Summer is edging in, which means it’s time to up our sunscreen game so we don’t have to deal with sunburn, awkward tans, skin aging, and the worst of all – the risk of getting skin cancer.
Special occasions such as going to the beach or setting sail on a junk usually call for a stronger SPF protection and perhaps a good slathering of that sunshield. But did you know choosing the wrong sunscreen could turn a delightful summer adventure into a crime?
Sunscreen chemicals don’t belong in the sea
Researches show chemicals like phthalates and other toxins that are used to make sunscreen last longer and cling better to the skin can impact the health of the marine life. When these chemicals leave our bodies and enter into the ocean, they can decrease the fertility and reproduction of fish, induce defects in young mussels and sea urchins, impair growth and photosynthesis of green algae, and bleach or even kill the coral. And the list goes on.
A good rule of thumb would be to look for products that are labelled “reef safe” or “reef friendly”. But with so many sunscreen variants and brands to choose from, it’s hard to know which ones to go for. Well, lucky for you, we’ve done some research so you don’t have to.
Here are our top 5 brands of natural, effective sunscreens that you can easily get in HK that are good for your and for the environment.
Thinksport SPF50 Sunscreem ($135.73)
Strong SPF protection. Water resistant. Vegan (not tested on animals). Reasonable price. And free from reef-damaging chemicals. What is there not to love?
We might be stating the obvious here given the adorable packaging design, but yes – this vegan, eco sunscreen is formulated for babies, children and adults, and is perfect for people who have sensitive skin.
Better latte than never – the sustainable coffee drinkers guide
The smell of coffee is often the best alarm clock. Many of us start our mornings with a cup of coffee. Essentially, life begins after coffee. Do you know that our coffee habits present us with the perfect opportunity to engage in responsible consumption even before we start our day? Consider the following tips to make your coffee habits more sustainable and, in effect, set you up for a successful day.
THE MUG-NIFICENCE OF BYOM
Unfortunately, sixteen billion coffee cups are used and disposed each year, most of which are unrecyclable. Many of us do not know us that single-use paper cups, like their plastic counterparts, cannot be recycled. Because paper cups are coated with a thin layer of plastic to laminate and waterproof the inside, the paper-plastic combination of these cups makes them difficult to recycle. The next time you go to a café, make sure to BYOM – bring your own mug, or a reusable cup. Most coffee shops, including Starbucks, will give you a discount for bringing your own mug. Lower-priced coffee that’s low waste too? That smells pretty good.
DON’T GIVE A FRAPPE ABOUT UNSUSTAINABLE CAPS
Many of us rely on a single-cup brewing machine to get our caffeine fix. These machines typically depend on unrecyclable capsules and pods. Not all hope is lost, however. Nespresso, one of our favorite coffee pioneers, makes their capsules with aluminum, which is 100% recyclable. Moreover, you can ship your capsules back to Nespresso recycling facilities free of charge or drop them off at participating stores. From there, the aluminum is processed and turned into pens, pikes, and even new capsules.
When you brew your own coffee, you can avoid single-use plastic –– by using your own mug, spoons as stirrers, and recyclable straws–– all the while radiating peak hipster barista vibes. If you’re looking to buy a coffee machine, opt for ones that don’t have plastic, like a French Press, percolator and ceramic pour-over filter cone. Many coffee machines with plastic contain PVC, which is the most toxic of plastics.
If you’re buying coffee beans to brew at home, look for ethical certifications (like Rainforest Alliance) that show producers have complied with sustainable criteria. Sustainably sourced coffee beans are not only better for the environment, better for farmers (who are paid fairer prices), but also better for your health. New studies have found that sustainable coffee beans are grown free of pesticides and artificial fertilizer, boasting a higher content in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals than beans that aren’t sustainably sourced.
MAKE YOUR BEANS COME TRUE
The next time you meet up with a friend, or a love interest, consider having a coffee at MANA on Star Street in SoHo. MANA serves Impact Berry, an ethical, eco-friendly and organic premium coffee brand. Impact Berry sources its beans from Asian regions, which reduces the carbon footprint that comes with transporting coffee by 98%. An added perk is that MANA serves its coffee in fully compostable cups and lids.
Labelled as “the optimal diet for people and planet”, the Planetary diet was commissioned in 2019 to tackle three global briefs: to feed a future population of 10 billion people in 2050, to champion a diet that is environmentally sustainable, and to reduce the number of deaths caused by poor diet around the world.
