Category Archives: Loop Universe

Guide to zero waste running in 2018

Fancy zero waste running in 2018?

We tend to criticise Hong Kong for its lack of environmental protection policies and crazy consumption. However, there is one thing we should all be thankful for: about three-quarters of its territory is countryside.

No wonder trail running is so popular in Hong Kong. It is also a powerful way to reduce your carbon footprint and reconnect with nature while getting stronger and healthier. To start running you only need a pair of shoes, a T-shirt and shorts or tights.

But trail running can be also wasteful. The more I ran last year, the more challenging it was to keep up my zero waste standards. As reaching the jar is one of my key resolutions this year, I talked to a few prominent trail runners and race directors to find out their plans and activities for 2018 and link them to zero waste lifestyle.

Zero waste run-solutions

Package free and healthy nutrition

Running requires a great deal of energy. Most of it comes from protein bars, electrolytes, powders – all wrapped in non-recyclable packaging. You can get away with a couple of bananas and apples, but it doesn’t work when you run long distances or add cardio workouts.

Silke Bender and Vlad Ixel are both accomplished trail runners and professional coaches. As they spend most of their time on the trails, nutrition becomes crucial. Vlad usually takes dates, a hydration pack filled with water and dissolvable electrolyte tablets on his trail runs.

No magic, just an easy way to avoid unnecessary packaging and waste,” he shares.

Silke adds: “To hydrate on my trail runs I bring water and coconut water. These are filled up at home into reusable hydration soft bottles, which means I don’t’ need to buy small bottles on the go, saving waste and money. Food wise I bring my homemade energy and protein balls in reusable zip bags”.

Cooking your own meals and choosing natural foods is a great tool, not only on the trails but as part of your daily snacks. You can find a great number of healthy recipes on Green Queen.

Photo credit: Green Queen
Photo credit: Silke Bender

Free water apps for trail running and hiking

Hydrating yourself is a huge priority if you go on a long run or hike. Running out of water might become a real nightmare, especially in summer. Luckily, you don’t need to buy the plastic bottles anymore – take your reusable one and refill it in the nearest water fountain. How to find them? There are currently two solutions in Hong Kong. Water for Free app is a crowdsourced tool available for both Android and IOS users. They also provide drinking fountain rental services.

Photo Credit: Water For Free

Another solution is the Water Initiative by HK Running launched in late 2017 to help athletes who are out running the trails or hiking to find the closest water fountain instead of having to buy another water bottle:

We are very pleased with the feedback so far having received support from a few of Hong Kong’s top environmental awareness and plastic reduction agencies: Ocean Recovery Alliance and Plastic Free HK. We are also looking forward to developing this in the future and helping HK become less dependent on single-use plastic items”, says David Tanner, Founder at HK Running.

David is also organising Women’s Five, Hong Kong’s women-only 5 week Running and Yoga programme to help them prepare, or to build on their fitness to for the run.

Map: HK Running

Zero waste running events

Taking part in running competitions is another milestone in your run-solutions. Whether it’s a 5km competition or a full 50k ultra, making it to the finish line is absolutely amazing. Unfortunately, seeing the start/finish line – and often the checkpoints – filled with plastic bottles and single-use cups kills the spirit. Add the race packs full of sponsors’ leaflets, unwanted T-shirts wrapped in plastic and you might reconsider your passion to run the race.

The Green Race (TGR) was the first one to thrive for zero waste events, providing the runners with sustainable alternatives to medals, race packs and offers from sponsors. LoopUnite! teamed up with TGR for one of their races in 2017 achieving 83% of waste reduction.

Photo credit: The Green Race

Fortunately, more and more Hong Kong races are becoming sustainable. Steven Carr is one of the founders at RaceBase, famous for The 9 Dragons Race and The Country of Origin, among other running events. Having seen the massive amount of rubbish left at those races, Steven and his team decided to prevent it as much as possible.:

At the pre-race stage, no plastic will be used to wrap the race pack or medals. Factories have been asked to use less plastic in their packaging and this is at our cost”, reassures Steven.

