Climate change is real, folks. Fact is, global waste and environmental problems continue to mount every day. Just look at all the rubbish that continually washes up on our beaches. We can all do our bit to help our planet. While it’s incredibly difficult to completely transform your lifestyle into one of zero-waste (but if you want to tak on the challenge, here are some places that can help, there are many ways you can get started, from shopping for sustainable fashion brands to dining out at restaurants that adhere to sustainable food practices. Start here to begin your journey to reduce your carbon footprint in Hong Kong.
RECOMMENDED: There are other small ways to help the planet including supporting worthy local charities that are trying to reduce waste while helping those in need. NGOs like Feeding Hong Kong, which redistributes perishable food to the homeless and elderly homes; Impact HK, a charity that collects surplus plastic bags to knit beds for the destitute; and Redress, which aims to reduce waste in the fashion industry, are all wonderful starting points.
Guide to sustainable living in Hong Kong
This bulk grocery shop is known for stocking an impressive variety of healthy nuts, dried fruit and freeze-dried vegetables in bulk via gravity bins and glass jars. There’s also an extensive collection of eco-friendly and packaging-free products, such as reusable containers and sustainable body care items like bamboo toothbrushes and beeswax food wraps, that can kick-start or maintain your zero-waste lifestyle.
It’s not just about pasta and Italian fare here – though it does it expertly so – Fini’s (formerly known as Linguini Fini) is also built on foundations of sustainability. The team here diligently sources its ingredients locally and uses an on-site compost machine, which goes on to help fertilise homegrown herbs. And of course, there's not a single-use plastic straw in sight.
Sourcing unprocessed, organic and sustainable produce to create hearty, healthy meals bursting with flavour, Grassroots Pantry combines great food with a relaxed environment. With its very cool, fresh yet rustic design, the restaurant feels more like a revamped farmhouse than a typical Hong Kong establishment. With a plethora of vegan-friendly choices, such as the lemon chia seed pancakes, it makes for a reliable spot for a delicious and sustainable meal outside your own home.
Hong Kong isn’t exactly the most bike-friendly city in the world like, say, Amsterdam, but relying less on private cars and taxis goes a long way towards reducing carbon emissions. Bike sharing is an often cheaper, more environmentally friendly and sometimes faster way to get around town. The concept is still a work-in-progress in Hong Kong – there’s work to be done combatting ongoing issues like theft and people abandoning bikes – but companies like HobaBike offer the simple solution of renting a bike via its app. Hey, every little bit helps.
A huge factor in living sustainably is recycling. While there’s been an increase in recycling efforts in Hong Kong via public and residential recycling bins, you can always go one step further. When it comes to old electronics – because who doesn’t have old MP3 players, laptops and smartphones lying around – The Environmental Protection Department makes it easier to get rid of them responsibly. Its comprehensive online site lists all the collection points around town where you can bring in your electrical appliances, from toasters and hairdryers to washing machines and fridges.
Opened towards the end of 2018, John Anthony, like many of Maximal’s other outfits, including Blue Butcher and Stockton, works closely with sustainable suppliers and operates on many sustainable practices – including using energy-efficient light bulbs, staff wearing deadstock uniforms, having menus and coasters that are made from upcycled plastic and paper, and ensuring all food waste is composted. Get stuffed on Chinese dishes with innovative, international influences, but if you’ve leftovers, the doggie bags are all eco-friendly too.
Hong Kong’s first zero-waste grocery store, Live Zero offers a comprehensive range of eco-friendly, plastic-free products, including stainless steel straws, beeswax food wraps, bamboo toothbrushes and the super popular S’well water bottles. This shop is also great as it allows you to buy organic food and ingredients in bulk. We’re talking wheat flour, pumpkin seeds, dried fruit, quinoa, oats and every nut conceivable – Live Zero has got ’em. Essentially, this is ground zero for your zero-waste lifestyle.
There’s more to Lush than just ridiculously shaped and colourful bath bombs. It’s actually one of the best ethical beauty brands in the world, serious about fighting against animal testing and sharing with the world its vegetarian, vegan and cruelty-free cosmetics. Be sure to keep all your black pots (made from recycled plastic) from your purchases. For every five containers you bring back to the store, you’ll be rewarded with one of Lush’s signature fresh face masks. Alternatively, if you’re in need of a pampering, opt for the Lush Spa in Central.
With a strong focus on sustainability and responsible sourcing, Mana’s ethos is at the heart of everything it does. The company aims for zero waste across its three sites with 100 percent plant-based ingredients being used. Mana Cafe is a laidback hangout in Central's Soho where you can enjoy a range of vegan-friendly coffees as well as Middle Eastern-style vegan food. The signature burger is a tasty tower of grilled halloumi, tofu, roasted veggies, portobello mushroom and pickled cucumber in a spelt bun.
