Inspiring Youth Voices 2022: Christopher Sheng

par | Sep 5, 2022 | Youth Voices, LearningPlanet

Christopher, your sustainable fashion brand Tomorrow just celebrated its 1 year anniversary. How would you summarize this year?

Tomorrow’s successful year can be summarized in many ways. But personally, I believe the most important thing Tomorrow has achieved all year is its environmental impact. 

By using organic Pima Cotton with a Global Organic Textile Standard Certification, we managed to cut down water usage to around 243 liters of water per garment. This is an astonishing decrease in water usage compared to conventional cotton, which uses approximately 2700 liters of water per garment. In total, we have saved around 162,200 liters of water.

In addition, Tomorrow clothing does not contain any synthetic material, meaning with each purchase, we are preventing 1.7 g of microplastics from going into our ocean per wash. In total, Tomorrow has prevented 1,930 grams of microfibers from going into the ocean.

Image of Tomorrow, the sustainable fashion brand Christopher has created.

Most importantly, Tomorrow plants trees for every purchase made. We have planted 200 trees, which will capture approximately 9,600 pounds of CO2 per year. This equates to a car using around 480 gallons of gasoline, which is around 10,000 miles driven in a gas-powered car.

Overall, I’m very happy with the first year of Tomorrow, and I cannot wait to continue pushing Tomorrow to the next level in year 2. I hope to expand Tomorrow across the globe this year.

What are the causes that are important for you and the youth today and why?

Social entrepreneurship in my opinion is one of the most important causes that our youth should engage and invest their time and resources in.

For years, big unethical corporations have been dominating the market, especially in the fashion industry. With fast fashion giants like H&M, Zara, Uniqlo, and SHEIN dominating the market, it won’t be long before people start to accept unethical production as the new norm.

But as regular consumers, we are simply contributing to their domination. I know many people who have the intention of helping the environment, but still end up purchasing their outfits at H&M. They usually look for ethical alternatives but find very little options to choose from. Then they give it a try, but end up not being able to consistently go back to the ethical vendor due to either price, lack of options, or lack of quality. 

This is why I started a sustainable fashion brand “Tomorrow”. Tomorrow is an ethical alternative that could replace some of the clothing that consumers would otherwise be purchasing at unethical vendors.

Although the impact is not as big as needed, if we teach the youth the importance of social entrepreneurship, our generation could have a fighting chance against these unethical corporations, and could make our consumerism good for the environment.  

What were the difficulties you faced at the beginning of everything? How did you overcome them?

While handling my duties at Tomorrow, I wanted to create an organization that aims solely at helping the environment, and not seeking profit. This is why at the beginning of the school year, I applied to start up a Climate Change Club (CCC) at my school. However, it was rejected by the school dean because he believed that our club will “lack meaningful service or motivation”. 

But I didn’t take no as an answer. I gathered a group of passionate friends and classmates, and we created an unofficial club instead. The plan was to show our school dean that our leadership team will be dedicated, and can make a meaningful impact.

Me and my team were able to plan several tree planting outings which combined for a total of 1,200 trees planted. We managed to gather over 100 club members, which eventually pressured our school dean to accept our club as an official club of TAS. 

This is just the beginning of the Climate Change Club. I wish that the CCC could expand outside of our school, gathering members from all around the Asia Pacific. I am also in the process of creating an annual competition called the “Asia Pacific Youth Climate Conference”, in which students all around the world will compete on solving real-world environmental issues.

What are the projects you are currently working on? What are the challenges you and your organization are facing today?

Currently, my biggest projects are both environment related. 

First is the Climate Change Club.  I started this club unofficially at the beginning of my sophomore year, and made it official midway through my first semester. Currently, our club is dealing with Covid-19 regulations, which prohibits some of our outings, adjusting to new rules (since our club can’t operate as an unofficial club anymore), and setting clear expectations for officers.

Second is “Tomorrow”, a sustainable fashion brand that I created at the beginning of sophomore year. This was spurred from my desire to create an organization that could simultaneously make money and make a positive impact in the world. Tomorrow utilizes sustainable materials in all its products, and offsets all carbon produced by donating trees per every purchase.

