"The world's leading climate scientists have warned there are only a dozen years for global warming to be kept to a maximum of 1.5C" (Watts, 2018).  The planet is severely damaged, and the weather is changing dramatically as a consequence. Human beings have made it this far; we thrived as a civilization, but today, our species is threatened to disappear if we don't act immediately. However, massive changes in people's behavior can transform into necessary actions to reverse some of the damage produced. These changes will have global effects by making local collective efforts. 

Hong Kong is a fortuitous place in many ways; identified by its vibrant lifestyle, exquisite gastronomy, and unbeatable skylines. Moreover, this international port is enclosed by nature which makes it unusual amongst other urban jungles. At the same time, Hong Kong has some of the most critical problems that big metropolises around the world are suffering. It has one of the highest population densities, significant demographic challenges, and excessive pollution. Sadly, the Anthropocene era has rigorously modified the environment in this island and its surroundings. 

Nevertheless, Hong Kong also has many opportunities because of its geographic position which enables optimum conditions for creative thinkers, financial development, and cultural integration. These effects have positive and negative sides. On the one hand, different cultures can meet and share different practices, knowledge and grow together as a society. However, the mixture of values and ideologies can create intolerance and conflict as well. Globalization is shaping different circumstances of our life in the future. The massive inequalities in population, over-consumption of resources and the irresponsible use of energy, are just a few results from recent times. 

Through history, humans adapted fast and surpassed massive challenges. Notwithstanding, the current waste production is out of control and it´s getting worst rapidly. The disposable mindset in society combined with ignorance generates disruption in the essential processes from nature. Luckily, several people in Hong Kong are trying to change these conditions and inspire others to do the same. 

The group’s name, Pachamama, means Mother Earth itself; inspired by the ancient language Quechua from the Andes mountains in Peru and its surroundings. Pachamama is the world’s fertility goddess, providing nutrients to all species, a good harvest, and balance in the ecosystem.  To sum up, she is in charge of sustaining all life on the planet.

The Adventure Clean Up Challenge (ACUC) is the first worldwide event of its kind. It is organized by people who inhabit this fantastic place and wish to preserve it for future generations. Esther Rowling and her husband toured for 6 consecutive days the entire coasts of the Hong Kong island in the year 2016. The impression to see large quantities of trash accumulated on the shore, encourage them to take actions. They began by making a complete cadaster of the condition and informing other people about the issue.

Later on, Esther met Soledad Riestra, founder of Ecoed Life. Together, they created and convened the Adventure Clean Up Challenge. After summoning teams of volunteers interested in restoring the environment. They defined the 6 worst-contaminated and hard-to-access sites in Hong Kong; subsequently assigning a group for each beach. These teams will compete to achieve the ultimate goal: to design a creative and effective strategy to remove garbage and transport it to a collection site while raising awareness in the Hong Kong's community.

10 Spanish-speaking people integrate the Pachamama HK team. The group's name, Pachamama, means Mother Earth itself; inspired by the ancient language Quechua from the Andes mountains in Peru and its surroundings. Pachamama is the world's fertility goddess, providing nutrients to all species, a good harvest, and balance in the ecosystem.  To sum up, she is in charge of sustaining all life on the planet.

This team is formed by enthusiasts who came to Hong Kong searching for a new chapter in life. Hailing from Siberia to the Canary Islands, the agave fields of Jalisco to the mists of Angel Falls and the wilds of Patagonia, we are a group who share a common passion and care for all living beings and are dedicated to helping to save Hong Kong's coastline.

The biggest hurdle we face for the challenge is human behavior. As a team, we will collaborate with other organizations, the government, and other volunteers. However, no action will have enough impact unless the problem is solved from its origin. It's necessary to make massive efforts in the reduction of goods consumption, implementing the reuse of materials, refusing single-use products and promote holistic consciousness.

In the following weeks, the team will visit the site assigned periodically to clean and transport the trash. At the same time, the engagement with people who visit this area will be crucial to incite continuous cleaning and respect for the environment after the contest finishes. 

