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. 

What happens to all that plastic that we try so hard to recycle

If you’re anything like us, you always make sure to carefully separate your trash and dispose of it in the correct recycling bin. You feel like you’ve done your part, but what really happens to it after it’s supposedly sent to be magically repurposed into something else? 

There were rumours that waste destined for recycling is simply sent to landfills because it’s less trouble.

This was confirmed when an investigation last year discovered that nearly two-thirds of housing estates in Hong Kong surveyed were sending plastic bottles collected in recycling bins, to landfill! 

In its 2013 waste reduction plan, the Hong Kong government set a target that, by 2022, each person would throw away no more than 0.8kg of waste per day, but this target is unlikely to be reached because… 

“In 2018, Hong Kongers sent an average of 1.53kgs per person of solid waste to landfills every day; just 30% of this was recycled.”

How has this happened? 

Some say that it’s because of the low value of plastics in Hong Kong. 1kg of collected, separated and processed plastic waste may give recyclers just HKD$0.30- $0.50, lower than a few years ago. Also, most plastics are not recyclable in Hong Kong, of the seven types of plastic materials, only three are able to be recycled by local plants through the government scheme. 


How can we fix this?

Hong Kong plans to build adequate waste-to-energy facilities so that it no longer needs to rely on landfills by 2035. Aside from this sizeable goal, the government needs to provide monetary subsidies to recyclers to encourage proper collection and recycling. 

Basically, we (as in you and me) need to start getting smart about how we manage our own waste and look beyond our rubbish bins. We know it’s hard to figure it all out, but thankfully Hong Kong is working hard to develop an effective recycling system that is easy to use.

Not only do we have the likes of independently operated Love Recycling Plus and other smaller scale recycling entities, the Environmental Protection Department are finally stepping up. The GREEN @ COMMUNITY initiative launched in late 2020, a community recycling network that is available on a broad scale across the city with 133 recycling points in total for you to access.

Click here to find your local recycling point.


What can we recycle?

  • Glass bottles
  • Beverage cartons
  • Fluorescent lamps and tubes
  • Metals (tin and aluminium cans)
  • Rechargeable batteries
  • Small electrical appliances (even your mobile phones)
  • Plastic bottles & bags
  • Paper 

If you want to learn more about using the GREEN @ COMMUNITY check out our bestie’s page to find out more.

As it turns out, there are some great initiatives tackling Hong Kong’s waste problem; after all, if the rest of the world produced waste like Hong Kong, we would need more than four planets to live… Yikes!

Why is sustainable fashion more expensive than fast fashion?

There is a growing demand for eco-friendly clothing, but most people don’t want to pay more for it. Fair enough, as fast fashion has taught us to expect that a t-shirt should cost HKD$70, when a sustainable brand sells one for $200, it’s easy to dismiss them as catering exclusively to the wealthy. However, there are good reasons for the seemingly eyebrow-raising prices of sustainable fashion.

“The fashion industry is responsible for 10% of annual greenhouse gas emissions” 

So it’s important that sustainable fashion is accessible to all, not just an elite few who can afford to be eco-conscious. Thankfully a survey found that 67% of consumers consider eco-friendly materials to be an important factor when buying clothes. Unfortunately, less than a third are willing to pay more for eco-friendly products. It’s a catch-22 because demand determines supply but as sustainable clothing becomes more mainstream, prices will decrease and become more affordable.


Fast fashion cuts corners

Fast fashion brands are able to price their clothes so low because they essentially cut corners. They do this by treatmenting their garment workers unfairly with up to 93% of brands not even paying them a living wage, to the cheap and short lifespan of the fabric used. This allows businesses to make a lot of items quickly and sell more for less but we need to ask ourselves: is clothing really cheaper if it means exploiting people and the planet to ensure low prices and a quick turnaround? 

So, for now you and I may have to be willing to pay more to ensure that the clothing we’re buying is sustainable but consider this: investing in clothes that are better quality and therefore you can wear for years to come, brings the cost per wear down!


No one is suggesting you pay $900 for a t-shirt, but investing in one that costs more than what you would normally pay and that is designed to last longer, will make you, the planet and your wallet happier! 

Supporting brands that put an emphasis on sustainability, and asking more of those that don’t will help make sustainable fashion more accessible.

There is a lot of power in the decisions we as consumers make so we should use this power for good.

