Nguyen Huu Quynh Huong is on a mission to change the way local vendors package their goods.
Small vendors in Vietnam are notorious for their use of single use plastics. After all, with low profit margins and tough competition, making ends meet tends to be prioritized over environmental protection.
But through a mix of perseverance and education, Huong, 22, hopes to push Vietnam’s small business environment towards the switch to eco-friendly options, starting with her local market in Binh Tanh District.
“Can you please stop packaging your stuff in plastic bags?” Huong begins each conversation with the market’s vendors.
At first, her requests were met with indignation, but the more she pressed, the more vendors began to give in.
“I sell vegetables, not plastic bags,” now proclaims a sign in front of a grocer’s stall at the market – a clear mark in Huong’s “win” column.
Huong’s ‘journey’ to promote environmental awareness in the market began after she came across the alley market and noticed that massive amount of plastic being used in such a small place.
To her, the decision to begin persuading each vendor to take steps away from plastic was easy.
She even bought small boards and put one at each of the stalls saying “I sell vegetables, not plastic bags.”
Now, nearly a dozen vendors in the market refuse to give customers plastic bags, a small step which Huong hopes will make a big difference.
Encouraging a green lifestyle
Huong is also the founder of a Facebook page which encourages a green and environmentally friendly lifestyle.
The page, “Minh la Hu”, literally meaning “I am Hu”, encourages its 11,000 followers to participate in mini activities aimed at protecting the environment, as well as offers suggestions on maintaining an environmentally-conscious lifestyle.
“In the war against plastic, we are not alone,” Huong said. “If we all do our job, [plastic] won’t appear again.”
Huong has always been cared for the environment, but only began attempting to impact others after graduating from Foreign Trade University Ho Chi Minh City when she decided not to pursue a job in her field of study because she felt it was not eco-friendly.
“I wanted my day to day job to inspire me to keep on protecting the environment,” Huong said.
Eventually, she settled on a job at a business focused on environmentally responsible products.
“I was inspired by the small things each person did to clean and protect the environment during a project I participated in at college,” Huong said.
Huong started with persuading her parents and brother to stop using plastic bags, single-use plastic cups, and non-degradable waste.
She then turned to her closest friends and made a habit of reminding people to avoid plastic products.
One of Huong’s acquaintances once came up to her to question the efficiency of her actions, claiming that even if 100 people did their best to reduce waste there are still another 1,000 who are stubborn enough not to change their habits.
“Will there ever be a positive change?” the person asked.
However, Huong is steadfast in her beliefs.
“To be honest, my perspective might not be as profound as scientists and researchers that seek massive solutions and provide big changes,” Huong said.
“Like many others, I do small things and do them well.”