RaceBase will ask participants to bring their own cups and utensils for any food during the event. To attack the waste produced during the event, RaceBase will have separate containers at all checkpoints and send it later to recycling centres, while food waste will be sent to composting.

Photo Credit: RaceBase

At the Women’s Five we try and be as less wasteful as possible, one example is the merchandise we give to everyone in race packs – some of it is usually individually wrapped in plastic, but we make sure to order them in bulk and not individually wrapped“, says David Tanner.

You can check the 2018 race calendar for Asia and start setting your milestones.

Donating your unwanted clothes

Runners tend to try out many pairs of shoes before finding the ones that fit their needs most. Add here the GPS watches, backpacks, poles and other items left behind by their newest models – and you have another big wardrobe problem. What should you do if they are still in good condition? Donate them to less privileged runners!

Gone Running is a popular online and physical shop, “for runners, by runners” as they describe themselves. They are collecting donations for the Nepalese runners and most recently they launched a new campaign, where you can donate your old working GPS watches and get a 200HKD voucher if you decide to purchase the newer model.

Likewise, Steven’s team is working with two green charities “who will collect any unwanted finishing gifts to be sent to other charities who can use these” at their races.

Beach cleanups and runs

Many of us have offered our help at least one beach cleanup in Hong Kong. Why not to merge it with trail running? Keilem Ng is a famous eco-warrior and activist. She started with “One person – 30 minutes” initiative, where she spends 30 minutes for a regular beach cleanup in Lantau, and documenting it on social media. Keilem then founded Eco Marine, a Lantau based non-profit organisation that aims to promote local marine and environmental awareness.

“At Eco Marine, beyond discouraging single-use plastic items like single-use water bottles, disposable rain jackets etc, we encourage a ‘take out policy’ where we carry away our own rubbish items as well as pick up additional rubbish items we may see on the trails. We believe every little action counts and a small change by every individual can together create great impact”, explains Keilem.

Photo Credit: Keilem Ng

You can join The Eco Marine Adventure Cleanup #2 on Sunday and meet Mira Rai, a legendary Nepalese runner.

Trail running is only one of the millions of options to improve your fitness, health and nutrition goals simultaneously in 2018. It’s also an exciting way to go zero waste and be part of the glocal community that always inspires and supports you.

Do hope this article inspires you to lace up your shoes and hit one of the HK trails!

Photo credit: Women’s five
Loop Coach Programme - Loop Coaches Paola and Aigul at The Green Race

Loop Coach Programme Launches for 2018!

Loop Coach Programme

While continuing to coach private clients, LoopUnite is opening new Loop Coach public group programmes with Dream Impact, our partner sponsoring the venue. There will be three programmes to look forward to this year:

1  Low Impact Lifestyle

Reduce 80% of your household rubbish within one month.

2  Zero Waste Lifestyle

Start your own Zero Waste annual jar and reduce your recyclables and compostables.

3   Circular Lifestyle

Start to think in system, get to know the bigger issues and make a larger impact at a community level.

Our first programme, Low Impact Lifestyle, is ready and currently taking student registrations. The second and third programmes will begin shortly.

LoopUnite Coach Programmes: How to reduce 80% of your household waste in one month

Delighted with the early interest we have already attracted, we are looking forward to more people joining us. If you, your family and friends are interested, please join our FREE intro session on 12 January at Dream Impact co-working space, Lai Chi Kok.

Loop Coach classes are limited to a maximum of 10 students. You can reach a dramatic reduction in your waste in just four sessions with Loop Coach, and be part of our Loop Tribe community. Together we will support each other to live a sustainable life.

We look forward to meeting you very soon!


Check out more details of our Loop Coach programme on our Facebook and Eventbrite page.

Zero Waste 2017 and 2018 Goals

Gifts were opened, fireworks died down, and today my jet lag is finally over. The New Year has arrived, but before I embrace it, I’m taking a day for annual reflection and set my vision for  2018. So here goes.

“2017 was undoubtedly an eventful year.”

