Author Archives: LoopUnite

Made in Santa's Workshop -Red bauble hanging on a Christmas Tree

Santa’s workshop – fact not fiction

Santa’s Workshop

Ever wondered where your Christmas decorations came from?

You can forget the Disneyfied versions of a Santa’s workshop with hundreds of cute elves working happily together in a warm, friendly environment for a jolly Santa Claus.

19-year-old Chinese worker Wei wearing a face mask removes red powder on his hands at a factory in Yiwu city, east China's Zhejiang province

Image: Santa’s Workshop

Back in 2014, The Guardian reported on the plight of the mainly migrant labourers, working 12 to 13 hours a day for a maximum of £200 to £300 a month. This all happens in ‘Yiwu Christmas Village’ – a conglomeration of 600 workshops and factories, all helping to create a humongous festive ‘wonder-world of plastic tat’.

In 2015, The Independent relayed the same story concentrating more on where the merchandise is heading: “the world’s largest wholesale market”, covering 4 million square metres, formally known as China Commodity City.

And this year the story continues via ABC News who recently reported that between September 2016 and August 2017, Santa’s workshop churned out $3 billion worth of Christmas products. Their destination: the US, Russia, Latin America and China.

World demand for Christmas decorations shows no signs of abating which means Yiwu Village will continue to be the real Santa’s workshop for the foreseeable future.

Here at LoopUnite! we ask that you please rethink your Christmas and bring on your personal zero waste magic. Our recent article ‘Happy Zero Waste Christmas‘ is a great start.

 

Need help to reduce your waste? Our Loop Tribe Coach will guide your waste reduction journey and show you how to live a zero waste lifestyle in Hong Kong. Loop Coach is result-driven, effective, and affordable. If you follow the programme, you will see an immediate and dramatic waste reduction, and improved quality of life.

Caption: 19-year-old Chinese worker Wei removes red powder on his hands. AP/Yang Guang

Tins of food

Co-op sells goods after sell-by date to reduce food waste

One of Britain’s oldest supermarkets has taken a positive step to reduce food waste.

After a successful trial, the Co-op’s East Anglia stores began to sell food to its customers up to a month past its best-before date at the beginning of December.

With its campaign headline ‘Don’t be a binner, have it for dinner!’, the 125 Co-op branches in the East of England hope to save at least two tonnes of food being wasted annually as they offer out of date products for 10p. Items on sale include dried, tinned and packet goods, but does not include meat, fish and dairy.

The UK Government’s waste advisory body, Wrap, reports that £13bn-worth of edible food is thrown away in the UK each year and Wrap is currently overseeing a major simplification of labelling.

Joint CEO and head of the Co-op’s retail division, Roger Grosvenor, said:

“During our trial we found our 10p items went within hours of being reduced, sometimes quicker. The vast majority of our customers understand they are fine to eat and appreciate the opportunity to make a significant saving on some of their favourite products.

This is not a money-making exercise, but a sensible move to reduce food waste and keep edible food in the food chain. By selling perfectly edible food we can save 50,000-plus items every year which would otherwise have gone to waste.”

Read the full story online here.

Tanja Wessels

A Fashionable Divorce

Discover how Tanja Wessels instigated her divorce from the addictive habit of shopping. Here she writes for LoopUnite! on the impact the fashion industry has on the environment, and her passion for generating a movement across Asia to put all things green and mindful on the radar.

“Fashion’s impact on the environment is coming under increasing scrutiny. Our love for high turnover and low prices is bound to come at a price, but we are only starting to understand how high it actually is. It’s funny how mind shifts creep up on us, yet once aware of them we are left feeling as though someone has changed the wallpaper in our brains.

‘How did I not see that before?’ we ponder, scratching our newly decorated craniums.

I’ve never been a 10k-instagram-fashion-blogger-leaning-against-a-hip-neighbourhood-wall-in-something-I’ve-just rolled-out-of bed-in, watching the LIKES roll in like a Macau slot machine. But fashion is a wonderful tool for self-expression, and I am no stranger to her seductive pull.

Less charmed by the industry, and pace at which it is running, is Mother Earth. She won’t be hashtagging trends anytime soon, unless we rethink our relationship with fast fashion.

The New York Times ran a quiet little piece on Friday 21st of July leaving me dumbfounded, while the numbers loudly raced around my Elle Décor’d mind. Author Tatiana Schlossberg wrote that from the 1950s to today, 8.3 metric tons of plastic have been produced, about half of it since 2004. The article looks at a new study in science advances offering the first analysis of all mass-produced plastics ever manufactured. This is the part where you should take a seat.

According to previous studies, scientists estimate that five million to 13 million metric tons of plastic enter the ocean each year. Contamination in rivers and streams, as well as on land, the new data shows, is on the rise and most of that is from clothing, in the form of microscopic pieces of synthetic fibres. Clothing – that fun, innocent item we all love (and need – to avoid prison for public nudity) is choking our planet more than we ever could have imagined.