This diet encourages us to eat more plant-forward meals, focus on unsaturated fats, lower our dairy consumption, and cut down on highly-processed foods. According to the commission, by doing so we can lessen the pressure on our food supply chain, reduce our carbon footprint, save 11 million people a year from malnutrition deaths, and more.
Now, with a mission statement this promising and an action plan that is highly doable and nowhere as intense as other diets, why hasn’t the word “Planetarian” made it on the food map yet?
IS IT BECAUSE IT’S NOT A DEPRIVATION DIET?
It’s hard to keep up with the ever-growing dietary handles, and the way we differentiate one diet from another is often by recalling the food that we can not consume – i.e.: Keto means no carbs and Paleo means no farmed or processed foods. But as you can see below, the Planetarian diet ticks all the icons on the food pyramid: whole grains, vegetables, fruit, dairy, protein, fats and sugars. Perhaps when nothing is really off the table, and when there’s no major deficiency to look out for, there’s really nothing distinct or memorable about this diet.
OR BECAUSE IT DOESN’T COME WITH A COOKIE CUTTER FORMULA?
Planetarian is one of the more intuitive diets. Rather than simply foregoing meat or carbs, it requires an understanding of our food culture, our food sources, and how they impact the environment. For example, according to The Guardian, in order to consume a healthy diet while balancing planetary resources, North Americans should eat 84% less red meat and Europeans should eat 77% less.
Not having a universal fix means we have to rely on local interpretation or do our own homework, and as much as we want to do or eat the right thing, sometimes it’s just easier to tune out and nibble on the taste of ignorance.
WATCH THIS SPACE
To us, the planetarian diet sounds very much like an underdog. It’s one of the newer diets that reflects our current climate and lifestyle. It takes both our environment and human health into accounts, including those who are malnourished and overnourished. And it’s probably one of the easiest diets to follow and doesn’t deprive us of any essential nutrients.
So watch this space – we won’t be surprised if this diet takes off tomorrow and becomes the talk of every dinner table.
With kombucha and apple cider vinegar gaining popularity over the past few years in the health sphere, the spotlight has been shone on fermentation. However, fermented foods have been part of our diets for centuries, and were initially produced as a way to preserve foods, improve flavour and eliminate food toxins. Today, more people are turning to these foods for their health benefits, and their subsequent sustainability benefits.
What exactly is Fermentation?
Fermentation is a metabolic process in which microorganisms create a desirable change in foods and beverages, like increasing flavour or preserving foods. It occurs in the absence of oxygen and in the presence of beneficial microorganisms, like yeasts, molds and bacteria, that get their energy through fermentation. Some of your favourite foods are fermented! Like kombucha, kimchi, yogurt, sourdough bread, apple cider vinegar and even wine and beer.
Our fave fermented foods:
Kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, miso and pickles.
What are the Benefits of Fermentation?
It’s healthy for you
People have been processing food through various fermentation methods for thousands of years. However, in the 19th and 20th centuries, our diets changed radically; as we moved from farms to cities, we also moved away from fresh produce. Fermentation was one such way to combat this and keep food nutritious for longer.
Fermented foods are rich in probiotics, those helpful bugs that maintain a healthy gut so it can do its job of extracting nutrients from food. Probiotics also aid the immune system because the gut produces antibiotic, antitumor and antiviral substances, and pathogens don’t do well in the acidic environment fermented foods create.
Fermentation provides enzymes necessary for digestion and breaking down food. This is super important because we’re born with a finite number of enzymes, which decrease with age.
Finally, fermentation can increase the vitamins and minerals in food and make them easier to absorb, like vitamins B and C.
It’s also surprisingly sustainable!
While canning requires a lot of energy, many fermented foods require no cooking or heat at all. Further, fermentation reduces the need for fridges and freezers, being able to be stored on a shelf and it prevents food waste, because instead of throwing food away when it’s less-than-perfect, for example, vegetables, you can simply chop them, salt them, pack them in a jar and leave for a few weeks – or longer!
Whether you eat or drink fermented goods for the health benefits they bring, or for the tang and zest they add to your meals, their health benefits are plentiful and the process is good for the environment.
Rewriting Hong Kong’s Food Scene with Our Forks and Chopsticks with Larry Tang
“Locally sourced”, “organic”, “sustainable”… we see these F&B buzzwords almost everywhere we go. Some of us find them appealing. Some of us are even willing to pay extra for these labels. But most of us don’t know what they really mean, or the depth of the impact buying these foods have. So we decided to reach out to one of Hong Kong’s food heroes – Larry Tang – to get some insights. As the founder of Locofama Group, a community-centric business that champions fresh local organic produce, Larry sees the supply chain through from farm to table, and here’s what we learned.