On the bright side, I married the most amazing man, Adam, and gained a wonderful new family in the UK. We built a comfortable life in Hong Kong and went on some amazing adventures together. I discovered that my passion for environmental issues had been consistent, so I founded an eco-minded startup, LoopUnite. I also met a talented multilingual brand journalist and entrepreneur called Aigul, who became my co-founder.

On the down side, LoopUnite experienced a number of pivots that slowed us down – apparently quite normal for startups! With hindsight, those pivots were valuable journeys which enabled us to find our company’s core value: coaching those interested in living a truly sustainable life in an urban environment like Hong Kong by practicing Zero Waste Lifestyle.

My 2017 Zero Waste Jar

The first of January 2017 was a day similar to that of today. My reflection on that day convinced me I was ready to start my zero waste jar. Not knowing what size I needed, I decided to start with my smallest and adjusted with time. Every time my rubbish outgrew the jar, I moved it to one slightly bigger, until I reached the final rubbish weight on 31 Dec 2017 of 289 gram (not including the jar).

Rubbish for me was waste that I couldn’t managed to avoid or divert from landfill. It’s important to note that I still recycled and composted, confident that my recyclables and compostables were accountably processed to be part of another production cycle. I also offset my other environmental impact with online carbon calculators, especially the flights I took, and contributed to various local charities and social causes, both by donating my time and money.

Whenever I showed the jar and repeated my story to an audience, I saw jaws dropping in the room. Disbelief quickly turned into curiosity and a myriad of questions on how I managed to did it. I realised that people did (and do) care about their environment, but at a loss on how to do better, and that’s how the idea of Loop Coach came about.

My 2018 Zero Waste Goal

Adam and I used the same jar in 2017, but this year we are experimenting with separate jars, to monitor our individual waste. We will also invest in new ways and alternative products to further reduce our recyclables and compostables.

For example, in 2017 we used Nespresso pods and returned them to the shop to be recycled. For 2018, we have decided to keep our machine, but use reusable stainless steel pods and buy coffee in bulk. The coffee waste is added to our compost tumbler to produce even better quality compost. The solution works by having a few reusable pods and load them up once a week for convenience – we will also save a great deal of money in the long run.

Business-wise, Aigul and I believe that sustainable living is a practical skill that everyone can learn over a short period of time, practice for life, and will never go out of fashion. That’s why LoopUnite will focus on developing the Loop Coach Programme in 2018.

Loop Coach Programme

While continuing to coach private clients, LoopUnite is opening new Loop Coach public group programmes with Dream Impact, our partner who sponsors the space. There will be three programmes to look forward to this year:

  1. Low Impact Lifestyle: reduce 80% of your household rubbish within one month
  2. Zero Waste Lifestyle: start your Zero Waste annual jar and reduce your recyclables and compostables Circular
  3. Lifestyle: Start to think in system, get to know the bigger issue and produce larger impact in community level.

Delighted with the early interest we have already attracted, we are looking forward to more people joining us. If you, your family and friends are interested, please join our FREE intro session on 12 January at Dream Impact co-working space, Lai Chi Kok.

Loop Coach classes are limited to a maximum of 10 students. You can reach a dramatic reduction in your waste in just four sessions with Loop Coach, and be part of our Loop Tribe community. Together we will support each other to live a sustainable life.

Have a happy and waste-free 2018!


Check out more details of our Loop Coach programme on our Facebook and Eventbrite page.


Top 5 New Year Resolutions for 2018

This is a light-hearted look at my personal top 5 New Year’s resolutions for 2018.

Interestingly, one third of those who responded to a New York poll this year chose to make no resolutions at all! However, I’m determined to follow the New Yorker’s most common aspirations for the coming year: to eat healthier, get more exercise and to save more money.

1. Exercise More

I really need to take a leaf out of my business partner Aigul’s book and take up trail running. Common issue for all of us is time so I’m determined to build exercise into my weekly routine.

2. Eat Healthier

I’m already spotting a common theme here. I love to cook everything from fresh, especially Indonesian food, but again this takes time. I shall make time, cook double or triple portions of everything and freeze for the hectic days.

3. Sleep More

Experts at the Sleep Foundation say I need 7-9 hours sleep every night. This is essential for my body to relax and restore itself so all devices will be switched off from now on for at least 7 hours.

