Tick tock, it’s 8Shades o’clock! For our latest edition of ‘8Shades Of’, we’re talking to Sally Lim, co-founder of sustainable, ethical watch brand 2°EAST.
From using zero-waste plating and recycled materials to planting 30 trees for every watch purchased, these are quite simply some of the most eco-friendly watches around – but without stinting on the style stakes either.
We chat to Sally about going down the rabbit-hole of sustainable watchmaking, the importance of looking beyond environmental certifications and why she’s obsessed with Stasher bags.
See also: 8 Lifestyle Brands That Support Rainforest Relief
1. In one sentence, tell us what you do?
We make quality, everyday watches that don’t cost the earth.
2. Why are you an 8Shader?
The level of consumption we’ve become used to is terrifying, especially in the fashion space. In 2018, I started a dedicated effort to reduce my household plastic consumption. Some things were easy, like ditching shampoo bottles for bars and carrying reusable bottles and bags – but then my watch broke. I wanted a simple, nice-looking, good-quality but not ridiculously expensive replacement. All the reasonably priced options I found were packed with plastic and foam-lined boxes or had polyester or low-quality leather straps.
While I could see sustainable options in other fields becoming increasingly popular, I couldn’t find much information on sustainable watch brands, or what would even go into making a watch sustainable. So here we are! Now I have a watch that meets my “no plastic” criteria and I know an awful lot more than I did about what goes into making a product sustainable.
3. What’s your best eco habit – and your guilty not-so green one?
I’m very aware of reducing waste at the point of purchase – buying fewer and better things, avoiding excess packaging and swapping disposables for reusable items… But I just can’t break up with Ziploc bags! They’re still the best option I’ve found for bulk preparing meal portions in our miniscule freezer compartment. None of the replacements I’ve found can quite live up to the task.
4. Fave eco brands?
Retykle, a Hong Kong-based childrenswear resale platform. I sell my daughter’s clothes and toys there and use the credit to buy new-to-us clothes that I’ll send back later. It really is a gamechanger, offering the convenience of online shopping with zero guilt.
Stasher silicone bags do everything – storing everything from snacks to headphones, keeping my e-reader dry near the pool, stashing away unfinished pastries from breakfast buffets… even making popcorn! They’re so good.
5. Fave veggie dishes in Hong Kong?
I love that there are so many really good options for vegetarian food in Hong Kong now. Veda’s aloo gobi and any of Beef & Liberty’s vegetarian burgers with sweet potato fries are among my favourites.
6. What are the most challenging aspects of developing a sustainable, ethical watch line?
There are just so many components that go into a watch. It’s far more complex than I’d imagined – and in trying to make our brand as transparent, sustainable and ethical as possible, I realised what a rabbit-hole it was. We’re so removed from what goes into the things we use, we don’t think about what went into making them.
I was surprised when I first visited the factory. Rather than the machines of my imagination spitting out watches, there were people assembling watches by hand. All the parts they were assembling weren’t just magically appearing from big machines either but were made at tiny specialist suppliers nearby.
The more I looked, the further it went… Where did the gold used to plate components come from? Was it ethically mined? How much toxic run-off was there from its application? We use conflict-free gold and zero-waste plating processes, but I didn’t know these things even needed to be considered when I first started out. There’s a seemingly never-ending spiral of suppliers, and another seemingly endless list of components to research, understand and select.
Sometimes complete ignorance helps, as I might have found the process too overwhelming had I known from the beginning what we were in for!
7. What is something about sustainable watchmaking that you think more people should know?
I initially thought I’d work only with suppliers that had all the right environmental certifications – but I quickly realised there are masses of certifications and they’re expensive to maintain. It would be far too costly for tiny suppliers to maintain them and as a brand starting out, the cost of getting each supplier certified was way beyond my budget.
Your best bet for learning more about a brand’s sustainability credentials is to email them or ask publicly on their social media. Sustainable brands will love the opportunity to talk about every hoop they’ve jumped through and every difficult decision they’ve made! There’s so much information that goes into sustainability that’s just a bit boring for the website – so give them an excuse to share it.
Difficult questions are also an opportunity for brands to consider things they may not have thought of – and a truly sustainable brand will be happy to add it to their list of things to work on.
8. What shade of green are you?
The deep green of a houseplant, with pale green tinges because it’s a bit underwatered… or overwatered? Or a bit cold? Or maybe it needs repotting? That’s the relatable shade of green I see most often at home – it’s happy, it’s doing its best but it’s not perfect.
Find out more about 2°EAST
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