If we work together, we can put more time towards rubbish separation, seek fresh air in our cities or create new conservation areas. Want to know where to start? This week, we will be providing simple tips to start building a more climate-friendly life. Whether you’re just getting started on the green path or you’re a pro, there’s tips for everyone. Today we look at reducing plastic use. Let’s go!
In a city like Hong Kong, where I live, stores like 7-11 and big chain supermarkets have gradually replaced local wet markets where fresh food and meat are sold direct from farmer to consumer. With this change comes a bundle of plastic wrapping to preserve shelf life and prevent contamination. All this extra plastic adds to the planet’s environmental bill in more ways than one: pre-packaged meat and vegetables are being imported from afar, meaning our plastic use increases and our reliance upon imported foods has become normalised.
Plastic is helping to fuel the “culture of convenience” and vice versa and it is happening across the world. We easily go through 20 pieces of plastic per day individually. Here are some of our tips for cutting down.
Just Say No…
when given disposable cutlery, chopsticks or any other eating utensils if purchasing food from a street vendor or when a cashier in a bakery wraps your six hot buns, cookies or croissants in six individual plastic bags and then packs them all into one big carry bag.
You might want to consider taking your own cutlery with you wherever you go. I sometimes bring my own to restaurants as many of those that I frequent in Hong Kong only provide disposable options.
BYO (Bring Your Own)
Bags: Going shopping? Take a carry bag with you. There are million cloth bags out there with unique and fashionable designs that make perfect shopping bags and can be reused again and again. For forgetful people like myself, remembering to carry a shopping bag might be a challenge so I usually carry a small backpack or a large-sized handbag that I can just stuff when the necessary shopping is done.
Bottles: I always have my Columbia water-bottle with me so that I can fill up water in restaurants and not have to buy a new bottle of water each time. Other possibilities for refilling your water bottle when out and about include public drinking stations and, where possible, public bathrooms.
The reason I ask in restaurants? Amazingly, Hong Kong lags behind other countries in terms of offering drinking water taps and stations in public spaces unlike its neighbour Taiwan, where such things are prevalent in shopping malls, supermarkets and public areas. Nevertheless, at least Taiwanese shopkeepers won’t give you a cold look when you ask to refill your water bottle.
Want to avoid the bottle altogether? Check out our Act Now article Avoiding Bottled Water for tips.
Most supermarkets have to package their food as part of health and safety regulations. But at wet markets (also known as fresh produce markets), where the supply chain used to get food to the customers is a lot more direct, it’s a different story which is why I go shopping for fresh food only at the latter as there is far less packaging involved. Bonus points: these markets are also renowned for offering a wider range of local goods whereas in supermarkets, you find a lot of imported food.
What else can you do? Find more quick tips from our editorial special here: Small Steps, Big Impact