Nestled among old buildings in the booming hip district of Sai Ying Pun is Hong Kong’s brand new and first zero-waste, packaging-free, bulk-buy grocery store, Live Zero.
When you enter the store, you are welcomed by rows and rows of clear containers filled with foods such as nuts, grains, seeds, superfoods, all looking fresh and untouched.
As you continue exploring, you will discover Live Zero also has fresh pasta, organic oils, reusable homeware, and all-natural home care and body care products.
Looking at the store’s clean and neat space feels like it is as if one is taking a peek at what our communities can look like if we put the effort to reduce waste, and help maintain our spaces to be as well-kept as possible.
What was striking about the grocery store though, is not the range of products they have even when it has just been their soft opening, it is the behaviour it aims to shape among shoppers through the jar donation area and the way the store wants its shoppers to shop.
It is almost a norm now in Hong Kong to bring an eco bag when one does grocery. For Live Zero, it aims to push this further and encourage customers to bring their own containers. In the case they do forget though, there are jars and containers donated by other fellow customers that are free to use and to take back home.
Receiving this kind of indirect kindness from a stranger does make an impact on you, making you want to pay it forward by donating your own containers the next time you visit Live Zero. Having this in mind, you then start looking around your own house, hoping to find something that you can donate, containers that other shoppers who forgot to bring their own (like you that one time) to use and take back home.
When you finally have a container, you follow the steps written on the wall on how you are supposed to go about shopping in this new store.
- Weigh the container
- Write down the weight of the container
- Fill the container with the item you want to buy
- Weigh the filled container
- If you are satisfied with the weight, then you can proceed to pay. If not, just keep filling the container until it is heavy enough for you
- Proceed to pay at the counter
- The store assistants will do the final weighing and give you the final price
- Pay and decide whether you want the receipt to be e-mailed to you or not
Since the prices are usually written in xx/100g, or, xx/100ml, and, you have to keep weighing as you fill up the container, it does make you take a step back to pay attention to what you are doing and how much you are taking.
It heightens your consciousness as to how much you really need at the time and empowers you to only focus on the essentials.
When interviewing Tamsin Thornburrow, the 25-year-old owner of Live Zero as well as the furniture shop, Thorn and Burrow, she shares how making transitions in her life to work towards zero or minimal waste can increase one’s mindfulness. For example, when you see an item, may it be a bottle, a lunchbox, or your food, you start to contemplate on what they are made of, where they came from, and for some of these items, where they go after you dispose of them. For Tamsin, it took one swap, from plastic bottles to reusable water bottles, to open up her mind and eyes to more things in her life that can be swapped to options that are healthier to both the environment and to her body.
When we talk about health and wellness, it is inevitable that we should also look around at our environment, for it is this planet that provides us the sustenance we take in our bodies. Its aesthetics can play a part in our mental clarity too. Being mindful is only the first step, but what about after? Here are some tips that we have compiled for you.
- Start by saying no. As what Tamsin said to us, it can be as simple as saying no to the offer of anything plastic, or not recyclable, like plastic straws.
- One switch at a time. Like in any goal or project, everything needs a first step, then you take more and more steps so you can get further. So, start by examining what item is the easiest for you to switch. It can be bringing your own utensils instead of using plastic ones, or if you are not doing this already, an eco bag instead of a plastic bag when you do your groceries
- Make it fun! If you are a parent, involve your kids and spouse. Expose them to stores like Live Zero. Let them be the ones to take the containers, enjoy pouring food and oil into the containers, and putting them on the weighing scale. Bring them to events that are working towards zero waste such as beach clean-up activities, or, it can be as simple as brainstorming on how to reuse certain items and remaking them together as if you are all in an arts and craft class. If you are not a parent, bring your friends or make friends within the zero-waste community. It is up to your creativity on how this journey to reducing waste can be as pleasurable as it can be for you
- Surround yourself with like-minded people. When one goes into a fitness journey, it is always helpful to surround yourself with fitness buddies who can keep you accountable with your goals, and to whom you can ask questions to, or simply share the experience with. Similarly, if you decide to venture into minimising waste in your life, you are definitely not alone. If you are in Hong Kong, check out Zero Waste Hong Kong’s community page on Facebook! Here you can find events you can attend or you can directly post your questions if you get stuck figuring out alternatives and solutions on how to dispose or swap certain items
All in all, Live Zero started out as an idea and mission by Tamsin to empower people that if they choose to, anyone can help reduce waste that is poisoning Hong Kong and our planet. Moreover, this reminds us that large-scale changes are made up of individual efforts. If we want to truly take care of our mind, body and soul, then we must live consciously, and do our part in taking care of this place that we all share and live in.
Live Zero Bulk Foods, 24 High Street, Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong. Opens daily 11am – 8pm. www.livezero.hk