Tag Archives: zero waste

Chinese child wearing a red scarf to symbolise Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year – a perfect time to begin a zero waste lifestyle

The ancient traditions that accompany the Chinese New Year are well understood by Hongkongers. However, as with Christmas, those celebrating in true style create a great deal of waste. With our landfill almost at the point of overflow, we’ve come up with a few ideas on how you could minimise the impact we have on our fragile world.

Old furniture up-cycled to make new again

1          Cleaning and Decluttering

This custom is symbolic for ousting bad luck with the advantage that the Chinese New Year is a perfect time to begin your zero waste lifestyle.

Why? It offers an ideal opportunity to dispose of those things you don’t really need by donating or recycling, rather than sentencing them to be dumped in landfill. You could also up-cycle your old furniture and make it look brand new, or why not update that old sofa with a beautiful throw!

Chinese signs of the zodiac - Chinese New Year

2          Decorations

Red is a symbol of energy, happiness and luck and so a favourite colour of Chinese culture. If you need to buy any items, keep your display minimalistic and purchase decorations that can be reused again over the coming years.

You could purchase 12 small items representing each sign of the zodiac and bring the relevant one out each year. Or consider innovative ways of including each year’s sign into your decorations. If you own a dog, for example, you could highlight him or her as your 2018 mascot!

Digital wallpaper illustrating a dog and Happy Chinese New Year

Image courtesy of thechinesezodiac.org

Why not create a digital wallpaper from images of dogs for your laptop or iPad and use this as a static display when family and friends join you for celebrations? Or simply download a ready-made one here.

3          New Clothes

The tradition of buying a new outfit for Chinese New Year’s Eve can feel mandatory for those with family members who believe these symbolize the welcoming of new fortune and growth for the coming year, but the fact that most are only worn once means it’s a waste.

Many of us already have items in our wardrobes that are new or practically new which could be worn for the occasion. Or why not look through your belongings and see if you can create a new outfit by mixing and matching items you already own.

If you need to buy something, consider purchasing from brands that produce their goods ethically, and consider how these could also be worn in the future. Buying something fairly plain and dressing up with jewellery or a scarf, means your outfit can be worn again and again. Wearing a red scarf during the festival season is one way of entering the spirit of the Chinese New Year (see main image).

4          Red Envelopes

Red envelopes, known as ‘Lai See (Cantonese) or hongbao (Mandarin), are a way for people to share blessings and wish happiness and peace in the New Year. In China, the red envelope is called yasui qian, which translates as ‘suppressing ghosts’ money’.

However, recent Cathay Pacific research found that 320 million Lai See packets are given annually in Hong Kong, and as they usually carry the zodiac sign of the year, it means that under 2% are reused; this alone creates one of the largest negative impacts on our environment during the Chinese New Year.

As a result, the airline decided to recycle crew uniforms destined for landfill into beautifully designed, reusable Lai See to encourage a more sustainable way of giving. All profits from their sale will go to a local Hong Kong charity. Discover more here.

Or why not buy re-usable non-year specific red envelopes and packets? Alternatively – and very common among the younger generation – is the popular digital red envelope, an online money transfer with a colourfully designed message. PayMe by HSBC app is the local option – simply download for free, and start sending your Lai See. Zero waste sorted!

Selection of food for Chinese New Year

5          Food and Drink

The copious amount of food and drink on offer during Chinese New Year usually means that plenty gets thrown away. In relation to food and drink, zero waste is simply about careful planning of our meals so that nothing gets discarded. Planning in advance means you all share in providing delicious food at the celebratory festivities.

Mandarins - gifts for Chinese New Year

Give gifts of food you’ve prepared yourself and create your own Yu Sheng. Prepare homemade cookies and other goodies and present in a reusable glass mason jar – always useful to have around the home. Dress up loose fruit using flowers and other organic materials and present in a previously used basket or container.

And so the primary elements for moving towards a zero waste lifestyle in the upcoming Lunar New Year are:

  • Minimalism is key;
  • Declutter: donate, recycle or up-cycle items in your home;
  • Retention of decorations for use each year;
  • Up-date existing outfits or buy for longevity from ethical brands;
  • Utilise digital platforms to expand on the concept of a cyber Chinese New Year;
  • Use organic materials without packaging wherever possible;
  • Plan your meals so that nothing goes to waste.

