Thomas Colliers

As Vietnam continues to develop, it’s trash problem is rapidly spiraling out of control. The country produces 18,000 tons of plastic waste a day and is one of five that collectively dump more into the oceans than all other nation’s combined. The dire situation is noticeable everywhere from streetcorner piles to overburdened dumps unable to keep up with the mounting refuse. If nothing changes, soon the oceans will contain more plastic than fish.

The first step in addressing the situation involves awareness and outreach. As a passionate producer of original designs and artwork, Ginkgo is proud to aknowledge that one of the most visible means of doing this in Vietnam has been through art. Four artists in Hanoi, for example, gathered earlier this year for an exhibit titled “Spring Garbage” for which they produced statues made out of trash while recently Stawpocalypse, an installation that reused 168,000 straws gained attention in Saigon. The Vietnamese Woman’s Museum teamed up with the Australian Embassy for a show examining creative uses for plastic and in Quang Ninh province, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) staged “I love the ocean/Born to be wild” using materials that washed up on the beach. Through works like these, artists are helping put an end to people considering trash as “out of sight, out of mind.”

Photo courtesy of Von Wong (2019). All rights reserved.

Thankfully increased awareness is leading to tangible actions. A variety of non-profit groups are cleaning up the country and changing people’s behavior. Zero Waste Saigon, for example, is a non-profit organization that works with stores and restaurants to reduce the use of plastic straws and bottles, replacing them with reusable alternatives. Keep Hanoi Clean is a social enterprise that aims to educate the public about sustainability issues while organizing clean-up events. Moreover, organic efforts are also taking hold here, such as the social media #trashtag trend wherein people post before and after photos of a polluted area they’ve cleaned up.

Ginkgo has joined this rising wave by sharing the message with young people. Company founder Benjamin Grépinet recently spoke to a group of Australia International School students about the necessity of sustainable living as part of the Gin conference which tackles global issues. He’s learned and shared efforts such as Saigon South International School students who developed a composting project and at Renaissance School classes are integrating a plastic recycling system with Precious Plastics.

Students at South Saigon International School engaging in composting project at school

Beyond Volunteers

Ginkgo knows that saving the planet will take more than impassioned individuals, and is leading the trend in eco-friendly buisness. We were founded with sustainability in mind and have continually looked for ways to reduce our footprint and promote fair-trade. Thirty percent of our shirts are printed on environmentally friendly organic fabric, a number we are striving to increase. We are also working to have all materials sent to us without excessive plastic packaging and only use reusable mesh or fabric bags for customers while reducing the number of chemicals in our printing. 

We are joined in our efforts by companies selling reusable containers and environmentally-friendly home care products such as soap and toothpaste. Some large corporations are even taking part and changing the amount of plastic they use

Concerned citizens and businesses alone can only do so much and thankfully Vietnam has begun to adopt a variety of policy measures. While people need to focus more on reusing goods as opposed to throwing them away, Saigon announced a plan for sorting garbage and providing recycling bins to better deal with trash. Moreover, Con Dao just laid out a fee for foreign visitors that will finance waste management. Such moves, while small, help give individuals confidence that their own concerns are noticed and can influence major changes in laws.

What You Can Do

When considering the extremity of the trash problem, it can be easy to become overwhelmed or discouraged, so it’s important to remind yourself that the incremental changes you can make have a tangible impact and are also easy to do. It’s not an all or nothing situation and the good isn’t the enemy of the perfect.

In addition to ditching straws and replacing disposable takeaway containers, there is a lot of everyday choices people can make. For example, switching to cloth rags instead of paper towels, transitioning to online bill payment, cleaning with vinegar and not destructive chemicals, investing in high-quality goods that will not need frequent replacing all adds up. Living in Vietnam offers some unique ways to act responsibly as well. Shopping at markets as opposed to grocery stores cuts down on plastic especially when you bring your own canvas bag. It’s better to use high-quality reusable facemasks instead of the less effective disposable ones and a toilet’s bidet is not only better for a building’s pipes but better for the environment.

At Ginkgo, we dilligently research our suppliers and partners to make sure they follow fair-trade and sustainable practices and you can do something similare. You can check labels to see a product’s ingredients and research the practices of the businesses you support helps push the entire market in the right direction. When you put your money where your values lie, you are doing a small part to influence the larger world.

Screen printing with eco-friendly ink is exclusively used for all Ginkgo products to ensure minimal environmental effect

Whether it's via art projects, campaigns or simply looking around the country, it’s obvious trash is putting the health, beauty and future of Vietnam at risk. But rather than ignore the situation, there are many easy things you can do. Being surrounded by like-minded individuals and company’s like Ginkgo should hopefully make it even easier as we continue to address the problem together.

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