Green Sustainable Business in Vung Tau, Vietnam

Last August, volunteers from STEP’s Environmental related camp “Green You, Green The World” had a great morning to learn about Green Sustainable Business Movement in Vietnam. This interview was a part of their 10 days program in Vung Tau- with the main purposes to raise environmental awareness for the local community while at the same time exchange ideas with Environmental Friendly Initiatives in Vung Tau province. We hope that by combining between practical experiences, non-formal learning activities and field study, participants would be able to enhance their understating about particular world challenges and from that they can contribute to the sustainability of both local and global community in a more effective way.


Like its Wifi Password “Let’s Love Each Other,” Haiyang Tea, a coffee shop located in the central of Vung Tau city, Vietnam, taking its action to love the world and the planet we live on through switching from using plastic mug and straw to a more environmentally-friendly alternatives.

On 21 August 2019, a group of passionate students who participated in STEP ‘s camp gathered in Hai Yang Tea to learn more about its change to a more environmentally-friendly business, which is encouraged by the Mug Tour Activity (Chay Nhat) and the awareness from the owners of the shop. This group of students are connected by an environmental-volunteer project organized by STEP Forward Exchange. This project aims at increasing local awareness of the environment by educating students and the residents living in Vung Tau, conducting tote bag painting workshops, visiting local drink shop that use environmentally-friendly mug/ bamboo straw, visiting local shop that sells environmentally friendly product, and working together with Chat Nhat by joining beach cleaning activities.

With the slogan of “Green You, Green the World!” this multicultural group consisted of eight members from diverse cultural backgrounds, working, learning and living together for 10 days in Vung Tau; Mikako from Japan; Heidi from Taiwan; June from Korea; Evita, Jacob, and Madeline from Indonesia; and Wendy and Soleil from Vietnam. They have the same goals; believing that through small changes they make, it can transform into big changes to make the world a better place to live in. 


The Mug Tour Activity is one of the four activities of Chay Nhat project, a non-profit project founded by Phat Nguyen, aiming at addressing ocean plastic pollution. Seeking for collaboration with local coffee shops and restaurants in Vung Tau, the Mug Tour activity provides 30 mugs for its collaborating shop for a few months. The project hopes to encourage the business to replace plastic cups by mugs when they serve drink to dine-in customers. The 30 Chay Nhat mugs have traveled to four different shops so far and cannot wait to visit their next partnership with their mission to make people aware of the environment and to engage local businesses to combat plastic pollution facing the city. 

The other activities organized by Chay Nhat are educating the students from Vung Tau and Ho Chi Minh city to understand the impact of plastics to the environment. Through discussion and activity such as garbage separation fashion show and making vase using pet-bottle, Mr. Phat empowers the local people of Vung Tau to be more aware of the environment. In addition, Chay Nhat, which literally means running and picking up the trash in Vietnamese language, they also organized beach cleanup activity in Vung Tau beach during the morning hours. STEP Program Exchange are fortunate to be able to join the beach cleanup activity twice during our program. 

Haiyang Tea Shop was the first shop that warmly collaborated with the Mug Tour Activity. After using Chay Nhat mugs for a few months, Haiyang Tea switched to use cups and straws that made of glass and bamboo instead of plastic, hoping to become a greener business model in town.  “Businesses need to make profits, but at the same time we have to check that the thing we do is not harming [others],” said Ms. Doan Thi Hau, the representative of Haiyang Tea Shop. Caring about the environment and the health of our mother Earth, Haiyang Tea is also planning on switching to paper cup for customers who order drinks to go. As the vice president of an Italian company and the chairman of Lighthouse Coaching Club, a non-profits organization, Ms. Hao is advocated in helping Vietnamese people to have a better life in abundance, and at the same time increasing local environmental awareness. She says that: “Everything starts from us, we have to take action, and we have to improve ourselves.”