The definition of “local produce” seems to vary country by country. Could you share your interpretation with us?
According to Food Made Good, the distance radius used to define “local” in the UK is 80km, and in Hong Kong, it’s 500km. So yes, things can get a bit complicated here. If you go to the wet market and look for the “local produce” label, it usually means the source is coming from somewhere in China. Most people assume “Hong Kong local”, but that’s not the case, because we’re only consuming around 2-3% of food from Hong Kong. In Locofama group, we use the term “SLOW”, which stands for sustainability, local, organic, and wellness. These are the four pillars that we invest our time and money in. And when we use the term “local”, we DO mean Hong Kong.
Locofama group was one the first businesses that put “sustainability” on the Hong Kong food map. How strongly did people resonate with this term when you first started Locofama in 2013, and how have the mindsets changed over the years?
I actually did not get into this business thinking sustainability would play such a big role. I started Locofama because people around me got sick, so my entry point was very much about health and wellness. Back then we had to import a lot of meat and seafood because it was hard to find good quality organic meat locally – wild-caught salmon and tuna had to be shipped from overseas – so sustainability wasn’t really part of the picture, until two years into the business when we started doing events.
I remember people getting upset at us for using plastic straws and wanting to know how we handled our wastage. Since how we measure the success of our brand is based on how much positive impact we can generate, it was clear to us that if sustainability is where the consumers are headed, then we’re going on that journey with them.
The cost of sustainable and organic food is a real barrier for some of us. Do you have any advice or tips for people who want to lead a healthier lifestyle but just can’t afford it?
My tip would be to plan and commit ahead of time. Think of it like purchasing an airplane ticket. If you don’t want to pay the last-minute premium price, you have to plan ahead.
According to the government, the average monthly food expense per person is around HKD$2,500. I’m sure we all know people who spend a lot more than that, which means there are people who spend far less. It was never my goal to serve only the top 1% of the population, so I started visiting local farms and working with local farmers to see how we can make good quality food affordable. In our CSA programme, we have Chinese medicine doctors, nutritionists, head chefs and farmers working together to help you plan what to eat in the next season. All you have to do is to subscribe to it, then a box will be delivered to you every week. If consumers are willing to commit 3 months in advance, not only can we get quality product from local farmers at a cheaper price, but also a richer biodiversity because they will be able to grow different types of crops.
And oh, eat more fruits, not juice. Eat the whole fruit.
Some of us find it hard to associate an urban jungle like Hong Kong with the farming industry. What’s the quality like in local farms and how accessible are they?
Up until the 1960s, over 60% of food we ate was produced in Hong Kong. The theory that Hong Kong doesn’t have enough farm land is definitely a myth. There’s a law that prohibits us from converting farmland into residential area, so land is not an issue. Funding is. We just don’t have enough farmers. There’s not enough money to support them because most people don’t appreciate local produce and are not willing to commit.
Quality wise I’d say we have some really good farmers here. Again, we’re only eating 2-3% local produce, so whoever is still farming, they are not doing it for the money, they have real passion. At the moment, I’m building a farming school with this farmer who has been experimenting at his farm since 2006. We’re confident that if we train a farmer for 6 months, they will be able to learn enough to handle 30,000 to 50,000 sq ft. of space. Along with the technology we provide them, they can make HKD$15,000 to $20,000 a month.
It takes a lot of passion and perseverance to succeed in the culinary world. The long hours, the heat, the pressure… (and the pandemic certainly did not help). That has stopped many young talents from pursuing their dreams. Does that concern you?
It definitely does.
Chefs overseas are pretty well respected. But for some reason, in Hong Kong, working in the kitchen is not so glorious. It has a “factory” connotation, and people are conditioned to function like a robot because of what we called the “Split Shift Culture”. There’s no interest in creativity, and coming from the advertising industry, that really bugged me.
That’s why we launched Fama Kitchen. Through running competitions with final year students at Poly University and THEi, and inviting winners to come into our kitchen for free, we can recruit people who studied culinary arts and want to become a chef, as well as people who are interested in doing the concept and creative side of building a hospitality brand. It’s a win-win.
What does Hong Kong’s food scene look like to you in 10 year’s time?