4. Spend Less

Those who know me understand my love of shopping. However, my perspective changed when I became a zero waster. Now I search for the best quality second hand items I can find; these normally cost less than similar, inferior quality new items and last longer. For example, I spent HK$500 for a preloved Burberry jacket instead of buying a new one from Zara. I also buy less –and only things I actually need – so have saved money and aim to continue spending less.

5. Inspire More

My Zero Waste jar journey has been amazing and I love sharing this with my fellow Hongkongers. I definitely aim to design more Loop Coach workshops and programmes for 2018 and continue to spread the word.

You can read the more elaborate article reflecting on 2017 and my Zero Waste 2018 goals here.

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

Image stating I shop therefore I am

We’ve Had It So Good… Until We Don’t

How reducing your resource footprint can help save the planet

We live in an age of abundance – at no prior time in human history have we had it so good. Or so we think…

We have access to an astounding bounty of contemporary goods and services that our ancestors could only dream of: affordable consumer products (fueled to a large extent by the remarkable rise of China), low-cost flights that make inter-State travel a commonplace activity, fast-fashion houses that release multiple collections per year, disposable electronics that get ‘upgraded’ annually…the list goes on.

This is the height of the consumerism age, where we are made to believe that ‘We deserve it’ and the next new material acquisition will bring us the ever so coveted happiness, status and peace of mind. What we do not realise is that the show cannot go on forever. We live on a finite planet, with a finite amount of physical resources at our disposal. Infinite growth and infinite consumption are simply a material impossibility.

In fact, every year we go into ‘ecological overdraft’, a phenomenon called  Earth Overshoot Day. This year it fell on 2 August 2017, meaning that by 2 August we had already used up more ecological resources and services than the planet can naturally regenerate through overfishing, overharvesting forests, and emitting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than forests can sequester. For the rest of the year, we effectively went into ecological debt, borrowing the Earth’s resources from the future, but without the future generations’ consent. The (even more) disturbing part is that Earth Overshoot Day comes closer each year:

We now need 1.7 Earths just to sustain ourselves, and this happens in a world where nearly half of the world’s population — more than 3 billion people — live on less than US$2.50 a day.

But before we have run out of material ‘stuff’, there is a far more worrying phenomenon that we so conveniently choose to ignore – climate change. Our consumption patterns impact not only our material environment, but also natural ecosystems, biodiversity, air quality, land and water pollution…you name it.

The link between material consumption and climate change is well-defined. Manufacturing – much of it for international markets – uses 54% of the world’s total delivered energy, especially in industries such as petrochemicals, metals and paper. Every year 322 million tons of plastic, 59 million tons of aluminum and 240 million tons of paper and paperboard are produced in the world. The result: 1.2 billion tons of garbage produced by three billion people living in cities every year.

The sheer scale of the challenge is often unimaginable and frequently placed out of sight and out of mind. But the consequences of our selective ignorance are magnanimous. There are not only ecological, but also great economic costs to the disposable economy that we currently operate. Indeed, according to UNCTAD, we are losing €48 billion a year in e-waste alone. In terms of climate-harming greenhouse emissions such as carbon dioxide (CO2), research suggests that a shift to a more circular economy would result in a whopping 33% reduction of product carbon footprint.

The solutions don’t lie in the hands of large organisations, governments and businesses alone. As the Christmas shopping season fervently approaches, there are some immediate steps you can take to contribute your fair share for a future-proof world. I will use the fashion industry as a case study example. It is quite a compelling one because the global fashion industry is projected to consume an astounding quarter of the world’s annual carbon budget by 2050. Moreover, the fashion business creates greenhouse emissions of 1.2bn tonnes a year – larger than that of international aviation and shipping combined. This should not come as a surprise, given that Zara delivers new products twice each week to its 1,670 stores around the world, adding up to more than 10,000 new designs each year (compare that to the usual 4-season fashion cycle that was, until recently, the norm).

Endless fashion & consumer choices can actually result in choice anxiety, as this year’s Nobel Laureate in Economics Richard Thaler so insightfully demonstrated in his research. You heard it correctly: having too many choices (i.e. choice overload) can actually bring about reduced wellbeing and satisfaction.

