Here are some of the best TIPS, I was given by our Zero Waste inspiration Bea Johnson from http://www.zerowastehome.com.
We try to implement all of them at home.
I would recommend you start by doing one tip at a time in your house so it is not too overwhelming.
How to get your house and lifestyle to Zero Waste (or close to)?
- Welcome alternatives to disposables (paper towels, garbage liners, wax paper, aluminum sheets, disposable plates, cups, etc….):
Swap paper towels for reusable rags, swap sandwich baggies for kitchen towels or stainless containers, drop garbage liners all together (wet waste is mostly compostable anyways).
Ikea offers cheap great towels for the kitchen, small 20x 20 square ideal for kids hand/mouth clean up for everyday.
Some fancy for guests and some for daily use. For the one used daily use napkin rings and mark them according to family them so you can use the same napkin all week. Some nice and not too expensive napkins and rings can be found on the website http://www.makaron-home.com.
Just take them out of your house, I am always chocked by how cheap they sell. The cost does not reflect at all the real cost once you include the irreparable damage done on the planet, anyway it is hard to source the one with the FSC label. Once, you eliminate all the boxes from your house trust me after one week you will not look for it anymore but just grab the wet/ dry cloth from the kitchen.Tissue paper: if you are not sick, welcome the good old fabric handkerchief. Ask your grandparents to give you some most likely they still have some.
- Buy in bulk or at the counter, bring reusable bags (dry goods), jars or plastic containers (wet items such as meat, deli, fish, cheese, oil, peanut butter). In HK this is easy, we have the best wet markets where we can buy veggies, fish, meat, candies, dried fruits, peanuts, beans….just bring your containers, mesh bags, cloth bags etc… Also, stores like City Super, Great … go to their cheese/meat/ fish etc.. counters just present your containers they will gladly fill them up for you and just add the sticker price on top, make sure to say no plastic at all please. At the beginning if I was not paying attention, I would hand my container and they would still plastic wrap the food before putting it in my container, so make sure to say no plastic at all.
- If you cannot find it in bulk, find a supplier (bring your jar to the ice cream shop, a pillow case to the bakery for your bread,… or make it (mustard, salad dressing, hot sauce, jams, OJ, hummus, cookies, canned tomatoes). We have a ‘no palm oil rule’ in the house,(we even gave up on Nutella, small sacrifice). The only sweet spread in the house are HK jam like roselle made by Julien or bought at the Island East market and HK honey also collected by Julien. He has some beehives, we return the empty jars to him for reuse. Stock up for the year on jam made with HK seasonal fruits.
- Shop the farmer’s market: they’ll take the egg carton and the berries baskets back for reuse. Your veggies will also most likely be free of plastic and stickers.
Great place is the Island East Markets follow their Facebook page for update and events https://www.facebook.com/IslandEastMarkets
- Learn to love your tap water (if you do not like the taste of your tape water, invest in a water filter you can find great ones at City Super, Wing On, Sogo…)
Check with the Hong Kong water department and see how old are your pipes. Ours are less than 10 years old and we can use a simple water filter.
- Use bulk liquid castile soap as a dish/hand cleaner, baking soda as a scrubber (in a stainless Parmesan dispenser) with a compostable cleaning brush (a wooden one with natural hair).
We get our shampoo/ hand wash/ body wash from Bella Sapone, we buy the refill bottles that we return for reuse to Bella Sapone/ So Soap.We use the handwash to wash the dishes in the sink but we have a dishwasher Purchase dishwasher detergent in bulk. In HK, so far I have not been able to get dishwasher detergent, let me know if someone knows where to get some meanwhile we use Ecovert for dishwasher, packaging biodegradable.
- Turn your trash can into a big compost keeper. We have 3 Bokashi compost (it takes about 2 to 3 weeks to rot, we rotate)
- Reinvent your leftovers before they go bad. Go thru your recipe binder/box and only keep the recipes that can be achieved with zero waste in mind.
- Invest in a pressure cooker (halves the cooking time).
- YOU CAN ALSO… reuse single-side printed paper for grocery shopping and errands list, use your lettuce cleaning water to water plants, open your oven after baking in the winter (cool your oven, warm your house)…
- Use 100% recycled and unbleached toilet paper individually wrapped in paper.
“No Frills” from Wellcome is made in HK and 100% from recycled paper, sadly every roll is still individually wrapped.
- Refill your bottles with bulk or use reused bottles of shampoo/ body wash/ hand wash and conditioner. We return For reuse, buy refill bottles of shampoo/ hand wash/ body wash from Bella Sapone, we do not use conditioner. http://www.bellasapone.hk order online and if you want to return the bottles for reuse find retailers on the page to buy and return the bottles.
- Ideally, use an alum stone or straight baking soda as antiperspirant. With HK heat I personally need extra help, just make sure it is not an aerosol those are really bad for the planet and make sure it is PBA and aluminum free, better for your health.
