During the holiday season, it can seem like all we do is shop ‘til we drop – but there’s no reason for sustainability to take a backseat, as our latest ‘8Shades Of’ interviewee proves!
Laura Williamson is the founder of Plantdays, a community-driven eco-conscious marketplace that showcases over 40 amazing, female-owned sustainable brands, with everything from ethical fashion to handcrafted homeware available on their carefully curated Hong Kong-based e-boutique.
Plantdays also hosts a variety of in-person events throughout the year, including pop-up stores and workshops, so keep an eye on their Instagram to stay updated.
We chat to Laura about her fave veggie dishes in Hong Kong (spoiler: there are many!), delve into her top tips for living more sustainably and discover why she believes that we all have the power to make a difference.
1. In one sentence, tell us what you do.
I’m a model, actress and entrepreneur based in Hong Kong on a mission to make sustainability sexy.
2. Why are you an 8Shader?
My interest in sustainability started when I became plant-based over eight years ago; I was living in Los Angeles and found out that I was lactose-intolerant. I was never a big meat eater, so I started eating plant-based, then educating myself how to cook – I couldn’t cook to save my life! – and why it was better for the environment.
I then moved to Hong Kong and my interest in sustainability just snowballed from there. I’ve always been into thrifting and second-hand shopping and started really thinking about my next purchase, and what impact it had on both people and the environment. Where were my clothes made? What were they made from? And the more I learned, the more I became a more conscious shopper.
3. What’s your best eco habit – and your guilty not-so green one?
My best eco habit is donating or responsibly recycling one item for every new item I buy – it’s kind of like an eye-for-an-eye principle. This could apply to clothes, jewellery, home goods… anything really!
I also alternate buying one second-hand item for every new item. For example, if I get a new organic cotton tee, then the next time I shop, I’ll purchase something second-hand or vintage. This could be as simple as buying a piece of furniture on Carousell instead of getting it new.
As for a guilty not-so green habit, I’d have to say using normal laundry detergent – I love running outdoors and haven’t found a natural alternative that works as well yet.
4. Fave veggie dish in Hong Kong?
How can I choose just one! I love Thai cuisine and Shek O Thai has a great veggie menu; I’ll normally get their pad thai or fried rice and mango sticky rice for dessert. I also really love LockCha Tea House for vegetarian dim sum; their location – inside a tea museum in Hong Kong Park – feels really authentic, unique and special. For a “treat” meal, it has to be the Portuguese rice or Beyond Burger Plus at Green Common.
For takeaways, I really like the avocado or cucumber maki rolls at Yao Sushi and the sushi burrito with a tofu-chickpea filling at Pokeworld. Speaking of chickpeas, I also love the fast-casual restaurant Chickpea in Central – I always get their spicy cauliflower bowl with rice and slaw, and their meatless saucy fries.
I love street food in Hong Kong too – cheung fun is one of my all-time favourite foods. The great thing about it is that you can find it cheaply at any street food stall throughout the city! Hong Kong has the best soy milk as well – Yan Wo Dou Bun Chong in Causeway Bay is my go-to.
5. What are the most important criteria for choosing brands to stock on Plantdays? Are there any deal-breakers?
Our main criteria are that they are kind on the planet, kind on people and kind on animals. “Sustainability” is such a far-reaching term that encompasses so many different aspects of a brand, so we understand the difficulty in making anything 100 percent sustainable.
We try our best to find brands that are also genuinely trying their best to reduce their impact on the planet, support their workers with safe working conditions and fair wages, and give back in some way by donating to a non-profit or offsetting their carbon emissions.
Swipe to see a few of the brands that Plantdays stocks:
We ship our orders in plastic-free packaging and encourage our brands to make sure their packaging is plastic-free too. We also give back by planting a tree for every Plantdays purchase in collaboration with global reforestation NGO, One Tree Planted.
It’s hard to think of any specific deal-breakers, but if a brand is clearly not sustainable, we will not compromise. We simply will not carry their brand.
6. What has been your proudest achievement so far?
My proudest achievement has been growing our Plantdays community. It means the world to see that we are making a positive impact by encouraging people to shop more mindfully and more consciously. I think it’s a gradual shift in your habits over time that can lead to systemic change.
I firmly believe that by helping encourage people to shop sustainable ethical brands, we can get them to change their purchasing behaviour, and in turn help reduce our society’s overall carbon footprint and hopefully, have less of a negative impact on the environment.
See also: The Truth About… Carbon Offsets
But it really is all about the people I meet. I still work at most of our events and have face-to-face conversations with our customers. I’ve met the founder of every single brand we carry and talked to them about why they feel led with purpose to pursue their brand. This personal approach makes Plantdays really feel like a family. We’re not just a shop; we’re a community of women supporting and empowering one another.
7. What misconceptions have you faced during your sustainability journey?
I think the biggest misconception is that you have to uproot your whole life to live sustainably – and this is so daunting that it stops people from even trying. I truly believe we have the power to make a difference by changing our habits bit by bit, and that this small shift leads to a big change over time.
Also, everyone can have feelings of anxiety or helplessness; even I sometimes feel like I’m not doing enough to live sustainably. We are only human – it’s not about being perfect. It’s about trying your best, being more mindful and not giving up. We’re all in this together!
8. What shade of green are you and why?
I’m definitely a forest green. I grew up visiting my grandparents in the North Georgia mountains every weekend, so the forest holds a special place in my heart.
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