INTERVIEW: Adventure Clean Up Challenge Inspires Eco Action Through Extreme Fitness

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We talk to the extremely passionate duo behind Adventure Clean Up Challenge- a coastal clean up project whereby teams compete against each other in challenging outdoor locations to clean up the most waste possible from the surrounding beaches and water- about why they launched the challenge, whether the plastic waste problem is solvable and how you can get involved! Bonus: they also share their #1 every day zero waste tip.

What is the Adventure Clean Up Challenge?

The Adventure Clean Up Challenge (ACUC) is the first multi-discipline sports event with an environmental purpose, which is to clean hard to access coastal areas in Hong Kong, whilst raising awareness and education about the pollution issues in our city.

The first edition took place during the month of May 2019, but given its success we are confident it will run for many years to come!

Why did you start this project? 

Esther: I do a lot of outdoor sports running, climbing and coasteering and unfortunately I see a lot of pollution when I am out. During a 6 day adventure, during which me and my husband climbed around HK island and mapped all the pollution we found on our way, I felt I had to take action. And I was lucky to find Sole, a partner in crime to do this together with.

Sole: When Esther and I met, I was very inspired by her. I felt we had a great opportunity to create a very unique, different approach to engaging people in learning and taking action to tackle Hong Kong’s waste and pollution issues, whilst also creating a very hands on, transformational experience for participants and their communities. So although we had very little time, it was worth embarking on the prospect of running the first Adventure Clean Up Challenge just a few months later. 

What is your mission with Adventure Clean Up?

Our project’s mission is to: Raise awareness, education and action amongst the HK population in relation to waste issues, land contamination, and the personal actions we can take to reduce/minimise this in the future, doing so in a compelling, fun, adventurous way, leveraging Hong Kong’s ‘sporty’ community that loves outdoor challenges and focusing on practical, experiential action to bring about sustaining change in the participants and communities involved.

What are some of the key successes from this year’s Challenge? 

Our first key success point was to get the support of key partners like Patagonia and JP Morgan, as well as many other supporting organisations: they trusted us and played a crucial role in creating the ACUC, and we feel very blessed to have found them.

But what surprised us most, and made the ACUC what it was in the end, was the mind-blowing engagement of the teams who dedicated all of their free time for an entire month to clean up their assigned sites and raise awareness throughout their communities. When they signed up, most of them had no idea what to expect.

We took the six teams (each up to 10 participants), to their site the first day of the challenge and all of the participants were shocked to see what they saw: piles and piles of plastic in any kind of shape or form. This led to the participants building up their sense of urgency and sharing their findings which raised awareness far beyond the 55 participants of the ACUC.

The teams not only extracted 1,400 bags of garbage and more than 2,000 kilos of bulky items, they also engaged the community through school talks, publications and recruitment of volunteers, making up for around 840 of volunteer hours in one month.

What’s coming up for Adventure Clean Up?

We are hoping to do the Challenge again next year around the same time of the year! So if anybody would like to join or form a team, please follow us on Facebook/IG @adventurecleanup or send us a message through our website. We are also hoping to expand to other locations. And we are planning on running some events after the summer to keep the momentum alive. 

Do you think the plastic waste problem is solvable? 

The plastic waste problem is man-made, so under that principle, yes, we believe it is solvable. It takes each one of us to do our bit, on a day to day basis. If we look at our daily lives, we can make choices as to what we consume and how we consume it, to make our ecological footprint – particularly the plastic one! – as minimal as possible. As a collective then, if we start driving our power of consumption towards more environmentally friendly options, we can make a shift. The right infrastructure, in terms of recycling and national/international policies to minimise plastic use, is also required.

What is your favourite plant-based restaurant in Hong Kong? 

Esther: I am a chef myself, and at home we have over the last 2 years changed our diet to 95% plant based. I only occasionally give my 3 year old some yoghurt, fish or meat. But personally I don’t need it. For a yummy lunch, I love Mana

Sole: I love LockCha Tea House, just because I get to learn a lot about Chinese teas, and enjoy a super delicious Chinese cuisine meal that is vegetarian and/or plant based!

Can you share your #1 zero waste tip with our readers?

Esther: Carry reusable cutlery, a lunch box and a refillable water bottle with you at all times.

Sole: If you’ve got young kids, use reusable nappies. They are amazing! Super gentle on the baby’s skin, and you get to save a few tonnes of plastic nappies from going to landfill. I bought a set of 20 with my first, and they are now being used by kid number 2. If I showed you a picture, you wouldn’t believe it!

What can people do to get involved with Adventure Clean Up? 

Contact us! Through email, Facebook or our website- get in touch so that we can keep you in the loop of our upcoming events, volunteer activities and of course, the sign up details for ACUC 2020!

All images courtesy of Adventure Clean Up Challenge.


  • Sonalie Figueiras

    2021 Women of Power, 2019 GEN T Honoree, V Label Global Hero, 2 x TEDx Speaker: Serial social entrepreneur & trends forecaster Sonalie Figueiras is a sustainability expert, food futurist and eco-powerhouse who has been inspiring global audiences for over a decade with practical steps on how to fight climate change. Known as the Green Queen of Asia, she is the founder and Editor in Chief of the award-winning Green Queen - the region’s first impact media platform that educates millions of readers on the connection between health, sustainability and the environment and showcases future solutions. She is also the co-founder and CEO of organic sourcing platform Ekowarehouse and climate tech SaaS Source Green, which helps consumer brands quit plastic packaging thanks to proprietary plastic reduction software. In addition, Sonalie is a global keynote speaker and an advisor to multiple mission-driven startups and NGOs, and a venture partner to several VC funds.

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