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8Shades’ Summer Bucket List: 8 Sustainable Things To Do With Friends

Summer is here and with it, comes plenty of hikes and beach days followed by dinner and drinks. In Hong Kong, we’re blessed with plenty of things to do, but we might not always be so conscious about our environmental impact when we’re having fun with friends.

Having said that, there’s no need to hermit yourself at home for the sake of reducing your carbon footprint. For our 8Shades Summer Bucket List, we’ve gathered eight fun and sustainable things to do with friends this summer that will have zero to little, or perhaps even a positive impact on the earth!

1. Try plogging

Plogging is an easy way to get in shape this summer whilst tackling pollution and waste. Originating in Sweden, plogging (which is a mashup of the words ‘plogga’ in Swedish, which means to pick up, and ‘jogging’ in English) will have you jogging and collecting as much litter as you can in a trash bag along the way. Gather some friends together for a plogging session and then go for brunch afterwards. You can even make a competition out of it: the person who collects the most litter gets their meal for free!

2. Go zero-waste camping 

camping on the beach carbon-free activities
Source: Unsplash

Camping is another zero-waste activity where you can flex your eco-friendly habits! Put food in reusable containers, bring reusable or biodegradable cutlery and bring compostable garbage bags to collect any litter that you may drop along the way. Just remember the universal campsite rule: make sure you leave the campsite in a better condition than how you found it!

3. Get your green thumbs on

pots of herbs
Source: Unsplash

Whether you’ve got green thumbs or you just like the idea of growing your own food, Hong Kong has plenty of local farms to satisfy your longing for fresh, locally grown produce. Some farms even allow you to rent your own plot of land to cultivate your own fruits and veggies. Rent out a piece of land with friends and enjoy your own foods together, perhaps coming together regularly for a “farm-to-table” style dinner with the produce you’ve grown.

4. Host a clothing swap

One person’s trash is another’s treasure, or so they say. The same is true for your clothing; just because you’re tired of that dress doesn’t mean that one of your friends won’t love it. Clothing swaps are a fun and sustainable way to update your wardrobe; just add some snacks and wine, and you’re good to go! 

5. Donate your time to a charitable cause

There are plenty of charities that are working to clean up the environment or otherwise make our communities more sustainable. Why not spend the day with your squad whilst helping with a beach clean up, or working with a charity to distribute food that would otherwise go to waste.

6. Try a veggie meal

Turn Meatless Monday into a social affair by bringing your friends along to try out new meatless recipes once a week. Delicious, social and sustainable – what more could you want?

7. Go bike riding

biking carbon free activities
Source: Unsplash

There are some fantastic biking trails in the New Territories, particularly around Tai Po! Make a day of it by biking in the morning and ending the day with a late lunch at one of the local eateries.

8. Join a walking tour

Be a tourist in your own city by joining a local walking tour – not only does it get you out of the house, it will also reduce your energy consumption at home. There are plenty of companies in Hong Kong that offer tours around the city with unique focuses – there are food tours, street art tours, Chinese Medicine tours and even cemetery tours (yes, really!) 

So there you have it – 8Shades’ Summer Bucket List of sustainable things to do with friends. Which idea will you try first?

See also: Join The 8Shades 8-Week Challenge!

Is Regenerative agriculture the only way forward?

Regenerative agriculture is a rehabilitation approach to farming. This might sound very foreign and distant, but modern agriculture is in deep shtook and it’s affecting all of us. 

The root of the problem lies in the soil (yes, another pun). About one-third of the world’s topsoil is acutely degraded. According to the United Nations, if current practices continue, a complete degradation will hit us within the next 60 years. How did it get so bad you ask? Well, we only have ourselves to blame. 

Source: Local Futures

GREED IS NOT SUSTAINABLE 

Synthetic fertilizer, pesticide and fungicide… these are things our ancestors invented to yield more crops. Think of them as steroids and antibiotics, and the soil as our body. When your body is greeted with drugs everyday and becomes reliant on them, it loses its ability to adapt and fight off any illnesses. In this case, these chemicals constrain the nutrient level and resilience of our soil, impacting the quality and quantity of crops. 

IT’S SO(IL) SIMPLE

Soil births our crops and it’s home to microorganisms like bacteria, fungi and nematodes that are crucial to protecting the plants from insects and diseases. A humble 1% increase in organic matters not only improves the health of the crops, but also boosts the soil’s water holding capacity by 20,000 gallons per acre. A bigger capacity means stronger resilience in plants and therefore a better chance of them surviving droughts and floods. Net net, healthier soil means more and better crops to feed the world.

Source: Kiss the Ground

BUT WAIT, ISN’T SOIL BASICALLY DIRT?

Remember learning about photosynthesis in primary school? That’s when plants breathe in carbon dioxide and let out oxygen. Have you ever wondered what sends nutrients to grow these hero leaves and stems? Soil. And what takes the carbon and turns it into fuel for microbes? Also soil.

Let’s not forget about the most effortless contribution of soil – reducing greenhouse gases. By simply existing and with a cost of zero, soil can sequester and store carbon for up to one thousand years. Until, of course, some farmer ploughs through it with a heartless machine and releases it right back into the atmosphere. 

Source: Cool Farm Tool

THE FUTURE IS HOPEFUL

Regenerative agriculture introduces techniques such as drilling seeds into the soil instead of ploughing); moving cattle around to avoid overgrazing; rotating crops with livestock grazing; and here’s our favourite from our documentary of the month “Kiss the Ground” – keeping poop in the loop (maximising compost). All these practices are designed to inject life back into the soil and reverse the damage we’ve done. 

