Category Archives: Issues & Solutions

Zero Waste family Mum and daughter walking along the seashore

Top Tips On Becoming A Zero Waste Family – Toddlers to Teens

Living sustainably as a zero waste family – especially for those with young children – can be problematic. The move from babies, where you in full control, to the toddler to teens stage is more of a challenge as children encounter the marketing madness designed to encourage peer pressure and ‘pester power’.

I well remember the peer pressure on my children to have the very latest trend in toys for Christmas and birthdays – invariable plastic nonsense, but none-the-less it was deemed important for participative play.

From conversations with Hong Kong mums, it would seem that the most successful zero waste families educate their child/ren as to why they may not have access the commercialised goodies their friends enjoy.  The following are some of the solutions they passed on.

Start Your Children Young

Lisa Odell, founder of Plastic Free Hong Kong, says the key is to “Start your children young!”

“Teach them sustainable habits from the very beginning, even if they don’t realise that’s what you’re doing. This will encourage sustainable practices as the norm as they mature, so it comes naturally.

“I have a three-year-old son with a baby girl on the way, and found the biggest waste makers are food packaging, nappies, clothing, toys and kitchenware.“

One of Lisa’s tips include only giving your child water as a drink, with occasional pure juice out of a glass bottle with metal cap as a treat. 

My top tip would be to introduce your healthy everyday foods as soon as possible. Mix textures and flavours when they are young enough to accept without question. One, it was cheaper; with four mini mouths to feed on a tight budget this was important. Buying pre-prepared packets is not only expensive, but when you consider how many they would need over their toddler lifespan, it would create a mountain of waste. And two, it made introducing one meal for all so easy – and I knew exactly what they were eating. Bubble and squeak – just a mash-up of leftovers – was always a popular dish!

Plate of bubble and squeak

Lisa agreed and also adds: “The issue of going on play dates can be hard as children are offered processed foods, which invariably come in plastic packaging.”

She feels this is just a great opportunity to talk to your child and other parents about why sustainability is so important and has alternatives as healthier snacks.

We pop our own popcorn, eat fruit sold loose, make banana bread, buy nuts sold in glass jars and bake our own bread.  We also buy croissants and bread sticks from a local bakery, which sells them to us in paper bags. These are just a few ideas.

Hong Kong mum of two, Jo Wilson, agrees that teaching your child from a young age about waste is crucial.

Initially, I audited my waste, keeping it for a week or two and got my children involved. I looked at the amount of packaging and worked out how to bring food home without adding rubbish to the pile. We now take our Tupperware to the village to buy cheese, ham and eggs, and use a cloth bag for loose veggies and fruit.”

There is no bin in Jo’s kitchen, just a box for cardboard, recyclable plastic, cans, glass bottles – all of which is clean and dry – and composts any organic waste. She serves small portions at dinner so less is thrown away if the children don’t like it. Wherever possible Jo advocates you should try to eat the same food as the children so you eat the leftovers, or can give them extra.

Making Zero Waste Learning Fun

Jo’s family makes regular trips to the beach and she takes great pleasure in turning what is essentially an environmental education, into fun.

I want them to take an interest I nature – they’re part of it – and help them understand that any form of waste is harmful to the environment”, she explains.

On one occasion she turned a beach visit into a mathematical challenge.

Two children sitting in front of a table full of cigarette ends along with their mathematical calculation


As part of a mathematical exercise they collected cigarette stubs from the beach and calculated how many packets it equated to, the cost and the total of unpaid littering fines that should have been paid. It shocked them both as well as me!”

Two children and their mathematical calculation after their beach clean up in Hong Kong

Another example was with sweets.

A couple of years ago, my children returned home with a huge amount of sweets generously handed out at our village Halloween night. The next morning we went to clean the beach and picked up so many sweet wrappers. When we got home, I asked the children to sort their sweets into piles: plastic wrapped and not wrapped in plastic, and those that they actually really wanted to eat.

They found for themselves that there was very little that they wanted and they were horrified at the plastic. This year, my son preferred to just hand out paper wrapped sweets and only accepted two sweets, because he said he didn’t want so much plastic rubbish!”

Dressing Your Child

Unlike today, there was no ‘online’ facility in the 80s and so I bought some super quality second-hand clothing from charity shops. To be honest it was more about saving money with four children to clothe, than recycling, but we also passed these on to friends when they had grown out of them, or gave them to Oxfam to send on to less fortunate children.

Lisa also bought or borrowed used clothing from friends and family.

My circle of girlfriends is great, as we just keep passing around our children’s clothes to each other.  Also, here in Hong Kong, there is such a plethora of Facebook Groups dedicated to selling children’s items, that finding good quality, cute clothes is pretty easy.

