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5 Easy Changes For Plastic Free July

 

Plastic Free July has grown from a handful of participants in Western Australia in 2011, to millions of participants across more than 150 countries worldwide today.
 
This incredible transformation has led them to become an independent, not-for-profit charitable foundation and their vision is a world without plastic waste. 

By encouraging people to be more aware of their plastic use, and supporting behaviour change during the month of July every year, hopefully this dream will become more of a reality.

It might seem overwhelming to think of living 100% plastic free, but any small change you can make matters.  Read below to see 5 easy changes everyone can make without any stress!

1. CLEANING: Make your own household cleaners in a glass spray bottle.  These highly durable, refillable 16 oz glass spray bottles make it easy to replace wasteful store-bought chemical cleaners with all-natural, non-toxic homemade cleaners you make at home.

Simply choose a recipe, add ingredients to the fill lines on the bottle, shake, and you're ready to clean!

 

 

2. KITCHEN: Replace your disposable plastic zip lock bags with silicone storage bags.  Long-lasting, useful and so versatile, you'll never need to visit the zip-lock aisle in the grocery store again.  And think about all of that plastic saved from the landfill!

 

3.  EATING:  Bring along a reusable bamboo cutlery set for food on the go. How about a bamboo utensil set to round out the perfect toolkit for life on the go? A handy carabiner on the back lets you clip and carry a fork, knife, spoon and chopsticks wherever you may roam. Perfect for a busy lifestyle and our precious planet. 

 

4.  BAGS:  Always carry a reusable bag with you while you're out and about.  This tote is my new favorite PFHK product!  It is so versatile and can carry lots of weight, and of course eliminates the need for disposable plastic bags.  From the grocery to the beach, I always find I'm reaching for it while I'm out and about.

 

5.  BATHROOM: Stainless steel safety razor instead of plastic, disposable one. Over 2 billion disposable plastic razors are thrown out each year in the U.S. alone.  That's enough to wrap around the Earth end-to-end 6 times!  Let's return to the good old days of safety razors and eliminate the need for this type of plastic waste.

 

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From Our E-Shelves: Top 5 Father's Day Gift Ideas

In our home, we try to live as minimally as possible.  And when we do buy things, we ask ourselves "Is it useful?"  and/or "Does it bring us pleasure/etc?".  We don't want things clogging our home that don't serve a purpose or bring us joy.

So when the holidays arrive and days of gift giving occur, sometimes it can be difficult to think of ideas because we feel like we have everything we need!  (and what a blessing that is!)  So we thought we'd put together a short list of possible ideas for your dad, husband, brother, son that could show your love, sustainably! 

1.  Teakwood S'well Bottle  $290

 

2.  Brass Wire BBQ Brush  $200

 

3.  Zero Waste Shaving Kit  $415

 

4.  Three-In-One Lunchbox  $275

 

5.  Reusable Coffee Cup  $100

 

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Can Plastic Truly Be Recycled?

Can Plastic Truly Be Recycled?

So can plastic truly be recycled?  Let's break it down, plain and simple...

Materials like metal, glass and paper can truly be recycled because they can be remade into the same form without needing any additional materials to do so. A recycled glass container can be continually remade into a glass container, over and over and over again, without ever needing new material and without ever needing to go to the landfill.

Plastic on the other hand, cannot be. The process of recycling plastic weakens it, so new, virgin plastic must be added to it in order to make the same form again. Essentially, plastic can be DOWN-cycled but not truly REcycled. For example, a recycled plastic water bottle can be down-cycled into teddy bear stuffing or a synthetic rug, but not into another water bottle without needing to add new plastic.  And eventually, this down cycled plastic will run it's lifecycle to the end and will end up in the landfill.

So now you can see why recycling is definitely not the answer.  Not much of plastic gets recycled anyways, and that which does, is destined one day to end up in the landfills or waterways.  So what is the answer???  Refusal!  Not using it at all, and instead, finding a truly sustainable alternative that can be reused, recycled or will biodegrade and return to the earth one day. 

