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Turning red envelopes green

Laity makes New Year safe for the environment

Students explain the Greeners Action campaign to recycle New Year envelopes Students explain the Greeners Action campaign to recycle New Year envelopes
  • ucanews.com reporter, Hong Kong
  • Hong Kong
  • February 2, 2012
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As Chinese New Year celebrations draw to a close, the Hong Kong Central Council of Catholic Laity has called on laypeople to think green and reuse environmentally friendly red Lai See envelopes it has printed.

Lai See (or hongbao in Mandarin) is a monetary gift placed in a small red envelope that is given to people, especially children, during the 15-day New Year celebrations or on other special occasions.

Since Chinese people traditionally prefer using new things at the New Year to symbolize a new start, this has become an issue of ecological concern, as environmental awareness is on the rise.

Greeners Action, an NGO that encourages students to protect the environment, estimates 180 million red envelopes are used in Hong Kong each year, equivalent to 9,253 trees.

Ideally, the design of envelopes should avoid depicting the year or zodiac animal so that they can be reused more easily, said the group’s spokesperson Angus Ho on Monday.

It has set up 158 collection points for used red envelopes at the airport, shopping malls, commercial buildings and at banks from January 29 to February 14.

This year, the Catholic laity council printed six million red envelopes for local parishes, several overseas Chinese communities and for the January 17-23 Lunar New Year Fair.

“We were aware not to over-print so we asked how many each parish wanted beforehand,” said Rosa Lai, the council’s vice president.

The council’s red envelopes are printed with a Chinese character Fu (blessing) in front and a Biblical phrase and its contact information at the back.

To encourage their reuse, the self-adhesive glue has been replaced with a refoldable flap.

They cost more to make but it is for environmental protection, Lai said.

Recycling red envelopes to make New Year decorations is an alternative.

Josephine Yan, secretary of St Edward’s Parish, usually collects envelopes to make decorative accessories such as lanterns for the parish or as gifts during Chinese New Year.

“It is the best material to use in terms of size, design and color for the traditional festival,” she said.

Greeners Action collected 270,000 envelopes last year and it expects to collect about 400,000 this year, which it will give to other NGOs to use again.

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