Currently, I face issues of not having enough time to fully commit to the brand due to academics. This reality results in slower delivery times, and a slower production of new designs. Currently, I’m trying to devise a plan that can automate shipping and finance tracking so that I can focus more on other aspects of “Tomorrow”.

What is your advice for young people who want to make a positive impact? How should they begin? 

I have two pieces of advice to share. First, it is to pursue something that you’re passionate about. Find something that you genuinely want to make a difference in. Personally, I was in love with the process of making and running a business, which is why I was willing to lose extra hours of sleep, or reject hanging out with my friends for the sake of making Tomorrow the best startup that I can.

The man who loves the journey will always walk a thousand miles longer than the man who loves the destination. If the ultimate goal is to make a positive impact in the world, do it in a field where you are truly passionate and in love with.

Second, and most importantly, believe in yourself. Oftentimes I found myself being stuck in a state of paralysis by analysis. I didn’t trust my own judgments and was afraid to make decisions under uncertainty. However, I have come to realize that in business, or life in general, it’s all about taking a leap of faith. Sometimes that leap of faith works out great.

If it doesn’t, however, just learn from the mistakes made, and move on from it. As one of my favorite movie characters Pete “Maverick” Mitchell once said: “Don’t Think, Just Do”.

“Why did you start Tomorrow?”

“He’s just doing this for college,” a lot of my classmates would say. But “Tomorrow” is simply deeper than a project that would get me into a prestigious college.

Growing up, I was constantly subjected to terrible news about climate change. As a kid, although I worried, I trusted that the adults would be responsible enough to handle the situation and stop the rolling snowball from gaining speed and size.

But as it turns out, I was very wrong. As news of climate change continue to show no signs of slowing down, I tried every way to decrease my carbon footprint. However, I slowly started to realize that simply decreasing my own carbon footprint wasn’t going to do anything. I needed to find a way to decrease other people’s carbon footprints as well. 

That’s when I came up with the idea of starting my own sustainable fashion brand “Tomorrow”. I realized that consumers don’t have much control over their carbon footprint, especially in the fashion industry. Even though consumers have a choice of choosing an ethical vendor, consumers will still lean towards picking unethical options usually due to affordability, accessibility, and superior designs.

However, “Tomorrow” changes that narrative. I created a sustainable fashion brand with its purpose to replace unethical pieces of clothing in people’s closets, by pricing the products at a reasonable price, and making designs that the public would enjoy as well.

Closing remarks

The Impact of Impact Investing

Recently, I came across a research paper written by Professor Jonathan Berk from Stanford University and Professor Jules Binsbergen from University of Pennsylvania titled “The Impact of Impact Investing”. In this research paper, they concluded that “at current levels, impact investing is unlikely to have a large impact on the long-term cost of capital of targeted firms.

A substantial increase in the amount of socially conscious capital is required for the strategy to affect corporate policy. Theoretically, impact investing could truly change the world, persuading companies to change policies and become more sustainable. However, that is not the case today. For impact investing to make a big impact right now, there needs to be a substantial increase in the amount of impact investors, so firms would be more pressured to become more sustainable, and more social entrepreneurs could receive bigger financial aid to compete against non-sustainable companies. Thus, it is extremely important to stress the necessity and the need for impact investing to the youth, so that the impact of socially conscious investing would be significantly larger. 

“Asia Pacific Youth Climate Conference »

Ideas like impact investing are genuine solutions that could help real world climate change related problems. Personally, I would like to increase awareness of the potential solutions of climate change by starting a competition titled “Asia Pacific Youth Climate Conference » (Register for APYCC here). With this event, teams will have 8 hours to begin solving a real life climate change related problem (prompt given on the day of the conference). With this event, I hope to not only spread awareness on climate change, but also engage the youth in activities that push them to think about real plausible solutions to climate change. Most importantly, this competition could encourage learning between talented youth participants, similar to the mission of #LearningPlanet. 

Meet Christopher

Christopher is a youth entrepreneur and passionate climate activist, starting his own Climate Climate Club along with an “Asia Pacific Youth Climate Conference”, and a sustainable fashion brand “Tomorrow”. Chris is also an active international speaker, participating in numerous MUN conferences and speaking at Catalyst 2030 events. 

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