SD Dialogue: Jennifer Cheung x Michael Lee
Jennifer Cheung, General Manager of EAST Hong Kong sits down with Michael Lee, Area Back of House Manager of EAST Hong Kong to chat about her passion for sustainability and how she looks to inspire the people around her.
Michael: Hi Jen, I can’t believe we’ve worked together since EAST Hong Kong’s opening in 2010! Looking back, we’ve always shared the same passion for sustainability, and I think that’s what brought us together from the start. Can I ask, what first sparked your interest in sustainable development? And what does it mean to you?
Jen: It’s been such a pleasure working with you – you’ve got such a sustainable mindset and are always coming up with creative solutions in the hotel. I’m an animal and nature lover, so nothing feels worse than seeing creatures suffering from ocean pollution and humans destroying the environment. It’s really what drove me to stand up to protect our vulnerable planet. To me, sustainability means responsibility. Protecting this world is really our responsibility to our future generations.
Michael: Definitely – it’s all about protecting the planet the best we can, especially through minimising consumption and waste.
Jen: Yes, you’re always so passionate about recycling and waste management. I don’t think there’s anyone at EAST who doesn't know it. Actually, personally one of the most satisfying changes I have made towards sustainability is saying no to plastics and going paperless.
Michael: That’s great! I think a lot of people don’t realise that even doing something small can make a huge impact. I always stick to the 3R principle – reduce, reuse, recycle – when I’m thinking about how to live a more sustainable lifestyle. I love making something new out of used products to give them a second purpose.
Jen: And you’re so good at it! The Christmas Village you build every year is always a hit. There were so many people taking photos of it this year. I really appreciate all the effort you put into this passion project. The idea of creating Christmas decorations with unwanted materials, like wine boxes and plastic caps is genius.
Michael: I really like designing and building the village from scratch, so glad that there’s this chance at EAST to showcase my “eco-creative” side. Working in hotels makes you realise how wasteful the industry can be. Sometimes I feel like making a hotel business more sustainable can be quite challenging…
Jen: Yes, exactly. It really is. It’s so important for us to set an example and take the lead in integrating sustainability concepts into our business goals. I’m not saying it’s easy to balance sustainability and profitability, but as a company, we need to start exploring new ways to engage our guests in our SD vision and inspiring our team members to start thinking sustainably in their daily life.
Michael: True, true. Speaking of guests, what do you hope they realise during their stays?
Jen: I don’t expect every guest to be eco-conscious. Some may prioritise fun and comfort before everything else. But by offering a sustainable hotel experience, I hope they feel more inspired to get involved, whether it’s through small initiatives like recycling waste and going paperless to bigger actions like reducing water and energy consumption.
I remember last October, we welcomed Ms. Kitty Tam, who’s an influencer for sustainable fashion and lifestyle. During her stay, we arranged a hotel tour to introduce some of our SD initiatives including Green Kitchen, Bao Beer and in-room features. She really appreciated what we’re doing with water and energy conservation. Plus, she loved our sourcing of sustainable food options. Stories like this keep me going!
Michael: I love hearing that too. Well, to wrap up, what’s one piece of advice you’d give to someone in hospitality who’s looking to push forward sustainability?
Jen: To focus on quality over quantity when it comes to guest experience. This means anticipating future needs and challenges, and also looking at opportunities to engage with guests to create brand offerings that resonate with traveller demands like wellness, sustainability and elevated dining experiences.