Embarking on a Zero Waste Journey

Reusable Straws from Live Zero, 24 High Street Sai Ying Pun

Reusable Straws from Live Zero, 24 High Street Sai Ying Pun

Supermarket packaging :(

Supermarket packaging :(

Bulk grocery shopping at Live Zero

Bulk grocery shopping at Live Zero

After working at Live Zero (Hong Kong's first zero waste bulk food store) for a week, I was stunned when I entered the supermarket again and was greeted by rows and rows of packaged products. I nearly forgot what it was like to shop for groceries in Hong Kong: plastic containers, plastic bags, and various other single-use items. However, the shock vanished almost instantly, and I was back to picking out my favourite foods and ignoring the vast amount of waste I would be generating through my 'small' purchase. 

 

Reflecting back on this moment, I am instantly guilty of my innocent yet ignorant actions. To have claimed to be an 'environmentalist' when all I did was refuse plastic straws (I hardly even order drinks in the first place), bring my own water bottle, and eliminate animal products from my diet was a tremendous overstatement. After rearranging my pantry and converting all the plastic packaging into glass jars, I started to notice all the waste I was accumulating at home. I suddenly became more cognizant of all the single-use materials that I encounter every day - store-bought containers, packaging that comes with online shopping, receipts, tissues, paper towels, sanitary pads, ziplock bags, and more - and I am determined to modify my habits. 

 

My original pantry

My original pantry

Of course, this is not going to be an instant transition, but the aim of this post is to publicise my intentions and to hold myself accountable through the inescapable permanence of the internet. The goal is to be able to look back on this article and frown upon my past tendency to shy away from the unintimidating reality of a low impact lifestyle. At this point in time, I always carry around a water bottle and a metal straw (hardly any need for it, but it's nice to have anyway) with me. To begin my journey with small steps, I am going to follow the guide of Our Simple Cottage and carry around Zero Waste Essentials with me at all times. This part still requires some exploration as my essentials will differ from hers, but I will try to post weekly updates about my progress, any transitions I have made, and the lessons I have learnt throughout!

My (nearly) zero waste pantry! (notice how everything can now fit into one shelf)

My (nearly) zero waste pantry! (notice how everything can now fit into one shelf)

My bamboo toothbrush from Live Zero!

My bamboo toothbrush from Live Zero!

An important part of this process is also about educating the people around me - family members and helpers in Hong Kong. Helpers, including my own, are exposed to so much waste when it comes to tasks such as grocery shopping. Thus, they have the greatest room for minor lifestyle adjustments to reduce their carbon footprint. I ordered a small mesh produce bag ($110 for 3) from Plastic Free HK for the family to replace the plastic bags used to store fruits when grocery shopping (I was so excited when I saw they started charging people money for those), and I bought myself a Bento bag ($90, but I had a 10% discount ;) ) from Live Zero to store the breakfast sandwiches and my jars of overnight oats that I eat on the way to school (they couldn't fit into my medium-sized Stasher bag). I also ordered some washable, reusable cloth menstrual pads from Delightfully Green, which I am super excited to experiment with! These cost $250, but if you consider it as both a long-term economic and environmental investment (think of all the pads you use in five years!), then the price is very very reasonable. Last but not least, as my toothbrush was starting to get extremely worn out, instead of buying a new plastic one, I replaced it with a gorgeous blue bamboo toothbrush ($30) from Live Zero! Just a little FYI, I used my own money that I earned from working at Live Zero to buy all these items, so in a way, that in itself is contributing to the circular economy! :)

Mesh Produce Bags from Plastic Free HK

Mesh Produce Bags from Plastic Free HK

Bento Bag from Live Zero

Bento Bag from Live Zero

These things aren't cheap to buy, and it took a lot of consideration to decide whether or not they would be worthwhile investments. I understand that oftentimes, it can be even more wasteful to purchase reusable items than it is to simply reuse what you have, but I figured it would be easier to start off by surrounding myself with some easy to access, waste-free paraphernalia. There are so many creations out there to aid the process of going zero waste, but these are the ones I figured would be the most crucial for my transition. If you are not comfortable spending so much money to reduce your waste, there are also plenty of DIY alternatives that you can find instructions to online! As I familiarise myself with this lifestyle, things will inevitably become easier, and I hope to become more creative with my zero waste strategies too!