This noir news piece did let permit me one ray of light – last May I vowed not to buy a single item of new clothing for a year, and with the latest data in hand, I feel more dedicated than ever.

Inspired by local environmental NGO, Redress, I undertook this personal experiment to “Become a Citizen, not a Consumer” in the words of founder, Dr Christina Dean and to see if I could get off that buy/wear/don’t-wear-but-buy-anyway hamster wheel.

It took a while to break the habit of popping into Zara for a “little something” in between weekly errand running. But break it I did. I now go in for the aircon on particularly hot days and look at rows and rows of textiles that will end up God knows where. I feel like a reformed smoker gazing at cartons of cigarettes in the airport Duty Free section.

The upsides to ditching fast fashion are plentiful. I am very creative with what I have, grateful for sisterly hand-me-downs, bold with second-hand shop purchases and swap like a demon. And besties with my tailor.

Green Ladies has been a delightful find and when I get complimented on anything I’m wearing, the words “it’s second hand!” rush out my mouth faster than political Tweets from the US.

This is a movement I am deeply proud to be part of, and one I can see lasting well beyond this season. The year-long separation from fast fashion looks to turn into a full-fledged divorce. I’m learning too much to turn a blind eye, no matter how fetching the latest style is.”

Tanja Wessels is creating a regional platform ‘All In–Asia’, connecting environmentalists, sharing resources, generating a movement across Asia, and putting all things green and mindful on the radar. You can follow her progress on Instagram @allinasia

Biography

Tanja Wessels is a bi-lingual translator and feature writer for  Macau Closer magazine. She has interviewed many famous names from around the World, including David Beckham, Laurie Anderson, LMFAO and Tom Dixon. Tanja also covers major events, including Burning Man Festival in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, and is author of a monthly music column focusing on hand-picked emerging and independent artists in the world of music.

Bea Johnson with husband Scott at their home in California

Bea Johnson – Zero Waste Pioneer

Interview with Bea Johnson

Anyone with an interest in zero waste needs no introduction to Bea Johnson.

Pioneer of the modern zero waste movement, this French mum based in California created an incredible impact on thousands of people and countries around the world. Her bestselling book Zero Waste Home, published in 2013, has been translated into 19 languages, with the term ‘zero waste’ becoming a new norm.

Bea’s journey to a zero waste lifestyle back in 2008, transformed her into an expert and advocate for sustainability, a speaker at high level events across the Globe, and an inspiration for many people. In a Skype interview with LoopUnite!, Bea shared her thoughts on the movement, the latest updates and gives advice for policy makers seeking efficient ways of waste management on a large scale.

Q. It’s only been a few years since the first release of your book. How do you evaluate your impact and massive following around the World?

A. Our first media appearance dates back to 2010. The New York Times published an article [in which Bea was dubbed the Priestess of Waste-Free Living], where our family was featured as an example of a modern, but simple lifestyle. We discovered our simple life when we, as a family, embarked on a zero waste journey. Our two children were the key motivation for our lifestyle change, but we didn’t look too far. Now I can publicly say that we inspired the Global movement. How far did it go? Thousands of people around the World switched to sustainable living, they published hundreds of blogs, and created zero waste related businesses. Eight bulk buying stores – meaning zero packaging – were opened in Montreal after I had spoken there. Five similar stores were opened in Dublin and Cape Town. We proved that going zero waste is doable anywhere in the World.

Q. How did your personal and professional life change?

A. I used to work as an artist specialising in auctions. Then I discovered that zero waste also allows me to express creativity, and it transforms how I approach my art. Making meals from leftovers encourages you to be inventive. Same with the household: DIY products require a lot of creativity. Later I discovered that every household is more or less the same with repetitive patterns. This is how the idea of my book was born. I put together the system for creating a zero waste home. It also inspired me to help those who wanted to launch their stores.

Q. Has the World become more sustainable in the recent years? What now needs to be done urgently?

A. It definitely varies from country to country. Some have managed to be able to separate waste, while others need to change their policies and make it easier for their citizens to live sustainably. If I had to advise on the main steps for a country to go zero waste, they’d be the following:

  • Abolish incinerators if you have them. Having them enables destruction of resources; these machines need to be fed for years, but they don’t completely filter toxics.
  • Reduce the waste – ban all single-use products.
  • Pay for throwing away the rubbish and enable reuse of the discarded waste.
  • Build convenient drop off locations for discarded materials.

 

Photo credit: Zona Foto/Coleman-Rayner

You can discover more about Bea and follow her blog on her website here.