Here are some great sustainable brands we love: 

5 most and least sustainable fabrics

As fast fashion begins to slow down, old and new brands are starting to see that not only are sustainable fabrics the best choice for the environment, they are also in higher demand than ever. We all know consumer demand is the key to creating lasting change and at 8Shades we are all about making more conscious choices even if it’s just a small change.

Did you know as much as 35% of all microplastics in the marine environment are fibres from synthetic clothing, largely a result of fast fashion. These fabrics are durable, cheap and easily available, but many of them are made through wasteful, chemically-intensive or ethically harmful processes.

Additionally, the fashion industry is responsible for 20% of global wastewater, while also releasing 50 billion plastic bottles’ worth of microplastics into the environment each year. So let’s all do our part.


Here’s our list of five synthetic fabrics to avoid:

Polyester, Acrylic and Nylon

Most synthetic fibres are made from crude oil, so they are non-biodegradable and not easily recyclable, each taking up to 200 years to break down. They also shed microplastics when used or washed with each washing cycle releasing over 700,000 microplastic fibres into the environment!

Polyester

Polyester is used in many products, from T-shirts to bottles. Polyester is incredibly water-intensive to produce and the wastewater contains harmful chemical dyes that spill into waterways, polluting local communities and causing health issues to factory workers. 

Acrylic

Acrylic is used to make winter essentials, like sweaters, hats and gloves, but its environmental impact is not so warm and fuzzy- acrylonitrile, a key ingredient in acrylic production, can enter the body through skin contact or inhalation and cause dizziness, and nausea for the people making these clothes.

Nylon

Typically used in tights and stockings, as well as swim and activewear, its production uses massive amounts of water and energy, polluting water in the process. Producing nylon also creates nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas that is 300 times more concentrated than carbon dioxide!

Cotton

Conventional cotton (not to be confused with organic cotton) is one of the biggest water-wasting crops on the planet; a single pair of jeans requires more than 70,000 litres, while a T-shirt requires 11,000 litres! Cotton farming also uses pesticides that sink into soil and water supplies. They don’t just harm bugs, short term pesticide exposure can cause nausea and seizures, while long-term exposure can cause asthma and cancer. 

Rayon

In a prime example of greenwashing, rayon is considered the “sustainable alternative” to polyester. Rayon is made by dissolving cellulose (the main element of plant cell walls) into a chemical solution and then spinning it into threads. The fibre itself is biodegradable and non-toxic, making it popular in fast fashion, but it is extremely water, energy and chemical intensive. The demand for the plant-based material also increases the demand for, you guessed it, plants; worsening deforestation. 

Biodegradability isn’t the only factor to consider though, durability contributes to slow fashion. So if it breaks down easily and naturally yet is not durable enough to wear for decades, is it really sustainable? We think not. Fear not though, all it takes is a little research to know what to look for and a few favourite brands that are doing things right. 


Thankfully, many in the industry are working to make sustainable clothing that doesn’t compromise on looks. 

Here’s our list of 5 natural fabrics to buy more of:

Linen

One of the oldest known fibres, linen is also one of the most sustainable. Its production process requires less water and pesticides than many other materials, making it chemical residue-free. Linen is absorbent, durable and breathable; while the time-consuming production process generally makes it more expensive, linen can decompose in as little as two weeks in the right environment. Check out Hong Kong-based brand Classics Anew, who gives the traditional Chinese qipao a contemporary twist by blending organic cotton and linen with classic Chinese elements like mandarin collars and buttons. 

Hemp

Hemp is the most durable of all natural fibres, requiring minimal water and pesticides, allowing it to decompose in as little as four months. Hemp also adds rich organic matter to soil, making it safe to dispose of. Lightweight and sweat-absorbent, hemp fibre is perfect for humid Asian weather. Levi’s Wellthread Collection includes its classic 511 jeans made with hemp fibre.

Organic Cotton

Not to be confused with “conventional” cotton, organic cotton is produced without pesticides or fertilisers, making the end products free of chemical residues and able to decompose within just 5 months. Everlane offers a vast range of clothing pieces that are made using recycled materials and organic cotton and has vowed to move all of its cotton to certified organic by 2023.

Soy

To produce soy fibres, soybean proteins are broken down and filtered into long strands. These fibres absorb dyes quickly and have UV-resistant qualities, making them ideal for summertime. 

Cellulose Fibre

Cellulose fibres, including modal, viscose and lyocell, are extracted from plant-based materials and are recyclable, biodegradable, and dye well, resulting in less chemical pollution. Trenery incorporates light & airy cellulosic fibres in its clothing.


