It’s Environmental Insincerity Day

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Toxic blooms cloud the waterways, noxious vapors fill the air, the deserts are advancing and diabolical landfills surround our cities. So isn’t it marvelous to know that businesses here in Hong Kong—China’s most forward-thinking metropolis—are doing everything they can to bring about change?
ParknShop is one of Hong Kong’s two big supermarket chains. For the past few months, it has been suggesting that customers donate to green causes (note that it’s “suggesting” and “donate,” not “require” and “pay”) all of fifty Hong Kong cents—about 0.06 US cents—per plastic bag used on the first Tuesday of every month. What terrible shuck, oh dreadful jive. On one low-traffic, hard-to-remember day in every 30 (the first Tuesday! Mark it in your diaries!), customers can choose whether or not to donate a sum that wouldn’t offset a child’s carbon emissions for a nanosecond. Read in horror as ParknShop trumpets this dreadful piece of environmental lip service, which they laughably call “Green Day,” here.
Monthly tokenism is also found at the 16 outlets of the California Red karaoke-cum-diner chain where, on the third day of each month (don’t forget it!), customers who opt for less rice with the slop and swill that passes for entrées will have one Hong Kong dollar, or 12 US cents, knocked off the bill. The idea for this wretched scheme, which is supposed to reduce food waste in landfills, came from those coughing, shoe-shuffling weeds at the so-called Green Student Council. What is happening with students? When I was in college, a young man would lob rocks at policemen or picket polluting businesses just to let off steam. But here are these mamma’s boys, stammering out their feeble request that customers of California Red stuff their faces with just a tad less ultra-refined carbohydrate on one day a month, using a measly buck as an incentive, in the barely sustained delusion that it will make a damn bit of difference to anything. The scheme only lasts until September.
Incidentally, I read in this morning’s paper (which, flipping another finger to Mother Earth, the 7-Eleven assistant will hand you in a plastic bag unless you request them not to) that the tizzy over sales of the Anya Hindmarch tote bags has subsided somewhat. For days, shoppers were in such an infantile frenzy over these limited edition bags—which bear the smug rubric I’m not a plastic bag, I’m sure you know the ones—that the outlets selling them had to close down so that order could be restored and a ticketing system established. When ticket holders finally collected their purchases on Wednesday, they found that the totes—created to tout the designer’s and the user’s environmental credentials—came wrapped in three plastic bags. A spokeswoman for the retailer pointed out that one of the three bags was “degradable.” Oh, well that’s OK then, Ms. Silly Designer Retailer. We’re choking on 33 percent less hypocrisy.