Is your cocktail eco-unfriendly?

Alcohol is generally an unsustainable industry; a 750ml bottle of liquor produces, on average, nearly 3kgs of CO2. So which alcoholic drink is the greenest? It’s tough to say, since production methods, distillation techniques and ingredients vary from bottle to bottle of even the same kinds of spirits. Instead, let’s look at each drink individually and determine how sustainable they really are.


DRINK LESS OF THESE (THEY’RE LESS SUSTAINABLE)

Source: Flor De Cana

RUM

Rum is derived from sugarcane, a notoriously unsustainable crop, associated with biodiversity loss, water and soil pollution, erosion and harmful slash-and-burn harvesting methods. Thankfully, organic rum at least takes chemical pesticides and fertilisers out of the production process but it can be tricky to find.

We like: Flor de Caña rum. It’s fair-trade-certified, running on 100% renewable energy, also with a carbon-neutral certification. 

Source: Mijenta

TEQUILA

With tequila, firstly, you’re unlikely to find a local distiller living in Hong Kong; it must trace the origins of its agave (tequila’s base ingredient) to the Tequila region in Mexico to bear the name, making transportation emissions inevitable. Secondly, agave is slow-growing and vulnerable to pests, leading to increased pesticide use. Production also releases acidic waste called vinaza; for every litre of tequila produced, about 10 litres of vinaza is released, which seeps into waterways. 

We like: Mijenta Tequila Blanco which makes its labels out of agave waste and uses eco-certified packaging.

VODKA & GIN

Most vodkas are made from a mix of grains, such as corn, rice, rye and sorghum (and sometimes potatoes, too). The same goes for gin (with added juniper berries and other botanicals). During the distillation process, which usually accounts for the largest percentage of an alcoholic beverage’s effect on the environment, vodka is distilled to nearly pure ethanol before bottling, using more energy and water than other booze. Gins are often made the same way.

We like: Reyka vodka, whose distillation process is powered by geothermal energy. Cooper King herb gin is made by a distillery that runs on 100% green energy, and produces its gin using “vacuum distillation,” the process of distilling alcohol under reduced pressure compared to typical methods in order to save energy.


DRINK MORE OF THESE (THEY’RE MORE SUSTAINABLE)

WINE

While most vineyards are monocultures that typically rely on herbicides and pesticides, industry bodies and even governments are intervening to make wine production more eco-friendly.

In France, vineyards cover about 3% of agricultural land but represent about 20% of pesticide use. The government has subsequently introduced new environmental standards that require a 50% reduction in chemical spraying by 2025. Around the world, sustainability is becoming the new normal, with many regions requiring its wine producers to be certified sustainable. 

The wine industry produces less waste than other alcohols, but a general rule when it comes to wine is… location. The distance the booze has to travel significantly impacts its carbon footprint. 

We like: Cork Culture, an online wine store devoted to low-intervention and sustainable wines in Hong Kong. 

Source: HK Beer Co

BEER

Brewing beer is a water and energy intensive process that generates a significant amount of solid waste, but brewers are increasingly investing in environmentally sustainable equipment. Shipping cans rather than bottles results in 30% fewer emissions and cans are recycled at significantly higher rates than bottles. 

We like: Hong Kong Beer Co is continuously investing in sustainable initiatives, recycling its glass bottles to reduce CO2 usage. 


At the end of the day, whatever your tipple might be, there are some things you can do to reduce the carbon footprint; look for locally made drinks, buy in bulk and be mindful of the packaging. Now don’t worry, we’re not telling you to ditch booze completely, we know how rewarding an (8Shades cocktail from Penicillin) is after a long week, but small tweaks will give you peace of mind that you’re not placing unnecessary strain on the planet’s resources.

Cheers to that!

THE 101 on HAVING A PLASTIC FREE PERIOD

To end May on a high, we are celebrating International Menstruation Day today on the 28th May! We are wrapping up our period series this month with our top picks for a plastic period.

IF IT’S NOT AN ENVIRONMENTAL HIT, MAKE THE SWITCH

When using tampons, look for those with cardboard applicators, which unlike their plastic counterparts, are totally biodegradable. Did you know that there is no scientific evidence that plastic applicators are better for women’s bodies than cardboard or applicator-free tampons? Check out TOTM, LOLA, and Natracare for plastic-free tampons (and even pads) that don’t sacrifice any of the comfort and security we need each month.