Nood Food, best known for its use of raw and unprocessed ingredients, is a popular go-to spot for healthy wraps and smoothies. In keeping with its brand ethos, Nood Food has recently introduced its BYOC policy where customers who bring their own cups get $3 off their drink, smoothie or soup. All its products also use recyclable materials in efforts to reduce waste.
The easiest way to start your zero-waste lifestyle is to swap out all your daily plastics usage with reusable and compostable products. No!W No Waste is a handy one-stop online shop to acquire the basics, from reusable silicone food bags and beeswax food wraps to bamboo toothbrushes and handcrafted natural deodorants. Stainless steel water bottles are also a must-have. The best thing is that all its products have compostable or recyclable packaging. now-nowaste.com.
Aside from getting $3 off any order when you bring in your own mug or tumbler, Pacific Coffee also encourages customers to take the store’s coffee grounds to reuse. Put them to use whether it’s for mixing your own natural skin care products – they make fantastic masks and scrubs for boosting blood circulation and reducing cellulite – deodorants or fodder for plant fertiliser. They also offer a free upgrade on your next purchase when you return coffee lids for recycling.
Got a night out planned but worried about waste? Thanks to Potato Head, you can booze with a conscience. The Indonesian bar/restaurant has a drinks menu that maximises ingredients while minimising waste, using things that otherwise would’ve been disposed of. All fruit waste is used to create compost to help fertilise herbs and produce that will be used in recipes later on. Potato Head has also done away with plastic straws, opting for bamboo instead.
This handy online website has everything you need to completely reinvent and transform your relationship with waste and food storage. From silicone stasher bags to produce storage Vejibags, as well as beeswax, there’s really no reason why there should be plastic in your kitchen anymore. Other life-changing products they carry include sustainable body care products, makeup with bamboo packaging and the site’s best-selling coconut oil toothpaste. plasticfreehk.com.
Urban farming is a popular way of transforming under-utilised spaces – something already in short supply in Hong Kong – into useful greenery. One of the most active groups in town is Rooftop Republic, which offers interactive workshops to learn how to grow your own vegetables, farm management classes, regular farm-to-table events, farm visits and more. rooftoprepublic.com.
We’ve mentioned great brands that offer eco-conscious clothing, but sometimes the best way forward is to shop mainly for second-hand and vintage outfits. There are semi-regular events worth keeping an eye out for including the Rug Lane market and the annual Redress pop-up stores.
If you’re a resident of or a frequent visitor to Sai Kung, you should make zero-waste shop Seed a regular haunt. Shop for kitchen staples such as grains, spices, detergents and seeds. Other handy products like stainless steel reusable coffee capsules and shampoo soaps are available too. Food-wise, you can also find all-natural, dairy-free noodles and vegan cookies. Best of all, everything here is package-free – though if you find yourself lacking a container bag, Seed does provide eco-friendly cotton bags.
Kennedy Town has just welcomed a new zero-waste store into its midst with the new opening of Slowood, a sustainable lifestyle grocery store. With floor-the-ceiling windows and an impressive 3,000 sq ft of space, Slowood carries more than 100 brands from overseas and Hong Kong to provide a wide range of environmentally-friendly kitchenware, as well as offering grocery staples in bulk. There’s a refill station where you can bring in clean bottles to stock up on things like rice, salt and spices at cheaper prices. A small vegetarian eatery can be also found in store.
If you’re the type who loves a pick-me-up as a way to destress, Stockton makes for a cosy nook to kick back and relax with the bonus of not wasting unnecessary materials. Namely, the bar is 100 percent free of plastic straws and uses either metal straws, paper straws or straws made from potato starch. Though it may not sound like much, every little bit counts and you can keep the drinks coming without any guilt – at least until the hangover kicks in.
Womb is another brilliant local brand that promotes and provides sustainable designs. The online business works mainly with small and medium-sized studios from Europe and Hong Kong who care about fair pay as well as responsibly sourced materials and textiles. You can pick everything from chic apparel and accessories to home décor. Its beautifully designed yoga mats have been a conspicuous hit with customers. wombhk.com.
It’s possible to look good when working out while still reducing your carbon footprint. Locally based brand Rumi is known for its funky yoga and athletic leggings made from sustainable sources, including recycled water bottles and leftover coffee grounds. Its collection comes in awesome patterns and designs, as well as soft and breathable fabrics. Time to improve your physical performance while minimising the growing waste problems in our city. rumixfeelgood.com.