- For shaving, (re)use a safety razor and shaving soap (any rich soap, will do).
- For body/face soap, find a package-free solid soap. In HK this is difficult, we use Bella Sapone soap and refills our bottles. To exfoliate, use bulk baking soda, brown sugar with olive oil. For a mask, use bulk clays (French, Kaolin, Bentonite, etc…), mixed with water or apple cider vinegar.
- In HK we cannot source wooden compostable toothbrush, so far we are still on plastic toothbrushes. Ours are the one where you just change the head, not the best but still less waste.
- We still use commercial toothpaste but some people make their own toothpaste
- Invest in menstrual cup and reusable liners.
Mooncup: I ordered the Mooncup online http://www.mooncup.co.uk.
Cloth liners, mine are years old and still in great condition. Order them online http://www.charliebanana.com/3-Feminine-Pads-Aqua-Liner-Box_p_95.html. They are a HK based company so the shipping carbon footprint is minimal.
Considering every women uses about 11,000 disposable sanitary pads in her lifetime it is worth investing in those alternatives (good for thplanet and the wallet).
- Cosmetics I personally use a mix of Bobby Brown (can refill the packages) and Mac (return the empty packaging to the counters and it goes to their ‘special’ recycling program also I now make my own lip balm with my daughter it is fun to do it together with HK honey and HK beeswax and I do my own blush with HK beets.
- All you need for your nails is a nail clipper, stainless steel file and the homemade balm for moisture and shine. If you still wear nail polish, I would recommend Deborah Lippman nail polish for cruelty free and harsh chemicals free (Lane Crawford, Harvey Nichols…)
- Our Q-tips are all in paper and are refills (so no nasty thick plastic packaging) from “Muji”
- Use zero waste cleaning: microfiber cloths for mirrors, vinegar for mold, baking soda as scrub, a mix of baking soda and vinegar as drain cleaner.
Laundry and cleaning
- Welcome natural cleaning alternatives:
We use Bella Sapone soap on floors and sinks, homemade all purpose cleaner, baking soda for scrubbing jobs, and vinegar for mildew. We get bulk size of white vinegar and baking soda from http://www.anmstores.com. You can empty/ donate all your other cleaning products this is all you need: great soap, white vinegar, baking soda. You will save a good amount of money, a lot of space and you will have a chemical free house.
- For laundry we use Squeaky Clean, HK made, all natural, barely no packaging product. Check their Facebook page so find retailers or get it delivered to your house. https://www.facebook.com/SqueakyCleanHongKong
- Welcome alternative house cleaning tools: a metal scourer on stainless, a wooden brush for light scrubbing, an old toothbrush for hard to reach places and microfiber cloths for everything else (counters, floor, fridge, etc… for mirrors and windows, just add water… no window cleaner needed).
- Sweep your floors with a boar bristle or silk broom, wash with a wet microfiber mopand a few drops of castile soap (we use Bella Sapone).
- Use worn-out clothing items made into rags on your un-washable messes (wax/auto grease/glue/caulk).
- Buy dishwasher detergent (I cannot find some in HK, please help if you know where to get it) in bulk and use white vinegar as a rinsing aid.
- Let houseplants absorb toxins and clean your air.
- Use a laundry detergent sold in bulk, full loads, and cold water cycles as much as possible. Savon de Marseille, dishwasher detergent, chalk, lemon or vinegar work great on stains. Squeaky Clean does a great job even for our cloth diapers.
- Dry on a line when possible.
- Iron fewer things and use a homemade starch in a stainless spray bottle.
- YOU CAN ALSO… find a sustainable dry cleaner (one that offers a reusable garment bag and non-toxic cleaners, Let me know if you find one, we have been looking for years) . We do not have much to dry clean but for husband’s suits and delicate wear, we return the wire hangers and (we never take the plastic cover, we return it in the shop) to our dry cleaner and they are pleased to reuse them.
Dining and entertaining
- Remember to bring extra jars to the grocery store when shopping for company (including take-out).
I bring Plastic containers, in HK we do a lot of walking, glass jars are just too heavy.
- Make finger foods for larger parties and consider serving tap water with lemon slices instead of fizzy water.
- Use ceramic dishes and cloth napkins at all times.
- Avoid the use of serving platters/dishes: When serving straight onto dinner plates, it simplifies, saves water from extra cleaning, and it allows for a plate presentation.
- Find creative ways to decorate your table with few napkin folding tricks, discarded leaves/branches from the yard, or just seasonal fruit…
- Reuse empty votive tins (and the wick base) to make new votive candles for company with bulk beeswax and lead-free wick.
- Stop buying CD and DVD’s – download music and videos online.
