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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Simple plastic alternatives that you can get in Hong Kong
Adopting plastic-free alternatives that are practical and sustainable doesn’t have to be difficult. Changing a few key items in your life will go a long way to reduce your carbon footprint.
Here are eight plastic-free products that look, and do good.
Globally, about 23 billion plastic toothbrushes are trashed each year, each one taking up to 500 years to fully decompose. Bamboo is a natural material, is fast-growing and 100% biodegradable, decomposing in landfill within 6 months.
Steel Containers and Drinking Straws
Consider switching out your plastic lunch container and straws for steel ones; steel can be infinitely recycled and is 100% recyclable without losing its quality, ensuring sturdy and durable containers for years to come.
A less wasteful alternative is a menstrual cup, that can be safely used again and again and can hold up to three times as much liquid as a tampon! Additionally, they don’t shed microplastics, as conventional period care does. We like LUÜNA Period Cups which are made of 100% medical grade silicone, are super soft and can last for up to eight years.
While not biodegradable, glass is relatively inexpensive and infinitely recyclable. Jars can be added to your no-waste toolkit for shopping from bulk stores, or they can be repurposed to store leftovers, use as sprouting jars or serve as decorations around the house.
Natural fibres are just that – natural and won’t shed microplastics when washed or used unlike synthetic fibres like polyester or acrylic that are more problematic for the environment and often used for cleaning & in the kitchen. Natural fibres include organic cotton, hemp and bamboo.
Organic Cotton Bags
As less than 5% of the 1 trillion single-use plastic bags discarded each year gets recycled, consider switching to organic cotton bags, which are free of chemical residues and decompose in landfill within 5 months. Check out Slowood’s reusable organic cotton bags. It may be helpful to put a reusable bag in your handbag or backpack and car to make sure that you don’t need to buy a new reusable bag everytime you go out!
Shampoo & Soap Bars
Shampoo & soap bars cut out the need for plastic bottles. Even better, many of them are free of palm oil, an ingredient linked to deforestation, like those of Ethique and Meow Meow Tweet. Additionally, shampoo bars are more effective than most conventional shampoos; on average, a one bar will outlast two to three bottles of liquid shampoo.
As you eliminate plastic from your life, you’re not only cutting your own contribution to the waste stream, you’re modeling more sustainable living for those around you. As demand for more sustainable business practices grows, companies will respond and use of harmful plastics can be stemmed.
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 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 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.
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!
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.
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:
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 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 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?
Video: Veronica Chou applying material science to materialism
8Shaders, welcome to the first ever episode of 8ShadesTV!
Since this is our very first episode, of course my inaugural guest is someone paramount in my own life but more importantly making footprints, not the carbon kind, in the sustainable fashion world.
Let’s be realistic here for a second, are we ever going to stop consuming? It will take a lot for our economy to change, so we are faced with finding ways to make sure our choices are making fewer footprints, of the bad kind.
Everybody and Everyone’s favorite Veronica Chou – pun intended. Watch Veronica and I discussing sustainability in fashion right here.
In 2019, Veronica launched her first eco-innovative, sustainable, size inclusive and body positive womenswear, Everybody and Everyone. They offer sizes between 00-24 which aims to provide accessible, everyday clothing to make our hectic lives just that little bit simpler. Their designs are so versatile and can be worn in a variety of ways so that you can buy quality clothes that will last longer, ultimately buying less resulting in less waste, AKA slow fashion.
Sustainability at the core of Everybody and Everyone
Take a scroll through our 8Shades Pick of the week and you will see Everybody and Everyone’s newly launched athletic wear (that you see us wearing here) which can biodegrade in landfill in just 3 years. Everybody and Everyone partners with EcoAlf for their signature dual-use puffer coat which is made from reclaimed ocean plastic bottles and recycled polyester. They also use material science to create pants that are made of sugar extracted from agriculture waste … sweet!
Their products are coated with PFOA/PFC free finishes and activated with recycled silver for odor control and anti-microbial property. This results in less laundry, less water wastage and fewer chores – phew!
Another way they are eliminating waste is by using technology to visualize garments in 3D before producing them, eradicating the need to manufacture endless prototypes.
A brand this incredible of course has a cool charity collaboration and are working with One Tree Planted to plant a tree for every product sold. Everybody and Everyone are definitely a brand that we are supporting all the way.
8Shades of Veronica Chou
Aside from our hike, Veronica also took some time to answer our new “8Shadey questions”, designed to give you a more intimate peek into the lives of our featured guests!
You know that famous saying “stop and smell the flowers”? It’s a particularly good reminder right now especially to stop and appreciate what 2020 has bought us. While I sit back and practise being present, I’m reminded of those who have brought me joy last year in such a tough time.
Flowers are definitely a top pick when I want to share some joy. They look and smell incredible, and they can say so much without uttering a word, like “I love you” or “I’m sorry”. As I get older and more committed to finding ways to protect and appreciate nature, I find the beauty of flowers in their natural environment (like in the wild) much more uplifting, than seeing them withering away in a vase at home.
The local florists are all rushed off their feet with Valentine’s Day coming up, imagine the supply chains all around the world farming, clipping, packaging and shipping billions of beautiful bouquets to our local sellers, temporarily smelling divine then within weeks ending up in the garbage. While the traditional way of turning up with a surprise bouquet to your love shows them just how much you care is nice, there is now a new and creative “green” way to show you care.
Yup, V Day LEGO’s a thing now
When I first saw LEGO’s botanical collection flower bouquet I wasn’t convinced of their sustainability credentials but when I scratched the surface I learned that their new range is made with sustainable bioplastics made from sugar cane.
Build more love
You know LEGO. Yes those little brick building toys we all love or loved at one point in our lives. My favourite new set is this LEGO flower bouquet. Not only is it more sustainable compared to fresh flowers, it is so much more unique and creative! Build it for your love or spark more joy by building it together.
What a creative way to gift flowers; not only do they last forever, you can spend time actually creating something for your love which in my opinion, is much more meaningful than just buying a bouquet from a shop – take it from a girl 😉
For all you single girls out there, even better to gift yourself something fun and beautiful that will last forever.
Mum’s deserve some love too
Don’t worry, if V Day LEGO flower giving isn’t your thing, Mother’s Day is also coming up. I know my Mum would love the nostalgia of watching (and laughing) at me building her LEGO bouquet. How thoughtful can a daughter get?
As complicated as it looks, don’t let that put you off. Instructions are included and it’s a good way to give your right brain a good workout.
Let’s all consider showing our love the “green” way this year.
8Shaders, you can be one of the lucky ones and win this LEGO flower bouquet, just check out the giveaway on IG for details. Happy V Day!