We love that more and more clothing manufacturers are choosing to use eco-friendly fabrics and diversifying their products, while reducing reliance on any 1 material resource. Now you know that your choices are important in paving the way for a more sustainable future, doing good and looking good. 

Love recycling in Hong Kong

Plastics have been dominating the headlines in recent years, but for all the wrong reasons. It’s an epidemic we are facing as a global population, with certain countries making strides in recent years to combat; either through elimination altogether or recycling programmes. What we have on offer in Hong Kong is, frankly, dismal, with options few and far between, and much confusion to go along with it. However, there is hope on the horizon, with new avenues for us to explore.

Love Recycling Plus was founded by a former UK resident, who was used to an extensive recycling habit and upon return to Hong Kong, was sorely disappointed to find that while people were willing to recycle, the government’s free service was both inefficient and almost completely ineffective. Collection points were not tended to often enough and led to over spilling – as a result, recycling matter was simply being diverted to general waste. Whatever was in the recycling bins was deemed unfit for recycling due to dirt or contamination and as a result, was just taken straight to the landfill.

Frustrating, indeed. 


Providing customers with their own bins, Love Recycling Plus accepts the following:

  • Glass: wine and beer bottles, glass jars.
  • Metal: aluminium drink cans, food tins, metal biscuit tins.
  • Cardboard and paper: newspaper, cardboard, A4 paper, magazines, toilet roll tubes.
  • Plastic: type 1-7 plastics, bar type 3.
  • Tetra Paks: milk or drink cartons, paper cups.
  • Miscellaneous: cup noodle pots, sweet wrappers, Styrofoam lunchboxes, crisp packets.

Here are the different types of plastics to help you get familiar with the acceptable and the bad:

  • Type 1 (Polyethylene Terephthalate a.k.a. PET or PETE): the most widely used plastic in the world including water bottles, soft drink bottles, mouthwash bottles.
  • Type 2 (High-density Polyethylene a.k.a. HDPE): another versatile, durable plastic found in shampoo bottles, milk bottles, cleaning product bottles.
  • Type 3 (Polyvinyl Chloride a.k.a. PVC): the only plastic that is not recyclable and should be avoided in the first place, it tends to end up in the incinerator or landfill where its dioxin production is toxic to humans and animals. These include: toys, baby dishes, PVC pipes, clingfilm, vinyl flooring, blister packs and clamshell containers.
  • Type 4 (Low-Density Polyethylene a.k.a. LDPE): squeeze bottles, bubble wrap, six pack rings.
  • Type 5 (Polypropylene a.k.a. PP): plastic straws, yoghurt pots, ice cream containers.
  • Type 6 (Polystyrene or Styrofoam a.k.a. PS): egg cartons, disposable cutlery, disposable cups.
  • Type 7 (Miscellaneous Plastics a.k.a OTHER): all rigid, unlabelled plastic can be considered a miscellaneous plastic, such as: baby bottles. CDs, water cooler bottles.

As you can see, it can be easy to recycle properly but it takes commitment (and a little extra cash to subscribe). If it means your next trip to the beach doesn’t leave you wading through plastic, surely that’s worth it?

What is Sustainability?

“Sustainability”, “Green”, “ESG”, “Eco”…. you may have heard these buzzwords being thrown around lately, but what do they all really mean? Interestingly, even the best environmental experts in the world would disagree with what these terms mean or should mean.  From my perspective, what these words mean are less important than what they represent: there has been a shift in our consciousness. The global sustainability conversation is beginning to change, and that these buzzwords can represent different ideas, goals, and opportunities for individuals like you and I and for companies trying to be more conscious and make an impact.

Sustainability actually came about in order to shine a light on how global companies were having a detrimental impact on the environment.  To highlight the major headline topics such as oil spills, carbon emissions, water usage, waste management, deforestation, and global warming.

Through this process, what people have started to realize is that any company big or small cannot continue to bleed the world dry of resources in the name of capitalism while destroying it in its wake.  Every company no matter big or small should be contributing to global sustainability issues.  The same goes for humans, as individuals or as a group, we should all be contributing to global sustainability issues on some level.  I’ll use one of these “buzzwords” to better describe it, our priorities now are bigger than traditional environmental matters – the “E” in ESG that I just mentioned.  Now we are more conscious and sympathetic to social concerns – “S” like encouraging employs diversity, stamping out child labor, upholding human rights in our supply chains and “G” governance goals which focus on improving corporate leadership and diversifying board membership.

