Take 5 with... Sally and Katya from Macau Lifestyle!
One of us recently had a chance to spend some time in Macau - and a few reflections lurked in of course. We learned that some people are not really aware of the city's peculiar significance, some of our friends from Europe could not even really tell where Macau is. It is probably really hard to understand or imagine Macau for someone who has never been there, but let us try to describe the profile and specificity of the town a little bit here with this slightly extended “Take 5 with…” series interview!
Macau is one of China's Special Administrative Regions, that used to be a Portuguese colony for around a hundred years, and was handed back to China in 1999. Since 2006, Macau has had the world’s largest gaming (gambling) revenue, which nowadays surpasses that of Las Vegas - even though the number of casinos in town altogether is significantly lower.
With all that taken into account - one can only imagine the massive amounts of tourists (mostly Mainland Chinese, who benefit form the only place nearby where gambling is legal, because… it is actually banned to gamble in China). A new type of tourists are flooding Macau - we like to call them “overnight tourists” who come with their cash to gamble, shop, take some photographs… and leave the next day.
With such a clear purpose of the city, it is easy to guess how the infrastructure has developed to cater for those needs. Casinos-hotels are huge complexes that resemble micro-towns with restaurants, shopping malls, tiny Eiffel Towers (yes…), fountains, even cable carts. Those buildings are designed in a way that keeps the guests inside for longest possible periods of time. Casinos don’t have windows, so it’s impossible to tell as the time is passing, and with a variety of available services, the guests are encouraged to spend as much money as possible.
Quite naturally, we got very interested in the topic of sustainability in all that. Thats why we asked Katya Maia and Sally Victoria Benson from Macau Lifestyle to answer a couple of our questions for us. Read on to check what they think about sustainability debate in Macau!
Macau is a slightly hermetic environment that handles not only massive amounts of tourism daily but also processes all the outcomes of excessive consumption connected to it. Do you think there is still space for any sustainability in all that?
SALLY: Yes of course. This is an important issue to everyone - local communities, integrated resorts and the government. Everyone needs to contribute towards making Macau greener. There are hardworking communities and people trying to bring about change in the city through sustainability efforts and raising awareness about this. However, over 33 million tourists a year do come to our very small city and with this come environmental challenges. This number is only going to grow and a lot more work needs to be done in the area of sustainability.
KATYA: Through our work at Macau Lifestyle we are contributing in a number of ways. Firstly, we are digital media only - we don’t waste paper printing magazines that sit for a month in a hotel room before being thrown away. We also publish environmental-themed content and profile companies, individuals and products that are making a difference (for the better) in the city. We feel we have this responsibility to raise awareness.
What does Macau’s recycling policy look like?
K: Macau’s recycling policies are still in development. There are a lot of educated people living in Macau and a lot of people truly care. Macau is home to many nationalities that come from countries where recycling is a normal thing. The social and environmental pressure is growing and there will be some regulations soon.
Do you know of any initiatives, organizations or media working locally in Macau that speak about sustainability and eco-awareness?
Yes, every integrated resort in Macau is doing internal and public works around sustainability. For example Marriott International properties, JW Marriott Macau and The Ritz-Carlton Macau will remove plastic straws by the end of 2018. Another example is The Venetian Macao, one of the largest global contributors to the Clean the World social enterprise that helps to recycle their soap. There are many good initiatives.
There are also smaller groups and organizations that work on raising awareness and educating people about making small changes for bigger impact. There are some restaurants that use bio packaging for take-away food as well as local coastal clean up groups. Macau is also a place where a lot of people come and go - there are Facebook groups where people can sell or give away household, furniture or clothing items to find a new home. All of this really matters and can make a difference.
What about diet: do you reckon people in Macau make dietary choices based on environmental awareness?
S: No, I think a lot of people make dietary choices based on their budgets and what’s accessible. This I think is the same in a lot of countries in the world. There are some people who do, but the large majority, no.
K: Macau people care about the city they live in. You won’t see much littering around and after Typhoon Hato hit Macau, everyone went on the streets to clean the city. If there was an option, local people would buy local produce. The problem is though that there is no farming in Macau and no local food production - the city is highly urban and there is no land for farming. We do however have some small artisanal producers. We love locally-brewed kombucha, Blissful Bombooch by The Blissful Carrot.
Hong Kong and Singapore are both hosting green festivals like Green Is The New Black and The Conscious Collective to raise awareness for environmental issues. Do you see initiatives like these taking place in Macau too? Why/why not?
Currently there aren’t any big-scale festivals or initiatives to raise awareness around environmental issues. But small steps lead to big happenings. Recently there was a Fashion Rejuvenation Exhibition of Eco-friendly and Functional Fashion at Macao Fashion Gallery. There is space for more. Cha Bei at Galaxy Macau has just launched a series of Conscience talks and perhaps that’s a great starting point to get more people involved.