I wanted to write this post for a really long time, I don’t know why I haven’t done it so far. But as Eco Drive Hong Kong tries to make the 30th of May a ‘No Single Use Plastic Day’, I want to do my part and spread more awareness, as well as share some tips on being more eco-friendly.
The pollution and damage done to Earth can be seen everywhere, especially in a place with such population density like Hong Kong. How many unnecessary things we do to add to the pollution every single day? I’m guilty as well. I used to think those plastic umbrella bags you find in shopping malls or offices are great cause they stop the water dripping from your umbrella everywhere, but I didn’t realize the impact it had on the environment. I thought if I just put it in the right bin, it will be all fine. But we all know it wasn’t.
When you actually see how much damage is done to the environment, it is simply terrifying. You see animals getting killed, people swimming in garbage – it’s just disgusting what we do.
Part of the problem is lack of awareness, as I said before I’m guilty of being ignorant. The other problem is how single use plastics became part of our daily life – I can see it even more clear in my beloved Hong Kong:
- The takeaway culture is huge – you’re given a plastic container, a plastic bag, probably few pieces of plastic cutlery, a drink in a plastic bottle along with a plastic straw. According to EcoDrive, on average you can be provided with 7-8 pieces of single use plastic.
- There’s a ridiculous amount of unnecessary packaging – I’m looking at you, every single roll of toilet paper wrapped in plastic cover to be collectively wrapped into a bigger plastic bag. For what? Is it really necessary?
Every time I buy some cold item I need to ask the cashier not to pack it in another plastic bag. I don’t mind my bag getting bit wet. That’s why I bought one that doesn’t leak.
Fruits and vegetables having a little foam-armors and being served on a tray. Gee, if only mother nature gave them some time of natural cover …
- The resistance to change – not everyone, of course, but the moment few chains announced they won’t provide straws or cutlery unless it’s requested, I could read people on forums complaining about companies being cheap and taking away their rights. Really? Even today I was eating out and there was an option to go strawless, but aside of few people with hot drinks pretty much everyone had a straw in their drink. It was just their decision to still go with the plastic.
Green Earth estimated 5.2 million plastic bottles were dumped in Hong Kong every day. That’s nearly TWO BILLIONS a year. Not to mention other plastic waste. And that’s Hong Kong only.
So to make a difference, I decided to make changes in our family’s life. It did affect Sing as well, but I hope one day it will have an effect on the world. These are not big changes, and I admit they are not always possible to execute given the circumstances, but I’m doing my best to be a better person and make a change:
- Switching from plastic bags to reusable totes – I’m actually crazy about my tote bags, Sing just added one more to the collection with ‘Cat slave’ on it. Stylish and good to reduce waste. On the other hand, we need to watch out for fast fashion which is also bad for the environment.
- Buying a tumbler – for hot and cold drinks. I want to minimize the number of 5.2 million bottles, even by a piece at a time. Plus the models currently available are super cute! Have I mentioned all the money you saved by bringing your own water instead of buying a bottle in a store?
- Getting my set of metal straws – two in my purse, two at home, for me and for Sing. They cost only 9 HKD at Japan Home Centre, they are easy to clean, they look neat and they are good for the environment.
- Taking reusable containers for leftovers when going out – at the beginning I made a rookie mistake and kept on taking my heavy glass containers, but I found few cute foldable ones that are very easy to carry around. You may even forget you have them!
- Switching to soap bars, cutting down the number of plastic bottles – hand soap, body soap, face soap, shampoo bars and even solid conditioners can be purchased in form of a bar. For now I’m still depending on a ‘traditional’ shampoo and conditioner, but once I find product suitable for me, I will be glad to switch these as well. If you have any shampoos and conditioners in a bar you could recommend, please let me know!
- Bringing my own containers for snacks – you know the streetfood stands that offer variety of food? They always give you plastic take-away containers, but if I know we are going to get some snacks I would ask them (by Sing, of course – unfortunately my spoken Cantonese is not at this level) to put the food into the container I brought. I must admit Sing still feels bit awkward about this, as he feels like ‘he bothers people’, but again this goes back to the culture. Fingers crossed he will be in minority soon!
- Sing’s contribution – zippo instead of plastic lighter. My cigar connoisseur also wanted to help the environment and invested in something that would last longer than a disposable lighter. At least he tries.
- Reading the labels and watching out for micro-plastics – because these particles are so difficult to detect. Alarmingly, they are also a huge contributor to adding plastic waste to the Earth’s oceans and there’s next to no chance of being able to filter them out. Before I got informed about these, I wasn’t even aware of their existence and impact.
- Using e-billing – I actually don’t understand why would someone still getting their bill mailed? Everywhere where it was possible we switched to e-billing long time ago. Sing even now complains that some companies offer bonuses for people to switch, but we have done it so long ago there was no reward for it at a time. Reducing our carbon footprint by a bit.
- Recycling where possible – if I cannot reduce or reuse, I will do my best to recycle. Sometimes it would involve small argument with lady collecting the waste in the barbecue area, but there’s a reason I brought a separate bag for recyclable waste and I don’t want it to be taken away just to be thrown into general waste.
What you read is nothing new, I didn’t magically cure the Earth, but sometimes those easy fixes are missed. It seems obvious when you read it, but it’s possible that you may have not thought about it – just like me. I used my tote bags for a long time, I had e-billings in place before, I recycled, but I wouldn’t think of such thing like switching from a shower gel to soap bar.
I know it’s late, I know it’s not much, I know I’m not perfect, I still make mistakes or chose convenience, I know living “zero waste” is far away, but I and we need to act now. I love this beautiful world, I want my children and next generations to experience it and see it the same way I could. I don’t want to be one of reasons this planet is slowly getting killed.
I don’t want to sound like an Internet-warrior, but I just want to make at least one person to change their habits thanks to this post. Or maybe pass the message further. Every little helps, especially if seven billions littles come together.
What are your tips on being more environmental friendly? Would love to read them and hopefully use them!