Obviously, it’s not a great outlook if nothing is changed. The way I look at it, there will be two outcomes, and it’s very much up to the consumers. Whether we continue in the vein of “compulsive consumerism” or go with “conscious consumerism”. Consumers are the ones who will determine what the food scene will look like in 10 years’ time.
“If we treat every dollar we spend as a vote, everything will change.”
Last question – do you think plant-based living is the future?
I think all the plant-based meat alternatives are transitional products for us. It’s only a matter of time before people look at meat or seafood and realise the direct impact it has on the environment and our health. I think the price for grass-fed beef, organic pork, wild caught or organically farmed seafood will continue to go up, and when we can’t afford it, we’ll have to go plant-based. I also think people are becoming more kind in every generation. In my generation, growing up we didn’t have a conclusion on whether fish can feel pain, but now it’s well known fact. I sometimes come across videos on Youtube of young kids not wanting to eat animals, so I think their taste buds will change and there will be a higher demand for plant-based food.
So yes. I think plant-based living is the future. But when? I don’t know.
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.
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.
Giveaway: Have a Vegan Easter with our pals at The Cakery
Hands up if you’re vegan, suffer from a dairy allergy or are just trying to be a little bit healthier this month?
Fret not, you can indulge over Easter too this year thanks to Cakery, 8Shades’ favorite guilt free bakery. Not only is their Easter egg vegan, it’s actually so gorgeous on the eyes, you might not want to eat it!
This isn’t like your ordinary bar of plain vegan chocolate my friends, this Easter egg is so awesome it’s even hiding a surprise inside. For all of you who have missed out for so long, now we can really indulge.
It’s no secret that the dairy industry causes significant environmental damage which is comprised of land clearing, increasing greenhouse gas emissions from industrially farmed cows methane and excessive water usage. So even if you’re not vegan, just by eating vegan chocolate this year instead of conventional chocolate, you are actively taking a step towards making the world a shade greener.
8Shades is about the small changes, not about giving up guilty pleasures.
This Easter 8Shades will be gifting two of Cakery’s Large Easter Egg’s (HK$588) to our Instagram competition winners. As if the Egg wasn’t enough of an incentive, we are also giving away two of their newest vegan Picnic Basket’s (HK$618) which for the lucky winners, will be delivered directly to your doorstep. Click here to enter NOW!
This vegan Easter egg really has to be seen to be believed. Dressed in a cheerful ombre yellow and decorated with a trail of fondant flowers and a surprise center of twenty four mini eggs, it’s sure to be a hit with the kids.
The Cakery’s new vegan Picnic Basket is a real treat and the perfect way to enjoy the sunny outdoors over the Easter holidays. While the purchase price is HK$618, please note that upon returning the basket to any of The Cakery outlets, HK$30 will be refunded back to you.
The picnic basket packs a full portable afternoon tea-style set for two, including savory vegan dishes such as Cauliflower Salad, Red Pesto Sweet Potato Sandwiches, Superfood Crackers with Cheese Dip, and Roasted Corn with Spicy Mayo, as well as some sweet vegan pastries to balance out the meal.
Sweets include Croissant, Mini Lemon Tarts, Mini Peanut Butter Chocolate Tarts, Vegan Mini Cupcakes, and Chocolate Dreamer Cupcakes. Wash it all down with some refreshing Organic Sodas.
Preparing rice is one of those things passed down through generations. You never really need to read the instructions on the packet, it’s just in-grained (excuse the pun). Now we have so many different types of rice available to us, we don’t necessarily know the ins and outs of cooking every different grain.
If you are a health nut like us, you’ll also prefer eating whole grains. That’s why we tend to stick to brown rice over white rice because of it’s higher fibre content, higher mineral levels, better protein, nutrient profile and because it’s generally less processed.
The challenges with cooking rice are two-fold. Rice in general, contains arsenic, a heavy metal that our bodies don’t love too much of. Brown rice specifically, contains phytic acid, an antinutrient which can stop you properly absorbing all that healthy stuff that comes with it.
That’s why preparing brown rice properly is key and requires only a little forward thinking. Just soak it in filtered water for 24 hours which releases most of the nasties!
So here’s our quick guide on how to cook the lesser cooked rice:
Soak the brown rice for 24 hours in filtered water before cooking. This ensures that the phytic acid (antinutrient) and arsenic content is significantly lowered and it reduces cooking time.
After 24 hours, rinse the rice with filtered water.
If using a rice cooker, set it to “multigrain” and cover with water about 3cm above the top of the rice.
If using a pot, cover with water about half an inch above the rice boil on medium heat, uncovered for 20 minutes.