The ACUC is an excuse to organize ourselves and deploy strategies to include our society in the most critical test of our time. We want to clean one of the six identified shores that are accumulating trash due to our actions. With this effort, we seek to return some of the benefits of living in this stunning city and of course, this beautiful place we all share. Our planet Earth. Our only home.



1. Watts, J. (2018, October 08). We have 12 years to limit climate change catastrophe, warns UN. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/08/global-warming-must-not-exceed-15c-warns-landmark-un-report


In this new close ups edition, we are proudly introducing you all to Paul Zimmerman, another very distinguished member of the Adventure Clean Up Challenge jury.

Paul Z close up.jpg

Paul Zimmermanis CEO of Designing Hong Kong, an elected District Councillor representing the Pokfulam constituency, and a board member of Civic Exchange, Professional Commons, Hong Kong Democratic Foundation, and the Patient Care Foundation. His Hong Kong Government advisory functions include the Harbourfront Commission. 

Prior to his public work, Paul built and sold a communications company specialized in corporate literature, built an events management company, and through M&A transformed a travel business in Hong Kong and China.

Paul has a Masters in Social Science (Economics) from the Erasmus University in Rotterdam, and a Masters of Arts (Transport Policy and Planning) from The University of Hong Kong. He arrived in Hong Kong in 1984 and became a Chinese citizen in 2012. www.paulzimmerman.hkwww.designinghongkong.com

 Designing Hong Kong Limited is a not-for-profit organisation devoted to promoting sustainability, quality of life and good design as core values in planning, development and governance. Its aim is to increase public awareness and to improve Hong Kong’s collective ability to plan and deliver a ‘beautiful’ city. It promotes collaborations on interventions wherever it sees bad planning and wherever it sees that policies or institutions are not working the way they should. Designing Hong Kong is a member of the World Urban Campaign by UN-Habitat. www.designinghongkong.com

Long running campaigns of Designing Hong Kong:

1.    Reforming harbourfront policies and actions

2.    Saving street markets

3.    Saving country parks

4.    Battle incompatible developments


Recent campaigns of Designing Hong Kong:

1.    Waste Reduction (beverage packaging, food containers)

2.    Conservation (reduce and reverse loss of country parks, wetlands, and areas reserved for agriculture, green belt and other conservation uses)

3.    Sustainable Urban Development (master planning, land supply, urban renewal/over development, infrastructure)

4.    Liveable City (walkability, public space)

This is our city. Let’s clean it up. Waste attracts waste. People cleaning up gets more people cleaning up.



Welcome to ACUC Close ups! On this opportunity, we would like to introduce our audience to one of our distinguished members of the challenge’s jury: Suzanne Younan.

Suzanne has been living with her family in Hong Kong since 2014.  A true nature and animal lover Suzanne was compelled to involve others in her plight to raise awareness. She was forever changed by the devastating effects of Typhoon Hato. After answering a call out to a beach clean-up on Ma Hang beach in Stanley, the impact of the rubbish found on the beach profoundly changed her outlook on the plastic life we lead and prompted her to take action on a larger scale.

She gathered a team of volunteers, Green Dragons HK, to engaged the dragon boat community to reduce single use plastics at training and events. At one race event it can be possible for 3-4,000 single use plastic bottles to be distributed to hydrate the paddlers. The GDHK volunteer group has been working with paddlers, event organisers and sponsors to bring alternative solutions to the single use plastic that is used.

Educating the young is key to educating the generations on how small changes in our daily life can make a difference to our planet.

Green Dragons HK now gather more than 1500 paddlers from 42 different teams who pledge to paddle without plastic and perform a short beach clean up after each training. 

Suzanne has also recently embarked on a new career as a children’s author, publishing only this year her first environmental book for children called ‘The Green Dragon’.  Educating the young is key to educating the generations on how small changes in our daily life can make a difference to our planet.

Raising awareness to the dangers of plastic pollution is a passion of mine.  Being a part of the Adventure Clean Up was an easy decision.  I’m very excited to learn what the participants have been doing and learning about their passionate efforts.

Cleaning up our habits: the adventure of our lifetime



So much is going on in the environmental front these days, globally. From David Attenborough’s Our Planet series, Greta Thunberg’s speech to EU leaders and the students’ strikes on climate change taking place all over the world, to the Extinction Rebellion movement, it seems clearer and clearer that changing the way in which we are and live as humans on this planet is of outmost urgency.

Now, the complexity and scales of the issues we face are so massive that it is easy to fall into despair, hopelessness or just simply feel that whatever we do will never be enough. This is, I believe, the greatest danger of all.

When Esther took me to the sites we were scouting for the Adventure Clean Up Challenge, I was saddened and devastated by the amount of trash accumulating in each of these beautiful, natural spaces. But as I looked closely, the realisation that all of these items could be traced back to human activity and consumption - from flip flops to plastic bottles, and of course the worst of all, styrofoam - gave me (believe it or not!) a sense of renewed hope. If we are part of the problem, that means we can also be the solution.

The Adventure Clean Up Challenge has been purposefully designed to be not just about sites clean ups, but also - and most importantly I would say! - about teams engaging with their communities, families and friends in raising awareness and offering insights to what we can all do to, apart from fixing the damages - that is, doing the actual clean ups - preventing them in the first place.

This is what I love the most about this competition: that we can all participate, in our own ways. Even if we are not part of a team cleaning up a site, we can use this time of the challenge to embark in the adventure of looking at our daily habits, one by one, day by day, and choose to clean up our routines and choices.

There is so much space and opportunity for impact in our own here and now: our households, our workspaces, our daily breakfast and lunches! And we can choose to see this personal change as a laborious hassle, or - hopefully! - as the adventure of our lifetime, of this era that is desperately calling for a new way of being to come into place.

Here are a few tips to begin with:

  1. Love your teeth, love the planet.

    Yes, plastic toothbrushes are inundating landfills. According to Foreo, US only wastes over 1 billion toothbrushes every year. That is enough to stretch around the Earth 4 times.

    Luckily there are sustainable options these days, like the one offered by Eartheries - a bamboo toothbrush. And, you can buy it online!

  2. Oh my, those plastic umbrella bags…

    14 million single use umbrella plastic bags are estimated to be used during HK’s wet season - from June to September. This can easily be replaced by a reusable, fancy umbrella pocket bag which again you can get delivered to your doorstep!

  3. For kids presents, choose wood over plastic.

    There is an amazing range of sustainable wood toys offered again by Eartheries online. Check them out here

What other options can you think of and share? Post your #habitscleanup idea and tag us @adventurecleanup on Instagram and Facebook #adventurecleanHK, #thecleanupadventure



For this first CLOSE UP, we have invited Esther Roling - co-organiser of the Adventure Clean Up Challenge - to share a bit more about herself, how the ACUC was conceived, her passion for the outdoors and her commitment to work for a cleaner Hong Kong.

A bit about yourself

I have been over 6 years in Hong Kong, a place I instantly fell in love with because of the unlimited outdoor activities, beautiful nature and beaches. My main sports are trail running, climbing, adventuring and skiing. I love exploring new places especially with my daughter Zaya

What inspired you to do the Adventure Clean Up Challenge?

In May 2017 Paul Niel - my husband - and myself organised the first circum navigation expedition around Hong Kong Island. During this 6-day adventure, we mapped all the pollution we saw on the way.

We were shocked about what we saw and felt we had to share our findings with the public.  We created a website - www.pollutionmaphk.com - and inspired by it, the idea was born to organise a big coastal clean up involving the sports community.

I teamed up with Sole Riestra and it has been a great pleasure to organise this meaningful event with her.

What’s your message to the audience about the challenges of land and coastal pollution in Hong Kong?

Change starts within ourselves. To make our lives more sustainable we need to come up with solutions for our trash, particularly plastic. The Round The Island expedition made me much more conscious about the use of plastic within our household. 

We are hoping with the Adventure Clean up Challenge to raise awareness around coastal pollution and encourage people in Hong Kong to do our bit on a day to day basis to minimise waste, especially plastic.