While no one is expecting us to put on our farmer boots and work the soil, acknowledging the issue, spreading the word and making small donations are solid ways to show our support. 

Donation Recommendations:

Where do the world’s carbon emissions really come from?

In 2020, global greenhouse gas emissions totaled 40 gigatonnes, a 7% decrease from 2019 (thanks to COVID-19), but we still have so much work to do to reduce emissions before we experience the worst impacts of climate change. However, in a world where we’re told that nearly everything we do is environmentally unfriendly, knowing the areas to target can be tough.

So, where exactly do these emissions come from, and what can we do in our everyday lives to reduce them?

Source: The Conversation

WHERE DO THE WORLD’S EMISSIONS COME FROM?

Energy makes up 73% of global emissions. Nearly 12% of this comes from road transport and 2% from aviation. Energy use in buildings (heating, air conditioning, etc) makes up nearly 18%. 

Agriculture, forestry and land use makes up a little over 18% of global emissions. This includes deforestation for farmland, using fertilisers or other chemicals that release toxic gases and raising animals for meat. The food system as a whole, including refrigeration, food processing, packaging and transport, represents around one-quarter of greenhouse gas emissions. 

Waste contributes a little over 3% to global emissions. This includes methane emissions from landfills. Direct industrial processes, like producing cement, make up the rest. 

Source: Our World Data

SO, WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT IT?

There are things that we can do that can lower emissions from each category:

Source: BBC

Energy: we can cut back on cars and use public transport (fortunately, in Hong Kong, we are blessed with many reliable options!) or use less carbon-intensive forms of transport, like trains instead of buses.

In our homes, we can buy appliances that are energy efficient, many of them now have a “energy barometer” sticker signifying their energy consumption level. Switch off lights and install energy-saving light bulbs and unplug certain appliances when not in use . 

Source: North Virginia Magazine

Agriculture: this is one of the more controversial topics because it involves making changes to diet and consumption habits, which are personal and often difficult to alter. There is speculation as to whether a fully plant-based diet is ideal for everyone including the planet, but what is clear is that cutting down significantly on meat is important while choosing pasture raised meat as much as you can.

You can take part in Meatless Mondays and eat more organic food that is free of pesticides and fertilisers. You can also be more mindful of your everyday purchases for example, are you buying from brands that support deforestation or use excessive plastic packaging? Are you buying too much food that will inevitably go to waste?

Doing a bit of research into the goods you buy will make a world of difference! 

Source: SCMP

Waste: ultimately, the less waste that goes to landfills, the better. To do this, you can reduce your own waste, or you could try composting it; this is difficult in space-starved Hong Kong, but apartment-friendly ones like this or this make it easy! 

At the end of the day, it’s up to corporations and governments to implement measures to cut emissions, but until then, there are things that we can do in our everyday lives that would help. If everyone makes small changes, it amounts to huge progress!

Going vegan might not save the world

People dabble with veganism for various reasons. Some for the health benefits, some for the love of animals, and some for the environment. While we support diversified diets and less meat consumption on the whole, if you are becoming a vegan solely because you’ve been told veganism is THE antidote to global warming and climate change, drop your kale and take a seat – we have some news for you. 

No, we’re not here to burst anyone’s green bubble. Ditching meat could very well be the most sustainable thing anyone can do to help save the planet, but that depends on where you live, where your food comes from, and how it lands on your plate. 


Source: Guideline.blog

Is your hood vegan friendly

In Finland, eating fish is considered an environmentally sustainable diet because fishing helps prevent the lakes from overcrowding and in turn, keeps the underwater life healthy. In some Arctic communities, consuming seal meat is also considered sustainable (and nutritionally efficient) because not many vegetables can withstand frost. For greens to make their way to the table, they’d either have to be raised under controlled conditions, or be transported from other parts of the world. 

From plant to plate… by plane

And that brings us back to Hong Kong and our supermarket visits. Imported perishable fruits and veggies like asparagus, strawberries, grapes… most of them have travelled far usually by air, truck or barge to make it to the shelves and believe it or not, transportation can actually create more greenhouse gas emission than a quail. 


“Not as bad” doesn’t mean “good”

Plant-based alternative and faux meat brands are on the rise, and they all have the same promise of doing good for the environment. Granted, imitation meat has less carbon footprint than animal meat, but it’s still heavily processed, and with that comes the price of deforestation, habit destruction and carbon emissions.

Fair trade can fail 

As the demand for plant production arises, labour violations increase. According to Harvard Political Review, approximately 3.5 million agricultural workers globally are enslaved people, and about 75% of farmworkers in the United States are undocumented. This field is notorious for mistreatment and underpayment, which affects both plant and animal farmworkers. Not to mention the toxic chemicals they inhale everyday and the intense labour that comes with the job. 


People vs. plants

Less meat means more reliance on plants. More plants mean more reliance on soy, corn and hybridized wheat. At the moment, artificial fertilisers account for at least 3% of global greenhouse gas emissions (meat and diary make up 14.5%, but you get the point). Plant diversity is key and moving to regenerative agriculture could be a solution, but can it cope with the load of feeding the world’s population? We haven’t done the maths but we’re going ahead with “very unlikely”. 

Conscious living is key

So no, going vegan is not a one-size-fits-all dietary solution and it won’t save the planet (as least not right now). But yes, if you are mindful of where your food comes from and how it is made, going vegan could mean less negative impact on our environment. And for many, that’s good enough of a reason to adopt the V and drop the meat.