How to Fit a Year’s Waste into a Mason Jar

Zero wasters Paola Cortese and Hannah Chung spent an evening in early August at Metta talking to a packed audience about their passion for reducing waste in Hong Kong, “one of the most wasteful cities in the World”.

The event turned into a positive, heated debate with Paola and Hannah, as well as those present, all sharing their ideas on how to reduce personal waste to help make Hong Kong a greener and healthier place to live.

Paola was asked to explain how her start up LoopUnite! would assist with many of the educational and resource dilemmas Hong Kong residents have on a daily basis. She was also questioned as to what steps LoopUnite! would take in relation to the issue of living in a capitalistic society like Hong Kong, and the need for suppliers and corporates to also support and adopt a zero waste mentality.

WHub’s Flora Yu covered the event and her article presents a detailed summary of the event, along with a list of resources available in Hong Kong, zero waste startups, zero waste essentials and additional links.

Some of the questions covered were:

How do you maintain a balance between pursuing zero waste and securing quality food?

When you eat out or travel, restaurants and airlines waste a lot. How do you reconcile that?

What are some of the resources for the circular economy in Hong Kong?

What sources can you use when it comes to buying clothes apart from fashion swap groups?

You can read the full article here.

Plastic-Free in the City

An Interview with: Lisa O’Dell

Lisa O’dell is a Hong Kong mom who made all the main headlines in January after starting a petition on Change.org demanding the local supermarkets to refuse excessive packaging. She gathered over 11,000 signatures and launched Plastic Free Hong Kong to provide sustainable solutions to fight plastic.

Q: Tell us a little about yourself

A: I’m originally from Chicago, USA but also have parts of my heart in Colorado and Oregon, where I went to school and discovered my love for nature and the outdoors. In 2009, I decided to check out Hong Kong for a year abroad, but to my surprise, I met my now-husband on my third day here, and the rest is history!  

My background is in real estate and human resources, so starting my own business was definitely a new venture for me, although it was never my intention. It all began very organically and this is how it has continued to evolve. While I was looking for ways to live a more sustainable life and leave less waste in my wake, I realised others were wanting the same thing, but didn’t have access to the right resources. It was then that PFHK was born.

Q: How and when did you start Plastic Free Hong Kong? Was it before or after your famous petition?

A: The idea for PFHK began about a year ago while I was trying to find ways to reduce the daily waste my family was creating. Each time I threw a plastic string of floss in the rubbish or needed to change my plastic toothbrush, I cringed. I just couldn’t do it anymore. Through this process of cleansing my home of as much plastic waste as I could, I saw there was a huge need and demand for more accessibility to sustainable resources for one’s home and beyond, and that there were many people just like myself wanted to make massive change.

It was then I decided to fill that need, and it has organically grown from there. Our aim is to provide a sustainable alternative to every disposable plastic item found within our day to day lives. Waste-free living is a lifestyle choice and affects us everywhere we go.

Q: How do you evaluate the petition’s success? Was it the main call to start the e-commerce platform?

A: I started the petition for two reasons. Primarily, I was so disgusted by all of the unnecessary plastic waste in most grocery stores and I couldn’t stand it any longer. I also wanted to see how easy it could be to make change happen. I had the thought “There’s nothing to lose. I’ll try to bring attention to this issue and see if real change can come”. In order for things to change, someone has to decide to start somewhere, and so, I made the choice to try.

My goal was to obtain 100,000 signatures to show Hong Kong’s decision makers on this issue that many of us feel the same way.  If the petition had garnered that many, I think I would have deemed it an absolute success.  Regardless, even though we only reached 10% of that goal, things were accomplished and I believe our voice was definitely heard by many. The press got involved and we were able to speak to CitySuper face-to-face and see some changes implemented.

Q: Why are you doing it? What’s your ultimate goal?

A: My goals for PFHK are to bring awareness and accessibility. I want the people of HK and beyond to become of aware of the damage plastic waste is doing to our gorgeous planet, and potentially, even the impact on our own health. Only through awareness and education does change come. We also want to create accessibility to a more sustainable life for those who want one.

Q: What are your future plans? How do you see yourself in a couple of years?

A: I definitely want to continue growing PFHK and hope to expand our reach into other countries.  My main vision is for Asia, as I feel there is so much work to be done here in regards to waste and sustainability.  At times the road to waste-free living seems so impossible. However, I do believe it’s not too late to turn things around, which makes the journey an exciting one as well, and one I’m very honoured to be taking.

Zero Waste Living in Hong Kong

It was a full house at Mettā’s recent event “Zero Waste Living in Hong Kong”. We were joined by Paola Cortese and Hannah Chung, both passionate about reducing waste and improving Hong Kong’s circular economy.

With some heated debates, it is clear that Hong Kong has a powerful community willing – or already making – steps towards a waste free and more sustainable city.