And for Hong Kongers looking for glass recycling drop off points, check out this link:  http://www.glass-recycling.com.hk 

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Reusable Coffee Cups: Just Do It

Single-use disposable coffee cups are one of the most wasteful inventions of our time. In any given year, 58 billion paper cups are thrown into landfills by consumers in the U.S. alone! Yes, I said BILLION!  What’s more, 4 billion single-use coffee cups are thrown out by consumers of Starbucks every year! It takes 1 million trees to produce the paper for all those cups, and that’s without consideration of the energy and water needed, as well as the space in landfills to hold these disposable cups. A study done by the International Coffee Organisation (ICO) found that Hong Kong is the 17th largest market for tea, with 1.428 lbs drunk per capita per year. With this scale, we have to do better. Ocean Recovery Alliance “persuaded the Pacific Coffee chain to get on board with reducing plastic waste by launching a lid-return programme... Customers who bring back their coffee cup lids are given a free drink upgrade, while the plastic lids are sent for recycling.” Although a considerable improvement, what would be even better is reducing the number of disposable cups used. That is the goal of the new tax imposed on coffee cups in the U.K. Consumers will now have to pay more for using a disposable cup provided by coffee shops. Maybe something like that should be implemented in Hong Kong... 

But you know, there is a very simple, very easy solution to all of this - bring your own cup! All of our reusable coffee/tea cups here at Plastic-Free HK are sourced from the British reusable coffee cup company, Ecoffee Cup. According to their website, cups are made “with the world’s most sustainable crop – bamboo fibre”, and are BPA and phthalate free. Yay! I love this brand because their values align with mine, and their products are just awesome; you can choose from a variety of colours, sizes, and patterns, and there are even accessories. There is also a William Morris collection… be right back; I’m getting one of these! They do customisation and bespoke design for Universities and companies alike and are currently selling their cups at “1000 independent retail outlets, cafes and restaurants in the UK, Europe, Russia, South Africa and beyond” (including here in Hong Kong at PFHK)

You can see all of our reusable Ecoffee Cups currently in stock by visiting our website, and please feel free to use the below discount code for an extra 10% off our cups until the end of the month, or while supplies last!

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Zero-Waste Oil Cleansing

Zero-Waste Oil Cleansing
Have you ever heard of oil cleansing?  I discovered it this year and I will never wash my face with anything else ever again!  Not only is it cleansing for all skin types, but also moisturizing, simple, effective, efficient and of course zero-waste!  I can't flaw it really. Continue reading

Zero Waste Hummus!

Zero Waste Hummus!

 

Going to the grocery store can be overwhelming when you're trying to live a less wasteful life, especially when you live here in Hong Kong.  So I've decided to take it one plastic packaged grocery item at a time, and try to find a more sustainable option.

First challenge: HUMMUS!  My love for hummus is real!  But of course most come in plastic tubs.  And you all know where these end up.  So after I found the absolute best recipe on Inspired Taste, I looked through my local grocery store and found all the ingredients I needed in glass/metal jars.  

The salt, chickpeas (garbanzo beans) and tahini all come in glass and metal, I buy our olive oil in a bulk metal tin from Olive Tree HK and of course the lemon and garlic come loose.  If you'd like to add cumin I'm sure you can also find this with a metal cap, but this is just the one we had on hand at home.

Once you have all of the ingredients gathered, it doesn't take long to make at all.  A smooth creamy crowd please, for sure!  And no plastic waste.

INGREDIENTS

1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas or 1 1/2 cups (250 grams) cooked chickpeas

1/4 cup (60 ml) fresh lemon juice (1 large lemon)

1/4 cup (60 ml) well-stirred tahini

1 small garlic clove, minced

2 tablespoons (30 ml) extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

Salt to taste

2 to 3 tablespoons (30 to 45 ml) water

Dash ground paprika, for serving

 

DIRECTIONS

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the tahini and lemon juice and process for 1 minute, scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl then process for 30 seconds more. This extra time helps “whip” or “cream” the tahini, making the hummus smooth and creamy.

Add the olive oil, minced garlic, cumin, and a 1/2 teaspoon of salt to the whipped tahini and lemon juice. Process for 30 seconds, scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl then process another 30 seconds or until well blended.

Open, drain, and rinse the chickpeas. Add half of the chickpeas to the food processor and process for 1 minute. Scrape sides and bottom of the bowl, then add remaining chickpeas and process until thick and quite smooth; 1 to 2 minutes.

Taste for salt and adjust as needed. Serve hummus with a drizzle of olive oil and dash of paprika. Store homemade hummus in an airtight container and refrigerate up to one week.

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How Long Until It's Gone?

Have you ever wondered how long your waste takes to break down and return to the Earth?  I did and some of the statistics are shocking!  