- Bring a jar of a homemade consumable, or your favorite bulk item wrapped in Furoshiki/ nice silk piece (they are plenty of places that sell those in HK) as a hostess gift. Give the gift of an experience as a birthday present. We also like to give gift basket of consumable HK products, like honey, jam jars, plants etc…
- Educate your friends about your zero waste efforts (so they don’t bring waste into your home). For dinner our friends always bring a bottle, we ask for just the bottle no plastic/ paper bag.
- YOU CAN ALSO… bring your own container for leftovers when dining out, use rechargeable batteries for those remote controls/ alarm clock/ toys …
- Refuse, and therefore help stop the madness of the free-pen / free-pencil give-aways.
- Use refillable pens, piston fountain pens, mechanical pencils, refillable white board markers and donate extra office material (paper, pencils) to your public school’s art program.
- Start your personal junk mail war, cancel your phone directories, and sign up for electronic bills and statements. At the HK post office ask for the “No Circular Mail” sticker to put on your mailbox.
- Reuse single-side printed paper for printing or making notepads held by a metal clip, reuse junk mail response envelopes and when buying new paper, choose recycled and packaged in paper.
- I have not found A4 printer paper made out of recycled paper, if you know a supply please share. Our printing paper is HP with the FSC label (Forest Stewardship Council)
- Ditch the trash can, strive to use your compost and recycling bins exclusively.
- Use, Reuse and Request recyclable paper packing material when shipping (incl. paper tape), print postage and addresses directly on your envelopes, use surface mail, use a return address stamp instead of stickers.
- Reuse paper clips (available in bulk) instead of staples, or a staple-free stapler.
- Use your library to read business magazines and books, sell your books or donate them to your library for other people to enjoy.
- Use memory sticks and external drives instead of CD’s.
- YOU CAN ALSO… use a power strip on your equipment,make paper with double-side printed paper, take packing material that you receive to your local shipping center for reuse.. HP has a good recycling cartridges program http://www8.hp.com/hk/en/hp-information/supplies-recycling/supplies.html call them at 2898-7296 they even come to residential area.
- Magazine, books etc…We are magazines junky, now all our monthly/ weekly/ daily newspapers/ magazines are read online. We subscribe to the e-version of everything from “The Economist”, “New York Times”, “In Style”, “Vanity Fair”… Big plus, the house is clutter free of all those magazines and the yearly bill on publication is much lower an international magazine is about HKD 70 at the bookshop the e-version it is on average about HKD 400 per annum.
- Stick to minimal wardrobes, shoes and purses.
- Only shop a couple times a year to avoid compulsive buys.
- Buy second-hand clothing. Hong Kong is full of great second hand place from:
My favorite Facebook places: Hardly worn it! https://www.facebook.com/groups/500313166682944/
My personal favorite Mademoiselle Chic:http://mademoisellechicboutique.com/en/
- If you must buy new, buy quality with minimal tags (leave the shoe box at the store).
- Be ruthless on fit, if it fits well, you’re most likely to wear it.
- Bring a reusable bag for your purchases.
- Donate unworn pieces.
- Keep some of your worn-out clothes for rags and label the rest as “rags” for Goodwill to recycle.
- Learn of few sewing tricks (like shortening a hem or darning). Hong Kong has the best tailors so this is easy.
- Keep only a minimal supply, so you can see what you have.
- Tell your pharmacy or doctor no plastic bag, if it is syrup no syringe (you most likely already have one/two or three at home).
- Choose tablets (pain reliever, for example) in a glass or at default a plastic jar (usually a recyclable #2), instead of the tablets individually wrapped in aluminum/plastic.
- Do not buy jumbo size medication jars, they expire way before you can finish them.
- Choose metal tubes instead of plastic.
- Invest in a Neti pot: Great to clear out your sinuses with just water and sea salt.
- Consider a few natural alternatives: a corn silk tea for prostate relief, a senna leaf tea for constipation relief or an oatmeal bath for skin relief.
- Clean cuts and scrapes with soap and water, forgo the plastic band-aids and let air-dry.
- Do not use everyday antibacterial products, they make bad bacteria stronger.
- YOU CAN ALSO… reconsider your true need for vitamins (as opposed to a healthy varied diet) and use sunscreen moderately (you don’t want skin cancer or vitamin D deficiency)…
Gardening/balcony/window ledge or just plants at home
- Use drought tolerant and native plants, replace your lawn with short native grasses.
- Make room for compost in Hong Kong this is tough but bokashis are a great alternative.
- HK can be challenging due to our lack of space and out tiny apartments embrace the challenge and start composting with baby steps.
- Return plastic containers to the nursery.
- Find bulk seeds or ask your local farmer (in our case Julien who orders its seeds twice a year)
- Give away plants (also, landscaping rocks, fencing, irrigation piping, etc…) that you do not want anymore. Post them on the free section of the Facebook page “Free HK”
- YOU CAN ALSO… Keep a minimal and quality tool selection made of metal and wood (which can be repaired more easily)…