Plastic Free in the Kitchen

Lisa told us that she quickly realised after becoming a mother the insane amount of waste created by plastic kitchenware for children.  “It eventually either breaks or they grow out of it, and to the landfill it goes,”she says.

Buy plastic-free kitchenware: stainless steel is a great alternative as it’s equally durable, light and won’t break if dropped.  Cups, plates, water bottles, lunch boxes … all can be purchased in stainless steel form. “

The Toy Dilemma

Having a set of twin boys was a challenge when it came to finding toys with any longevity. I clearly remember Fisher Price and Tonka’s claims that their toys were indestructible – well they hadn’t been tested on my two, who between them must of eaten into company profits at a rapid rate with their guarantee return policies. Back in the 80s, we were not aware of the environmental impact plastic would have on our environment and so you can imagine how much plastic has simply been discarded over the years.

My solution was to buy the indestructible: metal cars, Lego, Meccano, and Transformers. These were all handed down to friends and family. My daughters on the other hand, kept everything pristine. Mostly plastic in the form of My Little Pony, Silvanian Families, etc, all passed on to friends, but today some of these toys fetch a fortune. The Fisher Price Garage – three were casualties in our house – went for 149.99 US dollars back in 2014! Some however, are still with us – Angus the Scottie Dog (age 33) and Care Bear (age 34), still loved and cherished. 

Toys from the 1980s

Fiona, another Hong Kong Mum of a three-and-a-half year old toddler, packs huge punches with her feelings around children’s toys.

Plastic crap seems to accumulate like magic. Our son has fewer toys than most of his friends, but there still seems to be a lot!

Second hand stuff is great. Our main sources are our friends with older kids; these have proved to be extremely useful, but we wouldn’t have bought them. Those I dislike most are the cheap ones, which contain electrics that break too quickly; so the more we avoid the better. Anything that can stay in one piece and be handed down later I have come to terms with!

My advice would be to buy toys made with sustainable materials, or used plastic ones.  We try really hard not to add more plastic waste into the system by following these two rules.  Of course birthday parties, holidays and grandparents often make this a bit more difficult, but every single bit of effort helps. And along the same line, buy other people’s children gifts that are waste free.  It often feels like my son has a birthday party every weekend, so taking the sustainable gift route puts my conscious at ease.”

Look out for our final tips for families with teenagers when we talk to renowned zero waste pioneer, Bea Johnson, about family life with her husband and boys.

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.

Image of Christmas package using string

Happy Zero Waste Christmas!

So one of the most wasteful seasons is upon us – that time of year when we all feel obliged to buy one another gifts, just because it’s Christmas. So how do we turn our season of goodwill into a zero waste Christmas?

Black Friday and Cyber Monday have once again done their evil deed and encouraged most of us to buy things for ourselves, friends and family we probably didn’t really need. Up-graded that smartphone to the latest model when our current one works perfectly well for example. This point was well proven this year as Cyber Monday’s revenue was driven by smartphones with sales hitting an all time high at $1.59 Billion.

Sadly analytics illustrate that in the US alone, Cyber Monday broke all records with over $1 Billion more spent online this year, totaling a staggering $6.59 Billion, while Black Friday online sales were not too far behind at $5.03 billion.

So how do we stop ourselves from being tempted to enter Christmas retail madness? How do we ignore those comical and ‘must have’ gift trends that come and go? Those plastic Fidget Spinners are a classic example, currently the height of fashion, but we all know they will end up discarded and replaced by the next craze on the block.

Enough Is Enough

Long fed up with buying presents just for the sake of it, I thought I’d share some of my top tips with you on how I make my Christmas as zero waste as possible.

1. Peruse the Local Antique Shops

My youngest daughter loves retro china and there are always hidden treasures to be found.

2. Organic Candles

Always a popular with friends and family and at the end of their life can be used as a drinking glass or a small vase.

3. Gift an Experience

These have always gone down so well with my family – from track and spa days, to adventure weekends in the mountains. There are many companies offering experiences in Hong Kong. Gift Something is one with its selection of high-end gifts, while the latest VR experiences offer packages from as low as $33 per hour.

Promise coupon

4. Girls’ Night In/Night on the Town

My eldest daughter lives locally, but we both lead such busy lives we rarely have time to catch up. So we regularly gift a night together; a homemade ‘take out’ with a bottle of sparkle or a night out in the city – cocktails and dinner always go down well. We’ve been using this card for several years now, but we never know when we’ll receive it back.

