low waste food: Hong Kong
"I'd say one of the hardest changes in converting to a low waste lifestyle is food, especially in Hong Kong." This was the first line of this post when I originally posted it in November. It is still true that one of the harder changes is food, but not "especially in Hong Kong" (I've learnt a LOT since first going zero waste). Bulk is part of traditional cultures all around the world, and getting staple bulk foods is not difficult at all in HK, though it takes understanding and planning to stick to it. Stopping to use straws and take away containers is great and something everyone should do, but if you truly want to push sustainability in your home then food is an amazing place to focus your energy. So, here are all the ways to reduce waste with your groceries.
Fruits and Veggies
Fruits and vegetables are easy to get unpackaged in Hong Kong, which I know isn't the same in other parts of the world so we are definitely lucky. Markets are a traditional part of HK culture, and they have an amazing range of fruits and veggies, including organic options for those that want them. Simply brings your own reusable bags and you avoid any unnecessary packaging. We have produce bags from plasticfreehk and ILoveHKGreen which we use for fruits and veggies, though you don't need to buy anything fancy. Just use reusable bags you have at home or make them out of scrap fabrics (if you search online there are loads of tutorials). This is also a great place to start when it comes to lowering your waste because it is so simple, so if you are trying to convince friends and family to lower their waste give them some reusable produce bags and show them how easy it is! For those of you that want organic produce another option is going to the various local organic markets around HK (Usually on Saturdays and Sundays). You're also supporting ethical and local business that are usual super supportive of your efforts to lower your waste. Examples are the POHO Market, Sai Kung Market, MaPoPo community farm, Mei Foo Farmfest, Star Ferry Pier's farmers market, and Tai Po's farmers market to name a few.
If going to the markets isn't an option of you and you shop at supermarkets opt for package free produce, which there is a decent selection, though vegetables are harder to find plastic free.
We currently order most of our veggies from Magic Season Organics, an organic farm in China close to the HK border which delivers straight to your home. Simply write "no plastic" in the comments section when ordering and you can get completely plastic free organic produce! The quality is great and they deliver super fast, the plastic free delivery dates are Thursday, Friday, or Saturday and they have a range of choices for what comes in the box.
This is the biggest change since first writing this post, because not only do we know more about where to get bulk foods but live zero opened! Markets are another great place for dry foods, and people don't realise how easy it is to just bring your own container, people don't even usually find it that weird and are more than willing to accommodate. We get rice, certain grains, beans, sugar, and nuts from our local market in Hang Hau, but every wet market in Hong Kong will have these staple items, so just explore the one most accessible to you. This is another easy one to push your friends and families to do if they shop at the market for dry goods anyways, which many people do. The quality is exactly the same (unless you are buying organic) and it's usually cheaper than the packaged alternative. We bring old plastic containers (we will reuse them until they can't be used anymore, which will be a long time, rather than sending a useful item to landfill just because it's plastic), bulk bags from theflourbreadbag (check them out, I looovee them!), jars, and various containers we can use for bulk that we have in the house.
Sheung wan is also one of numerous places around HK that has loads of little shops which sell in bulk, so explore these areas a bit and see what you like! When you learn about bulk you will start to realise all the places around you that sell it, and trust me it's way more accessible than you think.
The rest of our dry goods we get at live zero, Hong Kong's first zero waste bulk store! For details on what they offer (with some items missing as they change) check out our blog post on them here or their website. We get pasta, oats, beans, lentils, sesame seeds, rice, popcorn, powders, and a load of other products dependent on what we want/need/want to try. They also have coffee beans, which they can grind up for you there!
Finally the last place we buy in bulk is lively life, where we get brown sugar and white vinegar.
Another place you can shop in bulk is Edgar in K11, TST. They offer loads of bulk snacks, flour, crackers, pasta, and nuts. We don't buy from them often but I love their bulk snacks, they have loads of vegetable chips which are delicious and lots of chocolate nibbles + cookies which I'm a fan of. They also have tea's (some western one's that you won't find in markets) which we buy! You can also check out loads of sweet stores around Hong Kong for bulk sweets if thats your thing (a favourite of ours is Simms sweet shoppe). AND, if you love snacks like me we can definitely post some recipes of our favourite zero waste snacks!
Spices, Herbs, Seeds, Fruits, and Nuts
We get plastic free spices, herbs, seeds, fruits, and nuts from regency spices who ship all their products in paper if you request is in the "comments" section of a shipment (similar to magic box organics). Most of their products are organic as well! You can also get these things often in bulk at local markets and small local shops (i.e. in sheung wan or kowloon city)
Dairy and Meat
Meat is really the only remaining item in our home's kitchen which uses plastic as my parents buy whole sale and the quality of meat in Hong Kong isn't great so we buy from overseas, though there are options for those that live in smaller homes and don't consume as much as our household does. I know that Bones and Blades is a popular choice for HK Zero Wasters, and Feather and Bone are totally cool with accommodating using our own containers with cheese so I imagine they would be with meat as well! We make our own yogurt and therefore avoid packaging, though I'm sure there are glass options available in supermarkets (they can be quite expensive, especially non-dairy). For milk, we currently use tetra packs and recycle them, but you can also buy the glass option that Kowloon Dairy has. They reuse their glass bottles which is great, though they don't have large bottles and there is plastic on the top. Unfortunately in Hong Kong this is the one area of food that doesn't have great options, so it's really up to you about what lesser evil you think suits your family best. I'm vegan, Alex is mainly the same, so if finding these package free is an issue for you then maybe consider moving more towards plant based eating. In many cases it is cheaper, healthier, and uses less plastic. And in all cases, it is much more environmentally friendly. If you are interested in learning more about the effect of animal agriculture has on our environment you can check out my most recent video on diet and sustainability! Good luck with starting (and trust me it takes time) a low waste kitchen! I have tried to include everything we do for lowering waste in the kitchen (shopping and food wise) but if you have any questions that I've missed comment below or contact us!