Featured photo credit: Lucky Fish Photography
Sustainability is a buzzword that has taken the world by storm and corporations around the world are finally taking steps in order to lessen their carbon footprint. A common complaint is that being sustainable seems to be inaccessible to the common person and that it is expensive. This month is all about celebrating incredible women who inspire others via their actions and Sonalie Figueiras, founder of Green Queen Media–award-winning media platform and Asia’s largest English health and environmental news website–and Ekowarehouse–the first global B2B trade platform for certified ecolabel and organic products–is precisely that!
Let’s start at the beginning. How long ago did you start Green Queen? How did it all come about? Did you ever imagine you would be running a media platform?
Running a media platform was absolutely not the plan. It all happened by accident. Chronic health issues led me to change how I ate, and then how I lived. The more I learned about what I was putting in my mouth, on my body, on my walls, the more I realized something was very wrong with how we were living our lives. I embarked on an eco wellness journey and I never looked back. From there I realized I had some good resources and research to share, which is how Green Queen began. I’m a sharer of information by nature–friends always ask me where to eat, where to go, what to buy (or not buy now!). So I guess you could say it’s not totally surprising I ended up running an impact media platform!
You also have another business Ekowarehouse. Could you tell us more about that, how can people use it and how are both businesses related?
Ekowarehouse is a global B2B sourcing platform for certified organic products. We help businesses procure safe, verified products efficiently and conveniently 365 days a year for a fraction of the price of doing so offline. While Green Queen Media and Ekowarehouse are different businesses, they both work to make sustainability more accessible and so from that point, they are definitely related.
For those who haven’t heard of you or Green Queen before, what’s your mission?
Green Queen is Asia’s impact media–we are a content platform advocating for social and environmental change. Our mission is to shift consumer behavior through inspiring and empowering original content in Asia and beyond.
What does sustainability mean to you? What does living in a more sustainable way look like for you personally?
Sustainability is at the core of my life choices: how can I make daily decisions that cause the least amount of harm to the planet and to animals, whilst also optimizing for my and my family’s health.
What small changes can everyone make to live in a more eco-friendly or sustainable way?
Buy less stuff, reduce meat and dairy, travel less and walk more. It’s really that simple.
You advocate for social and environmental change in Hong Kong and have managed to create a strong impact on local and regional readers with your content. What has been your secret to getting people to read about and hopefully care about sustainability and these issues?
I think it’s a blend of a few things:
- Credibility: we have been doing this since 2011. This is not a trend we jumped on. That gives us a certain amount of credibility. We wrote about Beyond Meat and Impossible Food back in early 2016. We talked about Zero Waste living from the day we started. We covered vegetarian and vegan restaurants from the start. People trust that we truly stand for our mission to create change.
- Authenticity: we stay true to our values, we don’t follow what anyone else is doing. We choose to only cover plant-based food, we don’t work with partners that don’t reflect our values, we don’t compromise. We are also totally original–usually the first to cover something or break a story. This has created respect and trust.
- Integrity: Green Queen Media is not for sale! Over 95% of our content is editorial and any sponsored content is marked as such. This is rare in Asia where truth in advertising laws are weak to non-existent. We hold ourselves to higher standards and our audience knows it.
- Consistency: we have been working hard every day for almost a decade. Reporting, sharing, informing. This builds trust and a sense of comfort for your audience. They know you, they know what to expect, they check in with you regularly.
Where do your best ideas for content come from? What or who inspires you to create?
I read everything all the time! I would say I spend up to two hours a day reading everything from newsletters to newspapers to blogs so I can stay up to date on what we need to cover. As the Editor in Chief, my job is to curate the content so I really need to know what’s going on (and not just in sustainability- I follow the food industry, business, politics. You could say I am a news junkie!) We are also lucky in that now, any eco wellness company across the region will contact us with their news so it’s easier than when we first started.
What has been the toughest and the greatest thing you have learned from your research and coverage of sustainability issues and what’s happening in Asia?
The toughest thing has been how much damage we have done already, the damage that’s sort of irreversible. To the planet, to animals, to other humans. The greatest thing is all the incredibly inspiring people that are working to find solutions–humans are so innovative and smart! We will find a way to right many of these wrongs.
How can we all continue to travel, consume and yet remain sustainable at the same time? Is it about making small changes or is that frankly just not enough?
Frankly, that’s not enough. Small changes matter and I’ve shared my top suggestions but we need to fundamentally shift our life values to minimalism and treading lightly on this earth. Humanity’s reckoning is here- there’s no escaping that because of man-made damage, the next few years are going to be tough. We need to overhaul our food system, political system, economic system–it’s going to hurt.
What keeps you going? How do you continue to stay committed and passionate about covering these topics and advocating for change?
My son and all the other children in the world–they deserve a better, safer, kinder world! That and I’m an activist at heart. Making the world a better place is absolutely my greatest ambition, as corny as that sounds.
How about the future? What’s coming up for you in the future and what can you reveal?
Well, it’s been a really busy start to the year–we released a groundbreaking report on the Asia Alternative Protein Report, which is getting downloaded by folks all over the world.
We’re also launching our new B2B arm Green Queen BIZ, the first B2B community dedicated to accelerating impact through partnerships across the region by connecting founders, corporates, organizations and associations to sustainable SDG (Sustainable Development Goals)-focused business solutions across all industry verticals and it includes our very own app! We have already created some really synergistic partnerships and we can’t wait to do more (it’s only in soft launch and the traction is already amazing).
We have also had a doubling in our traffic–viewership has never been higher, so that’s something we are really proud of. Our content has started to get syndicated by other outlets and we are being recognized as offering an Asian lens for health and sustainability reporting which is thrilling.
Obviously one can’t talk about the future without mentioning the unexpected setback that is the coronavirus–everybody has been hit including us with canceled events and postponed deals, so we are figuring out how to navigate that but at the end of the day, that’s life! There’s always something and as a business leader, your job is to navigate that with a blend of realism, optimism, and flexibility!
Hong Kong is going through a tough time at the moment, as someone who was born and raised here, what do you love most about Hong Kong and its people?
Their resilience, spirit and their can-do attitude–the people of Hong Kong are so inspiring to me. I am energized by being around them. As for our gorgeous city, I feel blessed to live here–the food, nature… it’s endless!
Every March, the world celebrates International Women’s Day. The 2020 global campaign theme is #EachforEqual. What does it mean to you?
To me, it means that every single woman on the planet deserves an equal opportunity. We aren’t even close to achieving that. So much more to do! So glad that International Women’s Day continues to shine a light on what needs to be done.
Follow Green Queen on Instagram at @greenqueenhk
Green Queen www.greenqueen.com.hk