Our latest newsletter is a summary of helpful tips and links proffered by Paola and Hannah to equip yourself with zero waste essentials, where to get them and what to read and watch to discover more.

Find out more about Mettā

One Year into the Zero Waste Challenge

An Interview with Hannah Chung

Hannah Chung is a Business Development Executive at Green Monday, a consultant at Foodie Group, but recently found fame through her Instagram posts documenting “The Zero waste challenge”.

For the last year, Hannah has been on a zero waste challenge and personal quest to change people’s mindset on the current problems with waste, by building a culture of conscious consumerism. Her posts illustrate the ups and downs of reducing her waste in a highly consumerist Hong Kong.

Q. How did you come up with the idea of the zero waste challenge? How do you evaluate your challenge so far?

A. Hong Kong’s waste problem far surpasses the infrastructures put in place to manage it. Compared to my home city of London, there are no clear recycling rules or transparency as to where the recyclables end up, and I haven’t seen government support to encourage individuals and businesses to separate waste effectively. I started the challenge because I personally wanted to see a change in the city I was living in. So far, I’ve met some wonderfully inspiring people along the way, who share my same vision and I have been able to drastically reduce the waste I produce from making a few simple changes to my lifestyle.

Q. How did this challenge impact your other areas of life? And if this is the case, how did it expand your expertise and skills as a professional?

A. The impact from the challenge so far has been positive. From this experience, I’ve been able to spread the word on being a conscious consumer through regular columns on afoodieworld.com and thecloseteur.com, along with having the opportunity to create events such as The Food’s Future Summit, a one-day event focusing on agriculture, sustainability and waste. I’ve also had the pleasure of speaking at schools and zero waste focused events all of which have helped spread the word. With the aim originally of understanding whether zero waste can actually be possible in Hong Kong, I have have learned more about waste management and the devastating effects of waste ending up in landfills and the ocean, which in turn has made me even more passionate to inform more people on how we need make changes.

Q. Many HK zero wasters criticise the Government for the lack of initiatives and action. If you were a Gov official, what would be your strategy in reducing HK waste? And what would be the first 5 steps?

A. There are many obvious things to start with: Separate bins for each residential building with enforcements on separation of waste is one of them. There are countries we can be influenced by. My family in London has a separate bin for food waste, paper, glass, metal and plastic recycling. In Japan, your recycling will not be collected if items have been put in the wrong bin. A ban on polystyrene, the worst offender in terms of ocean pollution, or a ban on plastic cutlery and plates are ideas we can take from California and France. Subsidies for recycling plants will make recycling a viable business to run and encourage more people to collect recyclables. I’d also like to see higher charges on plastic bags being used subsidies for companies providing alternatives such as cloth bags.

Q. What are your plans for the future? How do you see yourself in a couple of years?

A. I see myself pushing the message further, spreading the word and creating more partnerships in order to cultivate a movement into empowering people to make their own changes. For the day to day, I am constantly searching for alternatives that are realistic, affordable and realistic. Hopefully in two year’s time, we will have more of those alternatives.

 

Follow Hannah’s journey here.

HK Recycles

An Interview with Phillipe Li

Philippe Li is a Business Development Manager at HK Recycles, a social enterprise providing accountable waste management and sustainability solutions to homes, businesses, and whole buildings. A native Hongkonger, Philippe studied in the UK, and learnt his practical skills through recycling his waste each day.

Q: How and when did you start working for HK Recycles? What’s your daily routine and responsibilities?

A: I came back from the UK and found out that no one was recycling in Hong Kong. There were no incentives from the government and no education for the residents. Eventually, I met the founders of HK Recycles and joined their team because I wanted to make a difference and provide real solutions. My job now is to connect to the businesses and develop partnerships based on social corporate responsibility. We are offering customised recycling packages alongside education on recycling.

Q: Why are you doing it? What’s your goal?

A: According to HK Recycles, there’s been a 25% drop in recycling in the last 10 years. Hong Kong’s recycling has reduced by a quarter compared to 10 years ago! I want to change this and help Hong Kong benefit from the recycling and become more environmentally friendly. Besides that, there is a social side to our business: we provide jobs for marginalised and the poorer people.

Q: What are the main challenges you face daily?

A:  I see three main challenges. The first is that many Hong Kong residents just have no idea about the benefits of recycling. It’s always easier to throw their rubbish into the nearest bin and forget about it. The second is that Hongkongers don’t trust the Government’s recycling system; the Internet is full of photos of the street cleaners putting recycled items all together into one rubbish bin. So, the third challenge is the system. It’s inefficient. There is no comprehensive data from the Government, and it has even removed many municipal bins from the buildings.

Q: What are your future plans? How do you see yourself in a couple of years?

A: I definitely see myself working on environmental issues and expanding our operations. More businesses are joining our corporate programmes and I see a big future here.

You can learn more about HK Recycles here.