So what can you personally do to help address these issues?

  • Step 1: Be a Smart & Responsible consumer:

Ask yourself whether you really need this (flashy) new item and whether it was sustainably and organically sourced. This can contribute to improved working conditions in apparel factories and you can make sure you are not putting harmful chemicals so close to your skin.

  • Step 2: Think before you buy

Impulse shopping: we have all been there. Using shopping as a therapy that distracts us from other problems has become commonplace. My advice: try not to find refuge in the first Flash Sale when you need a serotonin boost and aim to tackle your problems head-on (as this is the only way to truly resolve them). Your wallet can thank me later. J

  • Step 3: Go vintage

Thrift and vintage stores do have this romantic appeal and you can find pieces that are truly unique (unlike the run-of-the-mill fast-fashion products that have no real character). Plus, you can save a fortune by buying higher quality durable products that have stood the test of style and time.

  • Step 4: Donate & Declutter

At least once a year, go over your wardrobe and pick the clothes that you haven’t worn during the past year. You can donate them to your nearest clothes bank or charity store (like the Salvation Army). Or you can organise a clothes swap sale with your friends.

  • Step 5: Consider a non-material Christmas/Holiday

What could be more magical than giving the gift of time and dedication? In our age of attention span deficit, our time is the most valuable gift our friends and family can receive. Treasure experiences and not material belongings. Organise a road trip, book a sports class together or take care of your loved ones with a spa treatment – there are so many possibilities that will not only help the environment, but will also bring you closer, leaving many memories to treasure for holidays to come.

We live in an age where everything has become disposable, even human relationships (read here: Tinder-fuelled dating, no judgment). Real, long-term value and life satisfaction do not just happen overnight: we need to work for them. A thousand-mile journey starts with a single step, and today seems a pretty good day to set off.

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

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


Zero Waste Family - Three babies having a shower bath

Top Tips On Becoming A Zero Waste Family – Babies

As the mother of four children – all born in the 80s – the myriad of convenience consumer choices for parents were beginning to rear their wasteful heads and leading us into temptation. Nowadays we are more conscious of the impact our waste has on the environment and as a consequence, trying to ensure we don’t add to the damage any more than necessary. This series of three zero waste family articles investigates the pitfalls and asks parents for their suggestions on how they personally try to minimise their impact.

The Nappy

By far the most controversial item of bringing up a baby is nappies. Back in the 80s we used terry nappies in the main, along with disposable liners to catch the solids and flush down the loo. When my twins were born, I suddenly had three babies under the age of 17 months and a total of 72 terry nappies on the go! And believe me there was a real art to folding a terry nappy: for tiny babies, for boys and for girls, as essentially they were just square towels, unlike today’s ready-to-wear models.

To be honest it was more the cost of disposable nappies that made me stick to reusable (it’s estimated that a baby uses 3,920 nappies in their first year alone), but once the twins were born I did succumb to convenience whenever we went on trips away from home.  

Hong Kong resident and Project Manager, Fiona, who lives with her husband, three-and-a-half year old toddler and helper, agrees.

Nappies are by far the most visible sign of waste in babyhood. Our waste would be halved without nappies!” she admits. “I initially planned to be the perfect parent with the intention of being entirely disposable nappy free. However, what worked for us was to use washables at home and on easy outings, and disposables at night and longer outings.

Another tip is as your baby gets older learning to tell when they need to go, and popping them on the potty. It’s good for eliminating the need for nappies fairly early on. Hong Kong’s Susan Norton runs ‘one-two-pee’ service, and is happy to come along and do private consultations. This worked well for us at home, but it was a while before we lost them outside. It’s worth a try and the two-part green and white Ikea potty was pretty useful for this.” Fiona says.

A word of caution here though, some of my contemporaries who tried early potty training had little ones suffer with incontinence, one well into school age, so it doesn’t work for all.

Lisa Odell, founder of Plastic Free Hong Kong, is currently expecting her second baby and a firm advocate of zero waste.