5. Adopt a Pet

Perfect for someone who loves animals but does not have the time or space at home for them. The SPCA saves 1,000s of animals every year and only 1% of their funding comes from the Government. The charity depends upon the generous Hong Kong people to enable them to continue their work of helping animals in need everyday. All donations over the amount of $HK100 are eligible for tax deduction in Hong Kong. Or support an international organisation such as WWF and gift a subscription.

Millionaire shortcake

6. Start Baking and Creating

My Millionaire Shortcake (pictured above) and homemade cookies go down a storm with my sons. I also reuse any glass screw top bottles and make liquid goodies – my Limoncello, and botanical gins have proved most welcome as gifts. And the bonus is if they return the bottle they get the same again next year!

7. Recycled Toys

eBay is great for discovering quality for secondhand toys, or do what I did and buy up complete Lego sets from a neighbour’s son who had no interest in them and so were in pristine condition. Lego is great as it recycles indefinitely, but it is so expensive. In the UK you can buy a membership to Lego, which is an excellent idea. Check out your area to see if there is something similar, or you could organise your child a special party by hiring the toys – the Hong Kong Toy Club’s mission is to ‘deliver joy’.

8. Enjoy A Good Read

My husband always appreciates an Amazon voucher for his Kindle ebooks. Two years ago he bought me a 12-month Audible membership, perfect for car journeys and a great listen for drifting off to sleep when your eyes are too tired to read.

Christmas trees from upcycled corks and bottles

9. Christmas Tree and Decorations

Importing trees into Hong Kong from the US has caused much controversy on Facebook recently, owing to the contribution this makes to the carbon footprint, and so avoiding buying one altogether is always recommended. I’m lucky enough to have a garden and last year bought a small, sustainably and ethically grown tree with roots for replanting in a pot each year. It’s enjoyed summer and is currently waiting patiently outside to shine again during the festive season with its outdoor solar lights.

But why not decorate your locally grown house plant, or create your own tree by upcycling? There are some fabulous ideas on Pinterest; above are a couple that feature in pubs.

The traditional alternative to a real tree is an artificial one, again not ideal as it’s usually made of non-recyclable PVC. It’s been estimated that you’d need to use a PVC tree for at least 20 years to make up for the amount of energy used in its production. Some artificial trees are made of more environmentally friendly materials today, so it’s worth shopping around. With this option it’s best to choose with care and keep your tree for as long as possible.

My artificial tree is now 17 years old and so still has some way to go. We store it carefully and each year it comes out as good as new. I bought traditional baubles and tinsel with my first ever tree many moons ago and they’re still going strong. We added one or two each year – each holds a special memory and everyone takes great delight in hunting out their favourites when they visit. Brian sits proudly at the top – he’s a hand knitted snowman I made as a gift for my daughter when she was three and at 29 she still squeals with delight when she sees him. We’ll share him with you on Instagram nearer to Christmas.

Be creative and use nature’s naturals to decorate your home. We make our own organic decorations – so easy and great fun to make. Please don’t use glitter; icing sugar to dust rather than artificial snow is also a perfect substitute.

E-card illustrating a tiger and WWF logo

10. Sending Cards and Gifts

Around 9,000 trees are cut down to produce approximately 180 million red packets (lai see) used in Hong Kong. By adopting some of the suggestions above, the need for packaging is removed.

I always used to support my favourite charities by buying and sending their cards; now the majority of friends receive an e-card and I donate to charity instead. Any cards I receive are made into gift tags the following year.

Finally, why not use old magazines or newspaper to gift wrap – I have a friend who loves to travel so she always gets the travel pages. I use string rather than Sellotape and if they unwrap at mine I pinch it back and reuse it in the garden! Also gift bags can be recycled again and again.

Happy zero waste compliments of the festive season everyone!


E-card image reproduced courtesy of Edwin Giesbers and WWF

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


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.

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are. Theodore Roosevelt

Welcome to LoopUnite!

We are delighted to welcome you to the LoopUnite website, packed with loads of useful tips and tricks to help you reduce your waste.

Together our mission is simple: To educate and enable people to live in circular economy by practicing zero waste lifestyle.

We aim to be the go-to ‘glocal’ hub, educating the need for a waste free environment in Hong Kong through our various articles and workshops, and offering the most sustainable retail experience to all by amassing hundreds of circular-ready products and services under one platform to help you along the way.

Our resources are provided by carefully selected LoopTribe Leaders, who are as passionate as we are about living a restorative and regenerative lifestyle in harmony with nature’s infinite loop.

Join the LoopTribe by subscribing to our newsletter, and we’ll guide you away from the present linear, wasteful lifestyle, to a circular, waste free one – the future standard of a truly sustainable life on Earth.

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