UNCOMMON THINKERS REUSE WHAT COMMON THINKERS REFUSE

Source: DAME

Some women are hesitant to make the switch to cardboard applicators because they offer less glide than a plastic applicator. Cue DAME, creator of the world’s first reusable tampon applicator, made of antibacterial medical-grade material that offers the comfort of a plastic applicator. While DAME’s reusable applicator can be used with any standard tampon, whatever the brand, DAME also sells its own line of biodegradable tampons that are made from organic cotton and free from the bleach, rayon, fragrances, pesticides that are found in traditional tampons. 


I SEE LONDON, I SEE FRANCE, I SEE PERIOD UNDERPANTS

Source: ModiBodi

Period-proof underwear provides another environmentally friendly alternative to disposable menstrual products. The underwear is made of absorbent material that can hold one to two tampons’ worth of menstrual flow, and can be popped into the wash at the end of the day. Check out Sustain, Aisle and Modibodi for period-proof underwear that’s made of sustainable fabrics and comes in a wide-variety of styles, ranging from full briefs to skimpy thongs, that match seamlessly with any outfit. 


THE BEST CUP YOU NEVER HAD

Source: Luuna

The menstrual cup has become the fan favorite in terms of zero-waste period products. The reusable bell-shaped device is made of medical-grade silicone, which reduces the risk of toxic shock syndrome that accompanies tampons. Worn internally, the cup sits low in the vaginal canal and collects, rather than absorbs, menstrual flow. The menstrual cup is also hugely cost-effective, especially when considering the cumulative costs of buying hundreds of tampons and pads each year.

Unlike tampons that need to be changed several times throughout the day, menstrual cups are virtually leak-free and hold three times the volume of a pad or tampon. When full, the cup can be simply removed, emptied, washed and reinserted. At 8Shades, our menstrual cup of choice is from Hong Kong-based social impact period care company, Luüna Naturals.

3 Perfectly sustainable dish cloths for around the house

It’s well-known that Hong Kong is not as good as they could be at being sustainable. If the world lived like Hong Kong, we would need nearly four Earths to sustain us all! 

In 2019, 5.67 million tonnes of waste was generated, of which 29% was recycled and the rest went to landfills. Households can do more to reduce the amount of waste they produce by simply looking at their cleaning products. Dish cloths may seem an innocuous culprit, but they add to the textile waste filling up the city’s landfills. Let’s play our part and start small. Here are our top 3 eco-friendly dish cloths and where to get them. 


ORGANIC WAFFLE KITCHEN TOWEL

Source: Coyuchi

These kitchen towels have a super unique composition- they are waffle-weaved, which means that the surface area of the towel can expand to soak up more liquid (it also helps it dry faster). Yarn-dyed, they have a soft colour that will endure through hard work and frequent washing. These towels are made with Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)- certified 100% organic cotton.

Further, the factory they’re made in in India recycles 98% of its waste-water, so the product is sustainable at its source! 

We found this set of 6 at Coyuchi.com for USD$48 (HKD$370). 


COTTON CLEANING CLOTH

Made of cotton, this cloth is soft, yet durable. Cotton as a material is very sustainable and is able to biodegrade in environments with oxygen (like a compost heap) or without, albeit more slowly (like landfills). While the speed of its biodegradability depends on certain environmental conditions, like the amount of oxygen and water present, temperature, etc., cotton is generally able to biodegrade in about five months

Find it on slowood.hk. They’re slightly pricier than non-sustainable cloths (around HDK80 for one) but they will last longer! 


CELLULOSE DISH CLOTH

This one that we found is made with 100% compostable German cellulose wood pulp. In general, cellulose fibres like modal, viscose and lyocell are extracted from plant-based materials and are recyclable, biodegradable and dye well, resulting in less chemical pollution. This cloth is made with 30% cotton and 70% cellulose wood pulp.

As for the cloth itself, it is super absorbent, with one able to replace up to 15 rolls of paper. It’s also machine washable and dries quickly without a smell, so it is perfect for humid Hong Kong weather.