As I've always said, change comes through education.  Once we know the implications of plastic waste in our world, we will be able to do nothing other than CHANGE!  So let's Learn: The biggest takeaway from this information is this: plastic will never fully biodegrade.  "While plastic may break down into smaller and smaller pieces, some as small as grains of sand, these pieces are never truly biodegradable. The plastic bits, some small enough that they're called microplastics, threaten marine life like fish and birds", explains Richard Thompson, a professor of marine biology at Plymouth University in the U.K.

  • Paper towel: 2-4 weeks
  • Apple core: 2 months
  • Cigarette butt: 1-5 years
  • Plastic grocery bag: 10-20 years
  • Tin can: 50 years
  • Styrofoam: 50 years
  • Rubber sole: 50-80 years
  • Aluminum can: 200 years
  • Plastic beverage holder ring: 400 years
  • Plastic bottles: 450 years
  • Disposable diapers: 450 years
  • Fishing line: 600 years

*Again, it's so important to remember that the plastic items on this list will never disappear, rather only break down into tiny pieces which will then either get ingested by wildlife or poison our waterways and soil.

***Source: U.S. National Parks Service, NOAA (National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, U.S.)

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10 Ways To Go Plastic-Free!

To kick off our first blog post, we thought it would be good to share with you our top 10 ways to reduce the plastic waste in your life.  Most of these might seem obvious or insignificant, but if everyone got on board with these changes, the world would be impacted greatly in such a positive way!  Let's motivate, encourage and help each other to make these lasting changes!

 

1. Stainless steel straws:  The amount of single use, disposable plastic straws used globally on a daily basis is frightening.  And the impact they have on our environment is equally so. The Plastic Pollution Coalition has estimated that over 500,000,000 plastic straws are used every day in the U.s. alone.  Yes, I said billion. And they find their way into our waterways and oceans and create havoc with the marine life, either by being lodged into sea turtles noses like the one in this video, or ingested and getting into the food chain, which then brings up concerns over our own food safety.  How much are we affected by the plastic ingested by the fish we eat?  What strikes me the most with disposable straws is that there isn't any real need for them.  We use them because we're used to them.  But wouldn't it be just as easy to use paper straws or bring along our own stainless steel or glass straws?  I think so!  Check out the ones we love Here!

2. Cloth shopping bags: Single use, disposable plastic bags is another big contender in the plastic pollution debacle.  Think of it this way: they're made from a non-renewable resource (crude oil), and once they're made, they're impossible to get rid of.  So basically it's a huge waste any way you look at it.  And once these bags are made and distributed to stores around the world, the consumer uses them for maybe 20 or 30 minutes to get their goods home, then throws it away.  Why?  I just ask myself why? What's the point?  Why spend so much time and effort to produce such a wasteful product that creates so much pollution throughout it's lifecycle?  Cloth bags are easy to come by, easy to carry, and I believe, much more efficient than it's plastic counterpart.  And more comfortable too!  

3. Bamboo toothbrushes: Yes, every single plastic toothbrush that you have ever used in your lifetime is still sitting somewhere.  These don't biodegrade, and from the research I've done, most recycling programs don't accept them.  

And moreover, since this is another item that is frequently replaced (every 3 months or so) by most people in the world, it's another item that creates horrendous amounts of unnecessary waste.  So here I go again asking myself "Why?".  Why are we all using these wasteful, non-biodegradable items when there is an equally effective product out there that could replace it?  I think for most people it is lack of education.  We just don't know any better.  Well, I can tell you I've been using a bamboo toothbrush for quite some time now and it's amazing.  And not only is the handle sustainable, but the bristles are made from 62% castor beans and can be recycled too!  Click on the picture above to see more details.  Happy brushing!

4. Stainless steel water bottles: #4 follows suit as the previous three.  Throwaway, single use plastic bottles is an item used by millions, maybe billions, of people every day, and it's unnecessary.  
It creates harmful waste that doesn't need to occur.  All we need to do as a whole is agree to carry our own reusable drinking vessels (preferably a sustainable option made from renewable, biodegradable materials). And while we're at it, let's find a way to provide clean/free drinking water throughout our cities and towns that everyone has access to.  Water should not be a commodity!  Here at Plastic-Free HK we're big on providing sustainable options to replace the big plastic polluters that we all are privy to and threatened by on a daily basis.  I've done lots of research on good options, and I sing the praises of both Pura Stainless and S'well bottles. 

