million in Hong Kong went vegetarian on Monday, it would reduce 1.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, an astronomical number!” He continues: “I don’t want people to feel like they’re losing something. It’s important for the local food industry to catch up. I mean, there are two and three Michelin-starred vegetarian restaurants in the world.”
Yeung has been a vegetarian for a decade. “We recorded the second hottest June ever in the history of the planet this year. Can you imagine Greenland recording 25.9 degrees Celsius? That’s like Hong Kong! We’re promoting Green Monday as a merry, family-friendly event, but behind this cheerful front is global warming, and the number one thing that is causing it is meat consumption.”
Yet, for those who can barely afford a cha chaan teng meal, ‘going green’ may seem like a lofty ideal. Is a vegetarian lifestyle only for the rich? “The only reason that meat is cheaper is because of industrialisation – and all the chemicals that have been added to meat,” notes Yeung. “Cost is not just measured in dollar signs. Sure, if you’re rich you can afford to buy 1,000 pairs of leather shoes, or have Wagyu steak every day, but who is ultimately footing the bill? Mother Nature.”