We found this on hktvmall.com for HKD$52 for a pack of 5. 


Our cleaning products are a small part of our lives, but that’s what makes them so easy to change! Being less wasteful starts in our own lives and if we can encourage others to follow our lead, we could save a lot of waste from being produced! 

Is “grass-fed” just a load of bull?

GRASS-FED IS HEALTHIER

It’s simple, as kids we grew up learning that cows eat grass on the farm. So when did it get so complicated? We never learned that cows actually eat a whole array of unfathomable things like candy and corn. Say what?!

Source: Farmers Weekly

The stark reality is that the majority of the beef we are eating today is closer to the latter. 

I hate to break it to you, but a lot of the beef that ends up on our plates actually comes from cows that have been fed everything from genetically modified grains to Skittles rejects that didn’t make it onto the supermarket shelves. As their diets are so lacking in nutrition, they are also fed a cocktail of antibiotics and growth hormone to ensure they reach full size. 

The effects on their health are telling and the jury is out, factory-farmed meat is simply neither healthy for the cows, nor us, nor for the planet. 

Source: Physics World

DON’T PANIC!

WE JUST NEED TO SOURCE OUR FOOD RESPONSIBLY, SO HERE’S THE LOWDOWN ON GRASS-FED

At 8Shades we are inclusive and respect every kind of diet, which is why we want to highlight how you can eat healthier meat. 

When you see the label “grass-fed” you automatically assume that the beef is happier and healthier because of the diet it’s been fed and because of the lifestyle it’s lived, but that’s not always the case. Grass-fed literally means “this cow has eaten some grass in its lifetime” as opposed to “this cow has ONLY eaten grass during its lifetime”. It’s subtle but the difference can mean a staggering change in the health of the animal and in turn, the health that you ingest. 

Source: Business Insider

GRASS-FED IS NOT A PROTECTED LABEL LIKE “ORGANIC” OR “NON-GMO”

Which means a label that says grass-fed is open to creative interpretation. You need to look for labels stipulating “100% grass-fed” or “100% pastured”, or even better, get to know your local butcher and find out more about where he sources his meat from! 

BOTTOM LINE:
Grass fed is a phrase that is thrown around alot, so do your homework before you buy and make sure to always buy 100% grass fed or 100% pastured. If you can, talk to your butcher and buy natural beef.

Fermenting for your gut and the planet

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.

Source: Localiiz

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.

Bottled water is out, water filters are in

One of the greatest offenders of single-use plastic in this world is our old friend, or rather, foe; bottled water. 

Bottled water was first sold using glass containers way back in the day, but it wasn’t until the 1970s that the use of plastic became prolific and thus entangled an entire generation into an addiction – an addition to convenience. 

What was once created out of sheer accessibility has now contributed in a colossal way to the destruction of our environment, land and sea. 


Source: theNewYorkTimes

Plastic filters aren’t the answer

The solution that followed spelt a huge shift in how we think about and consume water both at home and on the go. Reusable bottles began to come into fashion alongside those Brita filter jugs, which has ushered in a new cycle – replacing the plastic insert filters once a month as well as the flimsy plastic jug every so often. 


Source: Gafencu

A more sustainable alternative

For those with families, requiring a higher water volume on demand, the Berkey water filtration system is more than just a filter; it’s a complete water purification system that just sits on your countertop. Beyond filtering out all the regular nasties, it promises to obliterate almost all bacteria and viruses along with fluoride which is rare to find. A gravity-fed system means no electricity is required and the sleek, freestanding stainless steel vessels houses filters that only require changing once every three years.


Source: thecharcoalpeople

Natural charcoal filters are in

One of the most cost-effective, low-commitment filter options is charcoal, which binds to toxins present in water naturally, ridding it of substances such as copper, chlorine, mercury, pesticides, lead and VOCs. It is important, however, to note that they will not remove fluoride from water, which is often a concern. 

Once a charcoal stick has reached the end of its water-filtering life, it can find a second life as a refrigerator deodoriser or planted in soil to absorb more water into your plants. 

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. 

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.


Click through to our Instagram page here to enter the competition now!

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: