In honour of International Women’s Day in March, we’re celebrating the incredible achievements of women around the world, including in Hong Kong. We chatted with half a dozen talented and dynamic female entrepreneurs of different ages and backgrounds about the unique businesses, initiatives and projects they’re involved in here – across fashion, books, homeware, wine, composting and plant -based food! In this instalment, we shine the spotlight on environmental advocate and lawyer JANICE BAIRD and chat with her about her new YouTube channel “Composting in Hong Kong”.
What’s your background? Where are you from?
I’m a big, happy mix of nationalities! I am Australian – the descendant of Chinese immigrants to the Southeast Asian region. I grew up in Manila and Kuala Lumpur and then moved to Australia after studying law at Sydney University.
I fell in love with Australia after I learned to surf! There aren’t many places in the world where you can ride waves before dawn and then catch a bus to the city to work in a large law firm.
Now, Hong Kong is very much home to us. We love living in Sai Kung and have nested here in a village house.
Tell us about the work you do in Hong Kong
I’m an environmental advocate and lawyer. I also founded Earth & Every, an environmental advocacy start-up, specialising in biodiversity, water and energy.
I stand up for the little creatures – the birds, the turtles and the frogs. When a major project is likely to seriously impact the environment, I work with scientists to put together independent advice for environmental regulators.
It’s an amazing field to work in – I’m always learning about animals and science. Did you know that you can map koala habitats from space? And that there are turtles that breathe through their bums? The people I work with are smart and passionate; we’re all about protecting our planet for the next generation.
You recently started a YouTube channel; what’s your aim with it?
My family started composting in our backyard this year. It was so easy and empowering! Hong Kong has an amazing climate for composting – things break down so quickly here.
After the UN declared a code red for humanity in 2021 because of climate change, I decided that my climate action would be to help other families start composting. And I began to offer free community workshops. It’s so important to compost because when food waste breaks down in landfill, it produces methane, which is more than 20 times worse than carbon dioxide for warming the planet.
Once the workshops began, I started getting a lot of questions about composting in Hong Kong. Janine Manning, my career coach, suggested starting a YouTube channel. It was terrifying, but it made sense. This is because composting knowledge is often very local. Answers to questions like “Where can I get a composter?” and “Are pests a problem?” depend on where you are.
Also, a lot of the composting videos on YouTube feature male gardeners with wheelbarrows on farms. I thought it would be empowering to make a video of an Asian woman with a job and a child composting here in Hong Kong!
What neighbourhood do you currently live in, and why did you choose it?
We used to live in Happy Valley, but we moved to Sai Kung for the mountains and beaches – we’re always out hiking or kayaking. Our village house has a terraced backyard and is right next to the Ho Chung River, which means “the emergence of oysters”. Next to our house is a mangrove swamp with a giant tree that the sunlight streams through; and there are often little birds that perch on the balcony rails of our house.
Outside of work, what are your hobbies in Hong Kong?
I love skateboarding, writing poems and reading science fiction.
Like this? See more in our International Women’s Day series in our Living in Hong Kong section.
This article first appeared in the Spring 2022 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.