Category Archives: Leaders

Martin Cal and family holding the Green Race flag

Running the Green Race

Interview with Martin Cai

Martin Cai is a Race Director at The Green Race (TGR), an organisation working towards the creation of sustainable trail running events in Hong Kong. They provide finishers with sustainable options for medals, vouchers from sponsors and additional race pack items.

Vision and collaboration with other like-minded organisations is enabling them to build a loyal community of Green Race runners across Hong Kong. They are also expanding to other countries in Asia, including Japan and Singapore.

Native to Canada, Martin has been running since he was a teenager, but as with many other expats, he switched to trail running as soon as he moved to Hong Kong nearly seven years ago. Working in corporate finance with an education in Resource Management from The University of British Columbia, his passion has always been for the great outdoors. Starting up the Green Race was an opportunity to get back out to the green side of things once again.

We caught Martin on a ferry ride to Mui Wo, with the entire team and runners heading for a training run on a Sunday morning.

Q. So how did you start TGR? And why Green?

A. The more I was running, the more I was feeling guilty about the waste generated at running events. At the same time I started looking for a personal trainer and met Vlad Ixel and Etienne Rodriguez just over two years ago. Through a few attempts and learns, The Green Race was born and the rest has quickly become history!

Q. How challenging was it to convince people to join your races? A green agenda may not have been at the forefront of runners minds as much as it is today.

A. We are focusing on creating a greater benefit than all those medals and goodies’ bags. People think you need to give up so much for a green lifestyle. It’s not true. You can have almost everything and be closer to wasteless than you may think. We are working to create more value for the runners without necessarily telling them what they should or should not do to ‘save the earth’. There is a very thin line between urging people to go green and schooling them.

Q. Was it easy to find the sustainable solutions in Hong Kong? Have the running costs been an issue?

A. There is nothing that can’t be done in Hong Kong with a bit of will – where there is a market there is a way. Once we started exploring the opportunities, we felt connected to the entire community. From the outset it has been financially challenging as providing better quality can mean higher costs, be it a compostable bag or high quality T-shirt that lasts longer or is made from natural fibres. In just over two years, we have managed to become profitable and help change perceptions around how these sorts of events can be just as fun without the trail of waste. It’s great to see Hong Kong in action, but as they say, keep your friends close, and your direct competition even closer! Hong Kong business thrives with direct competition ‘setting up shop’ right up alongside you. We’re all learning from each other – and making trail running better for everyone, including Mother Nature.

Q. What are your future plans? Do you see your community growing?

A. Heading into 2018, we find ourselves within our third financial year already! I can think of no other place on the face of the Earth where time moves as quickly as it does in Hong Kong, and we still have a very long list of work items. This is a very big year for us – we feel we have invested our time, passion, and capital into creating brand and loyal following. Our definite focus is on quality. We now have a great responsibility to continue innovating and surprising with new green focused ideas that can help make life better for all of us in Hong Kong, one sustainably sourced bamboo fork at a time #noplasticforks!

We are especially grateful to Loop Unite for having partnered with Green Race to jointly create what we hope will be some of the cleanest and greenest top end trail running events in Hong Kong.

Upcoming Green Race events can be found here

Volunteer with Green Race here

 

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.

Claire Sancelot holding up her waste bins

That Zero Waste Moment

Interview with Claire Sancelot

Claire Sancelot is a powerful mompreneur and the first Hong Kong zero waster. Her blog Zero Waste Hong Kong has inspired and equipped hundreds of people to switch to a sustainable lifestyle in our city. She moved to Malaysia in 2015, but her blog continues to be a very useful source of lifehacks customised to Hong Kong realities.

Q. Why did you decide to start a zero waste lifestyle, given the very limited opportunities back in 2013?

A. Oh, it was quite an obvious decision. We were a typical expat family, with a dog. Then we had our first child, then the twins. Eventually, we hired a live-in helper and we found ourselves surrounded by clutter. Our house was a quite messy place to live, where most of the rubbish came from plastic bottles, nappies and paper tissues. My husband and I realised we couldn’t live like that anymore and embarked on a zero waste lifestyle.

Q. How did it happen exactly? Was it easy to start?

A. Well, it definitely didn’t happen overnight. We took it easy, one item at a time. We started with our kitchen and immediately removed all the paper tissues. Textile cloth was the perfect solution and a great money saver! Later, we replaced our plastic bottled water with a filter and again it saved us space and money! We consume at least 10 litres of water per day, just imagine how much it is in bottles.

Q. Sounds quite easy but I imagine you also had a lot of challenges on the way. Besides that, you’re a mom of three very young children!

A. It took us some time to find the best brands and solutions to meet our needs. But my entrepreneurial background helped a lot. Prior to starting zero waste lifestyle, I owned Lulu Hong Kong, city’s first ethical fashion shop. All our products were made in the US and Europe from eco-friendly natural fibres, including our silk products. Unfortunately, I had to close it during my second complicated pregnancy. I never regretted my decision as I’ve got two wonderful twin daughters.

Q. Your entrepreneurial personality however showed itself again – you started a very popular blog. Why?

A.For a very practical reason, really. My friends kept asking me about the tips all the time and I spent hours on emails and chats. So, I just put everything in one place and enjoyed it a lot.

Q. Four years from your first blog entry, how would you evaluate the changes in your life?

A. Going zero waste made us happier and more united as a family. Our house looks much nicer, much tidier and we focus more on experiences rather than possessions. We’re not perfect though, because… well, we are human! Sometimes we do indulge or make mistakes. It happens. But then we move on and do our best to live waste free!

You can discover more at thehivebulkfoods.com. Although based in Malaysia, Claire delivers to Hong Kong.

Read more about Claire and her family via her blog.

 

Image courtesy of South China Morning Post

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.

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.

Raphael De-Ry

Buy Organic, Buy in Bulk

An Interview with: Raphael De Ry

Raphael De Ry is an entrepreneur and owner of Edgar, an organic bulk food store in Hong Kong. The shop encourages customers to bring their own containers to cut down on unnecessary packaging and to reduce the carbon footprint.

Originally from Switzerland, Raphael is one of the most prominent game changers in town.

Q: How and when did you come up with the idea of opening the zero waste food store?

A: Initially, I imported healthy organic snacks for infants from Europe. I’d become a father and it was my biggest motivation. Later, I discovered a concept of zero waste stores and decided to implement it here in Hong Kong.

Q: What was the response from your target audience? Is it very different from Europe?

A: Consumers in Asia are very concerned about health benefits. As they are educating themselves more on natural and organic food, we see the increasing demand in our products. I’m pretty sure they will catch up quickly with more mature markets, such as Europe and the US.

Q: What are your daily challenges in running Edgar and what are the solutions?

A: We only opened Edgar in June so it will take more time and effort to promote the concept of zero-packaging and eco-friendly bulk buying. However, we are seeing a growing interest from our customers and the fact that their behaviour is changing. It will take time for this new way of shopping to become a normal habit; we need to keep pushing forward, encouraging and enabling people to make small changes day by day.

Q: Does it mean that you are planning to expand your business in Hong Kong?

A: I am certainly considering this option. Hong Hong has a growing community of zero wasters and the like. People are becoming more concerned about the environment and their own health. Our role is to provide the best solutions.

Find more about Raphael and his store 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.

Paola Cortese-D'arcy

How It All Began

Interview with Paola Cortese

The concept for the Loop Tribe was born in 2015, when founder Paola Cortese-D’arcy had what she calls her A-ha! moment.

LoopUnite! was launched in 2017, and here Paola tells us more about how it all began.

Continue reading