As ESG continues to gain momentum, we better understand what impacts we can make at the individual level.  As an individual consumer because at the end of the day, companies give us what they want.  That means it’s in our hands to change the rules.

Consider the following areas that our personal habits might impact sustainability/ESG:

  • Single use plastic (straws, bottled water, delivery containers, etc.) 
  • Food waste
  • Fast fashion
  • Energy usage 
  • Water usage 

You may be wondering why all this matters to me. Well, ever since I became a mother in 2015.  I’ve paid more attention to the impact of my choices because I’ve noticed that as a family, we are consuming way more than ever before and it was having a direct impact on the environment we are living in.  We would go to beaches and see the shore lined with plastic rather than shells, I had to restrict my kids playing outdoors because of the increased air pollution.  This is not the life I envisioned for my kids, myself or this earth, this is our only home.  

We are now realizing that business as usual does not work anymore and I see that if nothing else, I need to make whatever changes I can in my own life so that my children and their children will have the chance to breathe clean air and revel in the greenery of Mother Nature.

In 2020 alone this earth has endured so much – from the impact of the pandemic to wildfires in California and Australia.  I see these as escalating warning signs that our planet is literally on fire, now is the time that we need to band together to do something before it’s too late.  After all, if we didn’t have earth, where would we live and what would we eat.   We need to band together to do something before it’s too late. 


That’s why, in addition to EcoDrive, I’ve decided to start this platform!  I aspire to use this platform to raise awareness about sustainability issues big or small, share ways that I’m learning to love more in sync with Mother Nature, and live a life that has as little impact on the environment as possible and most importantly, learn and share together with you.   I am no expert, but I aspire to do the best I can and bring knowledge and information that will help is all make netter choices everyday since we know our environmental crisis is not one that can be resolved overnight.  I hope to share my philosophy with you to create inspirational light and positive energy.

Every day brings a new challenge, but also a new opportunity.

And, “what is my philosophy?” you may ask. Well, it’s simply to “start small, and start now” 🙂 

8 Steps – call of action

千里之行,始於足下
A journey of a thousand miles must begin with the first step.

Lao Tzu

Sustainability is about taking small steps in the right direction because little keys unlock big doors.  Here are 8 Shades suggested 8 beginners steps for starting to build a sustainable lifestyle. 

  1. Limit single use plastic.
    • Say no to single-use plastic straws, utensils, bottles, and bags.
    • Check out  NGO EcoDrive HK www.ecodrivehk.com
  1. Consider eco-friendly alternatives that you can use in your household.
    • In the kitchen: replace plastic cling wrap with silicone stretch lids, or bee wax wrap; replace Ziploc bags with reusable silicone seal bags; replace store items in glass containers.
    • In the bathroom: use cotton buds with paper stems; replace disposable plastic razors with metal, stainless steel safety razors; replace plastic dental floss with silk dental floss that comes in a glass container, replace your plastic toothbrush with a wooden one.  
  2. Try meatless Monday!
    Excessive meat consumption, especially if it involves factory farming, can have grave effects on the environment. Going “meatless” one day a week can make positive impacts; it can also lead to healthier habits by motivating you to eat more fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes.
  3. Open up your blinds and use natural light as much as possible before switching on your light bulbs. Additionally, turn off your devices at night.
  4. Forego fast fashion and invest in higher-quality, staple pieces.
    Learn more about the impact of fast fashion [hyperlink to fast fashion article] Also, consider donate your old clothes, and thrift shop!
  5. Buy locally and support eco-friendly initiatives!
    Some of 8Shades’ favourite local stores include:
    • Check out Live Zero,a zero-waste bulk food store that sells package-free ingredients and pantry items. Bring your own containers and jars to the store and fill up on nuts, flours, granola, oats herbs and more. The store also sell eco-friendly household products. Learn more at: https://livezero.hk/ 
    • Check out Soap Cycling: a non-profit that works with the hospitality industry to recycle soap and bottled amenities to service communities in need. Learn more at: https://www.soapcycling.org/  
  6. Promote sustainability initiatives and sustainability practices with your friends and family!
    Consider watching documentaries with your friends and family to spread the sustainability message. Check out https://youmatter.world/en/10-best-documentaries-climate-change/ for the top rated documentaries about raising awareness on climate change. Alternatively, plan to do a beach clean-up with your friends.
  7. Start small start your sustainability journey now and pick your own shade of green.