Category Archives: Musings

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

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.

Fewer Children Will Save Our Planet - massive crowd of people gathered in Hong Kong

Help Our Planet – Have Fewer Children

Paola discusses the sensitive issue of why she – along with experts – believe that having fewer children will save our planet.

 

I’m often asked: “What is the most high impact action an individual can do to reduce their environmental impact on the World?”

I find this a tough question to respond to, not because I don’t know the answer – there has been numerous research relating to the topic – but another answer relating to environmental impact is one hardly mentioned by schools or green organisations because of the sensitivity and privacy of the subject.

While managing climate change and sustainability issues are indeed answers, I believe the conversation ideally should start elsewhere: ending poverty, equal education, women’s rights, and access to birth control.

Yes, the single most impactful action a person can do for the planet is to have fewer children.

We, the Homo sapiens, are a global community of 7.6 billion, with a predicted rapid rise to 9.8 billion by 2050. Our population does not spread evenly. Higher birth rate is often skewed towards low-income societies, while stunted birth rate and ageing population are issues often found in more developed communities.

Humanity acts and calculates our success on infinite growth, constantly aiming for ever-increasing wealth, while lacking focus in even distribution of prosperity. This devastating issue is highlighted by an Oxfam report which state that our global wealth is concentrated in just eight billionaires, topped by Bill Gates in 2017, all have a combined wealth of 3.6 billion people – the poorest half of the World.

But there is only so much space and available resources on Earth. Our planet Earth is not expanding, so it’s clear that we live in a finite ecosystem. A book by the world-renowned Harvard University sociobiologist Edward O Wilson concludes that the constraints of Earth biosphere means that planet Earth can only sustain 10 billion of us under the most ideal circumstances, provided that fresh water supplies are used effectively and all the grains grown are exclusively to feed humans.

In plain terms, Earth at maximum efficiency can support our population growth until 2050, provided all of us turn to plant-based diet. By this point we must reach the “replacement level” of fertility rate of 2.1 children per woman, the rate at which children are born to replace their parents and those who die young.

These are all global facts, but what does it mean in our own lives? For some, choosing to have fewer children is the answer. For others, it means adoption should be seen as an ideal viable alternative, if not the first. There are those who think that a woman’s choice to have or not to have a child should be respected instead of suppressed. The myth that a woman is incomplete without a child should be broken in our modern society. Female education and birth control is truly an important conversation to ensure our global prosperity, regardless of religions and beliefs.

One curious note is that according to Global Footprint Network, our current population uses not the resources of one, but approximately 1.5 ‘Earths’, resulting in Earth Overshoot Day. This year it fell on 2nd August 2017. This means humanity has used up our “yearly natural budget” of Earth resources in just eight months, and operating in overshoot for the rest of the year.

Clearly the matter of the environmental impact of human population is not so black and white, but without doubt directly related to our over-consumption of Earth’s resources. More on that in the next musing!

 

Image: Hong Kong in 2025 by Guzman Lozano via Flickr

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!

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

My Zero Waste Rubbish Jar

It’s been six months now since I began collecting my rubbish in a jar to prove that a zero waste lifestyle in Hong Kong is possible.

I took my jar around the city, to introduce this low impact lifestyle to whoever was willing to listen: from friends to (un)sympathetic strangers, businesses and government officials, start-up communities and investors.

While physical rubbish is not the only waste in my life – there’s energy consumption, other carbon footprints and toxins in molecular levels that still plague us living in a linear economy –  reducing 99.9% of what’s visible is still a radical move in Hong Kong and the World, despite what our echo chamber tells us.

A zero waste jar is a shock symbol: a powerful inspirational piece extolling our circular aspirations; a call to action; a reminder that each one of us can do (and should do) a great deal to form part of the solution.

Let’s educate ourselves and live an Awakened Life. We can begin by making a conscious daily choice to improve ourselves, our community, and our planet.

What is Circular Economy

Waste = Food

Contrary to what most people believe, living with waste is not a default state of our lives. It’s widely proven that Waste is a problem intrinsically knitted to our linear consumption model and daily lifestyle choices we made, and therefore Waste is a choice we can opt out of.

When we observe nature, we realise that the natural cycle of the Earth does not produce waste. Just take a look at any natural ecosystem: the rainforest, the mountains, the sea. All of them brimming in abundant with life, and yet there is no waste because anything at the end of its life-cycle becomes “food” for other processes.

A sample case: the leaves of a tree fall down and decompose over time, turning the ground to nutrient-rich soil. Together with sunlight and water, the process provides a suitable environment for new seeds to grow to new trees.

This waste equals food concept is called Circular Economy: a regenerative, waste-free planetary cycle that has been self-sustaining and growing for millennias. This is our default, THE system we are born to enjoy and maintain.

But alas, enjoy we do, but maintain we do not!

The Plastic Issue

Over time we develop new “materials” that goes against the natural cycle. Plastic, for example, is often used only once and thrown away, yet the material is extremely durable. Thrown-away plastic persists in nature for thousands of years, if not forever.

Each plastic produced can still be found somewhere on Earth. The best case scenario is that some of the plastics get recycled and reused one more time. In the worst case, plastic finds its way to contaminate our land and oceans, disrupting the ecosystem and ingested by various species who often mistaken small plastic pieces (called micro-plastics) as food, including animals that comprise part of our food chain like fish. The cycle completes when we consume these contaminated seafood, unknowingly infesting our bodies with various harmful chemicals.

Refuse

Take a stance against single-use plastic simply by saying no. Arm yourself with zero waste essentials: reusable bag, handkerchief, water flask, lunch box and reusable cutleries, and take a step forward to your circular lifestyle!