5. Food storage: Plastics are big in the food storage industry.  Plastic wrap, plastic baggies, plastic containers.  You get the picture.  Eventually these items will break or wear out and you will need to throw them away.  And into the landfill they go.  So we see these items as important ones to find sustainable options for.  So far we've found beeswax wraps to replace the cling film and beautiful stainless steel and silicone food containers for storage at home and on-the-go.  Such simple changes that will make lasting impact.

6. Sustainable soap options: My family is almost completely switched over to bar soap in all of our bathrooms and showers/bathtubs.  My husband and I have been using it for quite some time, but for some reason I fell under the spell of believing my toddler son needed a "special" liquid soap for his bath time and that we needed "special" hand soap for our bathrooms.  There are some marketing geniuses out there, that's for sure!  I was duped for a long time but now realize bar soap works pretty well across the board.  And for our dishwashing liquid, I only buy from companies that use 100% post consumer materials to produce their plastic bottles, which means they're only using plastic that is already in the system.  The two companies I support completely are Ecover & seventh generation.  It's so important to consider the source!  Get to know the companies you are giving your dollar to.  It matters!

7. Plastic-free produce: Here in Hong Kong, it's an uphill battle finding produce that is not wrapped in plastic a million times over, but there definitely are options.  The two things that have helped me the most are farmer's markets and wet markets.  


8. Buy fresh meat & cheeses: I found an amazing butcher I love and trust that I can buy fresh meat from.  I either bring my own container for him to put the meat in or he wraps it in paper and off I go!  I've also found the best quality cheese sold right here in Sai Kung where I can buy it without the plastic too.  If I can remember, I bring my beeswax wraps and he uses this for transport.  If not he has paper as well. Again, a bit more planning and effort goes into purchasing these items, but the benefits for our environment far outweighs what it costs me.I buy as much as I can from the farmer's markets because this produce is mostly local and very often organic.  And for everything else I try to pick up at the wet markets around town.  It does take a bit of concerted effort, but to me it's worth it and makes me feel like I've achieved a small miracle when I come home with produce that is free of plastic wrap or plastic containers.

9. Drink more water: A lot of plastic waste comes from beverages: juices, sodas, etc.  At home we use a Big Berkey gravity water filter, which is long lasting and sustainable, making it a very good investment.  (And can I just say, I'm so in love with this water filter!  Highly recommended!)  I fill my water bottle up before I leave the house and have yummy teas throughout the day as well.  When we want juice for our son or guests, we either buy it in a glass jar or make it fresh.  For awhile I got into buying apple juice for our family, but every time we emptied it I felt a little sad that I was putting more plastic into the system, so I stopped and found other sustainable options that I felt good about.

10. Refuse!: This is one of the greatest lessons I've learned this past year as I educate myself about plastic pollution: refuse the things we don't need or will only use once. Just say NO!

9. Drink more water: A lot of plastic waste comes from beverages: juices, sodas, etc.  At home we use a Big Berkey gravity water filter, which is long lasting and sustainable, making it a very good investment.  (And can I just say, I'm so in love with this water filter!  Highly recommended!)  I fill my water bottle up before I leave the house and have yummy teas throughout the day as well.  When we want juice for our son or guests, we either buy it in a glass jar or make it fresh.  For awhile I got into buying apple juice for our family, but every time we emptied it I felt a little sad that I was putting more plastic into the system, so I stopped and found other sustainable options that I felt good about.

10. Refuse!: This is one of the greatest lessons I've learned this past year as I educate myself about plastic pollution: refuse the things we don't need or will only use once. Just say NO!

9. Drink more water: A lot of plastic waste comes from beverages: juices, sodas, etc.  At home we use a Big Berkey gravity water filter, which is long lasting and sustainable, making it a very good investment.  (And can I just say, I'm so in love with this water filter!  Highly recommended!)  I fill my water bottle up before I leave the house and have yummy teas throughout the day as well.  When we want juice for our son or guests, we either buy it in a glass jar or make it fresh.  For awhile I got into buying apple juice for our family, but every time we emptied it I felt a little sad that I was putting more plastic into the system, so I stopped and found other sustainable options that I felt good about.

10. Refuse!: This is one of the greatest lessons I've learned this past year as I educate myself about plastic pollution: refuse the things we don't need or will only use once. Just say NO!

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