1. What made the shop decided to change into more environment-friendly business?

At first Haiyang Tea decided to join the Mug Tour because it believes that it is right to be responsible for the community especially in environment impact of the business. Ms. Hau boldly states that in general, business only focuses on making maximum profit and minimal cost as possible. On the other hand, her shop is really concerned about their products impacts and quality; starts from ingredients, shipping, and final product. She emphasizes that if on average in a day they receive order of 60-100 cup, a lot of plastic cup will eventually harm the environment. Therefore for the betterment of community and especially the next generation, the shop start this initiation of changes. 

(Left to Right) Ms. Doan Thi Hau, Wendy from Vietnam, Jacob from Indonesia, Mikako from Japan, Evita from Indonesia.

2. What are the challenges of changing into more environment-friendly business?

First, in the shop perspectives it was hard for the waiters/staff to clean the glass mugs and bamboo straws. The waiters themselves that work there feels it was tiring to clean the used glass mugs and bamboo straws, but she herself and her daughter encourage them not to be lazy and explain about the consequences of it. With time eventually the staff become used to the work and now become their usual habit of business operation.

Second, there are some people who don't like to use glass mugs because it lacks of decoration and not “Instagrammable”. During the phases of their change to become more environmentally friendly they saw the decrease of the demand of their products, but they still insisted to sustain their change because it was more beneficial for their movement of making the world a better place. 

Lastly, their change was generally more costly if with $1 they can get 100 plastic straw, for the bamboo straw they have to increase to ten times of the cost or $10 to get 100 bamboo straw. It is also works for the glass mug comparison with plastic mug.

Haiyang drinks products we ordered when we visited the shop. It uses glass mug and bamboo straws in a serving.

3. How does the community react to the change?

Like one of the challenges they face in previous questions, they received a setback of customer demand at their first initiation of changes. On the other hand, Ms. Hau believes that they now attract different segment of consumers that also believes the importance of conserving the environment and implement responsible consumption. Since at the end of the day because what the shop believes to be true and it is their initiatives to become the good change in Vung Tau neighborhood

4. What is the future plan of the business? 

Ms. Hau believes that in the future Haiyang Tea can keep pursuing their goals to provide healthy drinks to the community. In the short-run, they are planning to install a purifier water system that are processed by a given type of song before people drink it. They hope that the water can be beneficial for people who had a sickness in physical or mental health.

In addition, they want to organize more sharing within the community in their shop about mental health, relationship, lifestyle, and etc. With that they want to attract more “positive” young people to come there and influence the well-being of community. On average, they are organizing the aforesaid event twice every two months.

5. Message to the Young Generation? 

Ms. Hau observes that young people in Vietnam find it hard to figure out the purpose of their life. When asked, they will have a problem to identify their goals and how to contribute to the community. Therefore, it makes them depressed and bored to do something meaningful in their life. She hopes to raise their awareness on the fact that each one of us is connected to one another and to every being on the planet. 

She also believes that the best thing to do is to take action. It starts with loving oneself and therefore we can spread love through our surroundings. If we start helping the community and environment, you will start to think about your mission and purpose of living. The process of making changes is to start with Belief , then Action, and eventually Results and she emphasizes that each  of us has different kinds of goals/ purposes and passion in our life. Therefore it is our job to find those for us to have a fulfilling life. Find your passion and give out the whole of it and you will achieve satisfactory results.


Lastly, She said that Life is a Journey; Keep Moving and Overcome Challenges so Don’t Give Up!

From this experience we are inspired by how the Mug Tour Activity by Mr. Phat Nguyen in Chay Nhat impacts toward shops in Vung Tau. Haiyang Tea Shop with their green sustainable business model proves to be the pioneer in Vung Tau and can set an influence towards other shop so that they can be beneficial towards community and environment. In conclusion, we are really fortunate to meet such inspiring and innovative person towards our camp so that we can grasp their knowledge about urgent issues we are facing now as a global citizen. We hope that we can also in the future can contribute toward this movement in our own way. 

Written by Gregorius Jacob Dwi Prakoso, Indonesia.