Category Archives: Loop Tribe Folk

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

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.

My Journey to Zero Waste

During my semi-nomadic life I’ve rarely been a wasteful person… or at least that’s what I thought. I’ve never had too many possessions as I’ve been constantly flitting between new flats, cities, and countries, so packing light became a way of life.

And then I moved to Hong Kong where I immediately encountered two things that impacted on my life. One was the huge amount of waste. It was everywhere and I couldn’t unsee it: rubbish bins full of food waste in front of restaurants; shopping outlets’ waste on every corner. And a great deal of plastic! I felt as if plastic would invade my tiny apartment and I’d run out of space. Surprisingly, I couldn’t find any recycling facilities nearby and it took me ages to find a handful of eco friendly products. I hesitated going to the wet markets because of the language barriers.

So I signed up for Cantonese lessons and there I had my second encounter, Paola Cortese, one of my 14 fellow students. We quickly became friends and eventually she introduced me to her zero waste lifestyle. I asked her how I could live a zero waste life too and she gave some great tips. But I was already getting into the crazy Hong Kong rhythm and wanted it fast and painless. In fact, I needed a friend who would give me a hand and encourage me on the way.

We agreed on a three-month timeline and made a week-by-week plan with a regular assessment. Having a plan was crucial: I knew exactly where to start and when to prepare myself for the next step. Paola introduced me to the zero waste Rs and weighed my trash bin. It was about 1.3kg that week. Not a great deal, as I hadn’t spent much time at home, but I still wanted to reduce it as much as possible. So I bought a bokashi composter and immediately conquered my food waste. I equipped myself with the zero waste essentials and banned plastic from entering my apartment. Easy?

Well, not really. My old habits still prevailed. It was a longer walk to the organic corner of the wet market so I had to make an effort… my broken Cantonese helped a lot! It took time to stop using paper towels to dry my hands in public toilets, and say no to excessive packaging. I discovered that prepping my own meals was much easier and healthier than eating out, or ordering takeaways. So I was forced to cook better than I had before. Eventually, I had to let go of many of my clothes and books that I no longer needed. It’s an ongoing process and I still keep a lot of stuff ‘just in case’.

There were moments when I felt like going backwards: buying an unnecessary pair of shoes on sale, forgetting the magic phrase ‘no straw please’ and so many others. I’d call Paola and say: “Uhm, I failed again today” but, luckily, she’d only encourage me and brainstorm on other options. This is how I became a consignor at a second hand shop and already earned my first 56 HKD. I discovered new products and learnt how to make my own cleaning products. Homemade toothpaste? Never crossed my mind and I just love using it now!

But the most impactful part of the journey is definitely my local community. I went to loads of local events and discovered Hong Kong eco warriors and game changers. They are a great source of inspiration and I started working on bringing them all together with Paola in LoopUnite!.

I documented my journey on the blog and Instagram and was astonished to see so many positive responses from other people. Some of them joined the journey in their countries and it was one of the best outcomes of going zero waste. I’ve had a lot of funny moments always hoping to be a motivator rather than irritating people.

The journey has pushed me to seek more from life and be open to change. I’m training hard for a few trail running marathons, waking up much earlier than before and taking my nutrition very seriously. I’m more aware of where things come from (for example, my clothes) and where they go to (all our waste). I spend more time connecting with people and the nature and don’t feel addicted to the material things very much. It’s been an eventful journey, but I’m curious as to what to expect in the next chapter!

Aquaponics Farm

An Interview with Ray Lok

Agro entrepreneurs Ray Lok and business partner Leon Yao, are both well-established industrialists and business professionals in their own right. Their successful Evergreens Republic project has been hailed a success thanks their thorough and clear agronomic vision with well-established market channels.

The farm, spanning over half an acre in the countryside of Hong Kong, is the first Aquaponic farm in Hong Kong and the largest in South East Asia.

Q: What exactly is aquaphonic farming?

A: Aquaponics is a recirculating system that combines hydroponics – growing plants in water without soil – and aquaculture – fish farming) to create an efficient closed loop system. We use fish poo/excrement and nutrient rich waste-water from the fish tanks to feed the plants.

The micro bacteria converts the waste nutrients into fertiliser to feed the plants; the plants then purify the water which is pumped back into the tanks.

Q: How do you manage to ensure that everything runs smoothly?

A: From the outset we realised the importance of maintenance and the responsibility that comes with running a successful, profitable aquaponic farm of this scale. We commissioned an expert Farming Operations Manager to work with our niche team of farm hands, which ensures our daily schedules of harvesting, seeding, feeding, plant care, fish care and water quality monitoring is guaranteed to keep our farm healthy.

Q: What is the aim of the project?

A: The project aims to be a big part of the rapidly developing growing organic food market in Hong Kong and provide fresh, naturally grown, pesticide free produce.

The farm holds the potential to boost the local market supply by almost 20%. The system will be driven by three tons of locally hatched Jade Perch and will feature gravel beds, deep water culture troughs and wicking beds.

Q: And your vision for the future?

A: Evergreens Republic Farm is a showcase of the best of WaterFarmers design and planning. At 70% productive land usage the Aquaponic farm is set to generate 100 tons of premium quality produce annually.

Discover more 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.

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