At one point reusable nappies were the norm, but then along came the convenience of disposable nappies and although I took this route with my son, I will definitely be using reusable with our little one on the way. I feel it’s my responsibility and duty to save the World from the thousands of nappies I would contribute to the landfill if I didn’t. Today, there are so many great options so finding the one that works for you is much more attainable.”

The Facts: The US Environment Protection Agency estimates that using reusable cloth diapers [nappies] prevent around half a tonne of disposable diapers per child from going into US landfills each year, cutting down on the pathogens which experts agree could potentially pollute drinking water.

The manufacture of disposable nappies also uses volatile chemicals, which contaminate the eco-system. In addition, up to 200,000 trees are lost each year to make disposable nappies for babies in the US alone. Even more alarming is that experts estimate that depositing nappies in landfills could take from 200 to 500 years to degrade, creating methane and other toxic gases in the process.

But there’s good news from founder of Baby Tooshy , Gioula Chelten who says: “Reusable cloth diapers are becoming more popular among health and environmentally conscious parents, and reports show that reusable diapers also save families as much as 900 USD per year (7,022 HKD) compared with disposables when the costs of diapers, laundry detergent and energy are taken into account.”

Hemp cloth diapers are more absorbent than cotton, and hemp is among the most sustainable crops currently in use for fabric production.

The Gifts

There was no such thing as a baby shower in the UK in the 80s. It was all about the baby rather than the mum and it was thought unlucky to buy gifts before your little one was born (and you knew its gender!). The gifts were practical necessities as mums tended to give up work and money was tight. It’s different today with many mums continuing to work and with rampant commercialism and clever marketing machines it means we are all encouraged and able to buy far more than we need.

So if a baby shower is on the cards, and friends and family buy you gifts once the baby is born, it’s worth ensuring they are aware that you choose to follow the zero waste route and give them the enjoyable challenge of discovering pampering goodies, treats and baby items that do not land you with a pile of packaging to recycle, or worse still, that ends up in Hong Kong’s limited landfill.

Zero Waste Family - Fruit Basket with baby towels and cloths

Fiona’s company sent her a fruit basket when her son was born. “This was a lovely gesture”, she says, “and we use the basket to keep our mulling cloth collection in.”

The Equipment & The Clothes

I fully agreed with Fiona when she gave us her thoughts on this topic:

Most British, Australian and American baby books have long lists of what you’ll need for your baby. Most of this is nonsense, and you can tell the houses are far bigger than necessary! You need somewhere to sleep, somewhere to bathe, change nappies, some clothes, stuff to mop up bodily fluids, and that’s about it!”

And so beware of the shops loaded with beautiful tempting treasures, most of these last two minutes and then you have to store them until baby number two comes along, or sell for a fraction of their original value. Yes, I was guilty of having a house that some might think was bigger than necessary – certainly by Hong Kong standards anyway – and when my eldest daughter was born it was filled with the paraphernalia I had been convinced I needed ‘by the experts’.

Zero Waste Family - Sink bath

However, by the time my twin sons arrived I had decluttered and gone minimal; essentially I had two baby bouncers, a pram and two cots. Until they were big enough for the bath, I bathed the babies in the sink, used our crockery, towels and other everyday items to care for them. Trust me, forget any peer pressure and beware those selling treasures, babies neither know or care about these things as long as they are loved, dry and well fed.


With 400 square foot of accommodation – about average for Hong Kong – some of Fiona’s waste reduction is also about not having enough space for too much ‘stuff’. For a baby bath she used a storage box and still uses this in the shower – “good for splashing, playing and washing”. Her cot, changing mat and clothes were handed down from friends.

Lisa adopted the same principle: “Buy or borrow 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 are such a plethora of Facebook Groups dedicated to selling baby items, that finding good quality, cute clothes is pretty easy.


Watch out for more tips in part two next month when we cover ‘From Toddler to Teen’.




  • My three toddlers in the shower base
  • Fiona’s gift fruit basket proving useful for storing baby towels
  • My twin sons bathing in the sink
  • Monkey modelling the baby in Fiona’s IKEA drawer makeshift bath