For our latest edition of ‘8Shades Of’, we’re talking to a true trailblazer in Hong Kong’s sustainability scene – Tamsin Thornburrow, founder of the city’s first zero-waste store, Live Zero.
In addition to bringing the concept of packaging-free, bulk shopping into the mainstream here thanks to Live Zero’s two stores in Sai Ying Pun and Sai Kung, Tamsin is also the founder of homeware boutique Thorn & Burrow – a treasure trove of independently-designed, eco-conscious lifestyle products in Sai Ying Pun.
We chat to Tamsin about what inspired her to start Live Zero, why she loves wet markets and how a sustainable lifestyle can actually help save you money.
1. In one sentence, tell us what you do?
I’m an eco-entrepreneur who focuses on community-based issues related to waste, aiming to tackle the issue of single-use packaging – and creating a store where you can shop with little-to-no waste at all!
2. Why are you an 8Shader?
Growing up in Sai Kung and always being surrounded by nature and the sea really made me more interested in our environment and animals, which played a huge part in what I do today.
It started with me simply asking myself why I was purchasing single-use plastic water bottles back in 2014, so we started selling reusable bottles at my first store, Thorn and Burrow; from there, it was a natural snowball effect. Thinking about how we can do better – what can I do better – meant the idea of opening a bulk store was just the next big step.
It’s all about making sustainable choices that last, buying products that aren’t just on-trend but ones you can keep for generations and pass onto your kids, that you won’t just throw away and move onto the next – that’s what sustainability means to me.
3. What’s your best eco habit – and your guilty not-so green one?
I don’t buy anything in plastic packaging; I only shop at Live Zero, along with buying local produce. Shopping locally and packaging-free is the only way forward… And buying second-hand items, never new ones!
As for not-so-green, I love taking baths, which wastes a lot of water; however, I reuse the water to water my plants!
4. Fave eco products?
I love Annie Sloan Chalk Paint for revamping old furniture with a simple coat of new paint. I also love my Klean Kanteen single-walled water bottle; it’s simple but it’s with me every day and everywhere I go!
5. What is something about sustainable living that you think more people in Hong Kong should be aware of?
Wet markets! I’m surprised how few Hong Kongers take advantage of the quality and variety of packaging-free, organic and affordable produce and products that you get in our neighbourhood markets – plus most of the products are significantly cheaper!
There are also countless bulk food stores where you can bring your own containers to buy things such as different types of rice, speciality handmade noodles, mushrooms and so much more. Shopping at wet markets may seem intimidating to people who didn’t grow up here, but just ask! Most of the time, stall owners are so friendly and helpful.
6. You started Live Zero in 2018; what are some of the biggest improvements you’ve seen in Hong Kong’s sustainability scene since then and what are some of the biggest changes you’d like to see over the next few years?
Sustainability is definitely on-trend at the moment, which is great – meaning it’s “cool” to be sustainable and adopt a more zero-waste lifestyle. However, there’s also lots of greenwashing going on, which is upsetting to see, especially when customers don’t know any better.
Nevertheless, it’s been amazing to see so many people and shops that focus on sustainability, and zero-waste shops have grown a lot in the past few years. I’d love to see more zero-waste stores in each neighbourhood, and supermarkets in general selling more products without useless and unnecessary packaging.
7. What are some simple but less well-known tips for those looking to live more sustainably in Hong Kong? And what are some common misconceptions about a sustainable lifestyle?
You can compost in Hong Kong pretty easily – you’ll be surprised how much compostable waste you normally throw away! If you have any backyard space, you can compost there or you can even start a small compost under your kitchen sink with composting worms.
If not, we run a programme where you can bring your compost to Live Zero’s Sai Ying Pun store for a small monthly fee, and it will be composted at the government’s O·Park1 facility in Lantau.
Many people think that this lifestyle is more expensive – but it’s actually cheaper in the long-run to purchase more sustainable products, as they’ll last a lot longer than single-use items.
Think of disposable shaving razors that you might replace every month or so versus purchasing a reusable razor and just changing out the blades instead – that’s a huge cost saving! Reusable diapers are a good example as well; these can save you thousands as your baby grows up!
8. What shade of green are you and why?
I love a good mint green – it’s fresh, vibrant and youthful, representing how we’re changing up the scene with our high-energy team!
Find out more about Live Zero on their website and Instagram, and Thorn & Burrow on their website and Instagram
NEXT: See all ‘8Shades Of‘ interviews
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