Happy Chinese New Year everyone!

Paola Cortese holding her zero waste jar - nothing to waste

Nothing to waste

Our founder, Paola Cortese was interviewed recently by Kate Springer for Liv. Hong Kong’s Wellness Magazine. “Nothing To Waste”

To give you a taster, the following are a few lines extracted from the three-page cover story article, Nothing To Waste, printed in February 2018.

Extract from Liv. Magazine Nothing to Waste - Paola Cortese LoopUnite! interview


“As Paola Cortese walks around my studio apartment, she nonchalantly quizzes me about my lifestyle habits. How often do you order takeout? Do you buy takeaway coffee, or bring a thermos? Do you sort your trash and drop it off for recycling? Do you compost? Do you buy plastic water bottles?…

We sit down at my dining room table and without any judgement she explains her mission at LoopUnite! To help average city dwellers reduce their personal waste by 80 percent in one month via organised coaching programmes.”

Hong Kong has a huge waste problem,” says Cortese. “A lot of people want to make changes but don’t know where to start.

Good News

The zero waste pioneer says it’s actually much easier than it sounds. “You need to do three things to really achieve an 80% reduction in waste: reuse, recycle, compost.”

The company’s coaching programmes help other Hongkongers take on the challenge with a clear strategy, manageable goals and an enthusiastic support network.

“Instead of everyone going through the research and trial-and-error, I designed these classes to make it easier to achieve a more sustainable lifestyle, says Cortese.

“With this approach, people can reduce waste by 80 percent in one month, something that took me a year to achieve on my own.”

To read the full article, please pick up your free magazine out now! Distribution points in Hong Kong are listed here.


You can read the January 2018 edition online here.

More wellness articles can be found on the Liv. website here

Follow @liv.magazine on Instagram here

Zero Waste family Mum and daughter walking along the seashore

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

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

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

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

Start Your Children Young

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

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

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

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

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

Plate of bubble and squeak

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

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

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

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

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

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

Making Zero Waste Learning Fun

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

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

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

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


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

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

Another example was with sweets.

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

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

Dressing Your Child

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

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

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

Plastic Free in the Kitchen

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

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

The Toy Dilemma

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

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

Toys from the 1980s

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

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

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

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

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

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

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
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

Rise of the sharing economy

Our founder, Paola, made the paper again this week, this time highlighting her skills as an entrepreneur.

South China Morning Press were primarily reporting on LinkedIn’s prediction that freelancers will represent 43 per cent of the global workforce by 2020, and the fact that since the 2008 recession, some Hong Kong companies have adopted contracting as a means to manage staff numbers more efficiently.

The article also covered the rise of the sharing economy in Hong Kong naming Uber, Airbnb, and PlateCulture as a few examples. They highlighted Paola as one who, with her entrepreneurial outlook, benefits from this new sharing economy. Two or three times a week she hosts guests registered with PlateCulture in her home where they enjoy home-prepared and cooked Indonesian food.

“It’s a good side income for me and also helps me improve my cooking skills,” says Paola. “Very little capital is required as well, plus hosting is fun!

PlateCulture also enables Paola to easily follow her zero waste lifestyle, something she feels passionate about.

You can read the full SCMP article here

Image courtesy of Jonathan Wong, SCMP (temporary holding image – need to obtain high res version or swap for better quality)

Paola Cortese-D'arcy

Paola’s War on Waste

Paola was interviewed by South China’s Morning Post reporter, Harminder Singh, in July to explain how she managed to fit all her household waste from the previous six months into a small jar. For comparison, this equates to less than 1 per cent of the waste produced by the average Hongkonger.

The article tells how Paola was inspired by the zero-waste movement around the World and why she is leading her personal mission to reduce the amount of rubbish generated in Hong Kong.

‘I found the game-changer to be if you have a composting strategy, a recycling strategy, and refusing certain things.’ says Paola, ‘That helps to reduce around 80 per cent of your waste.’

You can read the full article online here.


Image by Jonathan Wong courtesy of South China Morning Post